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Writing Scholarly Graduate Level Paper Guidelines

Guidelines for Writing a Scholarly Graduate Level Paper


Why is APA Style Writing Important?

Professionally and ethically we are charged with using research to further the counseling profession


CACREP encourages Counselor Education Programs to use research to improve counseling effectiveness (Lambie, et al, 2008)


The clinical focus today in the real world is on Evidenced Based Practices which implies empirically validated researched ways of providing clinical services – we all are called upon to contribute to this building body of knowledge


An essential part of scholarship is to learn to do good research and to write about it in such a way that it is publishable


Knowing the APA Style of Writing Research Articles will be a lifelong competency you as a Counselor Educator and Counseling Professional will always want to grow in


The APA Publication Manual (APA, 2010)

The reference for the APA Publication Manual is:  APA. (2010). Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. Washington, D.C:  American Psychological Association


Topics Covered in the APA Publication Manual are:

1. Writing for the Behavioral and Social Sciences

2. Manuscript Structure and Content

3. Writing Clearly and Concisely

4. The Mechanics of Style

5. Displaying Results

6. Crediting Sources

7. Reference Examples

8. The Publication Process


What does it take to write a Scholarly Paper?

First you must be sure to cover all of the basic components of scholarly writing including:

Doing a thorough review of the literature in your research before writing the paper which will result in an analysis and synthesis of most relevant, up to date, and informative information about a topic

Use of APA Writing Guidelines in writing your paper being sure that you include:

Appropriate Citations

Structural Organization

Tips for getting started with your writing

You need to start with something new! Try to come up with fresh ideas about old concepts. It is important that you write about something you care about and something you know about. If the topic is a new one for you, you should write about programs or situations you would be interested in learning about. You need to not only review literature but try to find new meaning for what is out there. Write down ideas whenever they come to mind-keep on index cards which are with you at all times. Remember to “Devil’s Advocate” your ideas-looking at them from all sides (Simmons, 2004).


It’s important to keep in mind the main purposes of writing, and choose the proper one:

To inform to arouse interest: You state the facts objectively, adding much to the reader’s knowledge (e.g., instructional techniques, research methods).

To persuade or influence attitudes: You support and present facts with attractive arguments and reasons to stir the reader (e.g., calls to legislative advocacy).

To interpret, solve problems, or evaluate results: You analyze facts and give opinions, leaving it to the reader to make up his or her own mind (e.g., results of an empirical study) (Kosciulek, 2005).


Tips for writing a first draft

It is important that you do not waste your best efforts on your first draft! Just get your thoughts down on paper as quickly as you can since you can sharpen your content later! Before Your First Draft you need to: Think-Plan-Organize. You need to prepare by exhaustively reading on the topic you want to cover and create citations for each piece you read.


After Your First Draft is complete you then Revise-Revise-Revise by following these three steps: 1. Pick out Key Points and development them sequentially 2, Write Out Loud – so you can hear what you are saying 3. Open with a Strong Lead-grab your reader from start (Kosciulek,  2006).


Tips for doing good research for paper

Citations must support your point of view taken with appropriate scholarly works cited after you review of the literature. You must use only most current references: less than 10 years old and preferably 5 or less years old. You must use references which are only from academic rigorous peer-reviewed academic journals. You must avoid popular press, textbooks, and secondary sources. All sources need to be appropriately referenced. You must use direct quotations sparingly. You are to use only last name of author and year for citations within the text of the paper (Lambie, et al., 2008).


Write your paper like a lawyer would

De fine and frame your topic as if you were defending a case in court. Search for sources to back up your case as if you were searching for evidence to win the case. Write the paper as if you were presenting the evidence. In your conclusion draw up your discussion as if you were making a closing argument (Broskoske, 2007).


Use a writing formula in writing your paper

Common formulas to use in scholarly writing are:

Chronological or Time Based Approach-this formula takes the topic from the earliest to present, which traces history; describes growth of an organization or process or compares similar subjects

Naming Major Topics- in this formula you first name them and then write on them in the order named

Simple to Complex- this formula leads the reader from easy introduction materials to more weighty issues, formulas, and equations

Least Important to Most Important details- this formula leads the subject covered in the paper to a final crescendo

Problem Solution- this formula states the problem in brief sentences, followed by possible solutions, and how each solution could solve the problem

Reason- this formula states an opinion or point of view and give reasons why you the writer supports it (Kosciulek, 2005).

Organization of a Scholarly Research Paper

Title Page


Introduction including: Rationale and Review of the Literature-Background

Method-Research including: Participants or Sample Studied; Measures – Instrumentation or variables and Procedure and Design – Research Design and Data Analysis

Results – Findings

Discussion including Conclusion; Limitations and Implications

References (Lambie, et al., 2008)


Tips on writing Abstract to Paper

It is a single paragraph only in length of no more than 120 words which is a clear and concise summary of the paper. It clearly and concisely describes the purpose of the paper, findings and implications. It is always written in the active voice. It needs to be clear and understandable and able to stand alone as the summary of the work contained in the paper. It must include as many descriptive words as possible which assist future readers to find the paper when doing a keyword search. (Lambie, et al., 2008)


Tips on writing Introduction to Paper

Your introduction must sets the stage and orient the reader to central objectives of the paper. It must provide a Statement of Purpose. It must emphasize you, the writer’s views of topic. It uses citations of literature to support claims in the paper, The introduction Must contain: Orientation to specific problem addressed in paper; Statement of purpose of the paper; Summative review of pertinent literature; Theoretical implications; Central variables and concepts clarified and defined; and the Rationale for paper (Lambie, et al., 2008).


Tips for writing Rationale to Paper

Your rationale must clearly state the importance of the problem to be addressed in the paper. It must provide justification for importance of the value of the findings contained in the paper. It must be built on the relationship between prior empirical results and theory that lead to a critical unanswered research question to be address in the paper. It must demonstrate the prevalence and severity of a problem along with potential  consequences which provide the argument to support the rationale for the research or investigation discussed in the paper (Lambie, et al., 2008).


Tips for thorough Review of the Literature in paper

The Review of the Literature must be the organizational focal point of paper giving reader a focal point. It must contain pertinent literature and not necessarily an exhaustive review. It however must be an extensive review in Doctoral Dissertation. Each piece of the literature reviewed must be referenced and cited both in the body of the paper as well as in the Reference section. If there is an item in Reference section it must be cited within the body of the paper. The Literature Review typically presents relevant information including the findings and conclusions but sometimes needs to include methodology and design features (Lambie, et al., 2008).


Guidelines for Review of the Literature section of the paper

The Review of the Literature must remain opinion free and needs to be written in past tense or present perfect. It must support or challenge a theory or hypothesis, and never to prove one. It must use language when reporting other studies as: found, reported, demonstrated, concluded, suggested, indicated. It must logically, rationally, and clearly support the purpose of the research or project described in the paper (Lambie, et al., 2008).


Guidelines for the Discussion section of the paper

The Discussion must summarize the findings of the research covered in the paper. It needs to bring closure to the purpose of stated in the paper’s introduction. The Discussion evaluates, qualifies, offers interpretations and draws inferences from research findings and/or literature reviewed. It should include: Discussion if the results or literature reviewed answered the research question; Provide logical explanation of the study’s findings and/or findings in literature reviewed; Statement of potential limitations of the study and Possible implications for the field (Lambie, et al., 2008).


Guidelines for the Conclusion section of the paper

The Conclusion must answer the question: What conclusions can be reached from the results? It is where the writer is free to function more independently and creatively. It is where the writer can reflect on possible explanation for the findings. It is where the writer ties interpretation or plausible relationship of findings to literature reviewed. If the findings are unexpected then the writer can introduce new literature to support interpretation of findings or speculate on reasonable explanations for findings based on research design, sampling, psychometric limitations or other aspects of the study (Lambie, et al., 2008).


The Limitations contained in Conclusion of the paper

In the Conclusion, the writer needs to recognize and state that: there are no perfect studies and that all studies have limitations. The writer must also state that there are possible limitations and alternative ways of interpreting the findings of the study despite limitations (Lambie, et al., 2008).


The Implications contained in Conclusion of the paper

In the conclusion the Implications sections must explain and clarify the significance of the findings and provide an explanation and clarification of significance of the findings. The Implications must also provide the practical and pragmatic meaning of the findings of the study or work of the paper and provides a tie into implications for one’s professional field from the results of the study. The Implications must be written in the present tense and should include recommendation for future research (Lambie, et al., 2008).


What is needed in the References of the paper?

All sources cited in paper must be included in the References. The Reference provides the background information on sources cited in body of paper. It ensures congruence between works cited in paper and those placed in References (Lambie, et al., 2008).

Common Errors in Scholarly Writing

  • “Poor organization and continuity
  • Lack of sufficient support for statements and claims made in paper with appropriate and accurate citations and references
  • Syntax, grammar, and punctuation problems
  • Lack of connection between the implications for the field and the research and theory reviewed and/or research results” (Lambie, et al., 2008, p.21).


Appropriate use of Citations and Quotes in Papers

It is best to use direct quotations in moderation. Written papers that analyze and effectively incorporate information from multiple sources are more interesting than papers that simply paraphrase or quote information and place citations at the end of each paragraph. The writer’s task is to include both personal observations and viewpoint. The writer is responsible for accurately quoting or paraphrasing the work of others (Lambie, et al., 2008).


Reasons for using quotes in scholarly papers

In writing a scholarly paper, one needs to use quotes to detail out specifically on well phrased key concepts contained in a reference source. Using quotes will demonstrate what others including experts; people involved in the issue and the general public say about the topic area covered in the paper. Quotes point out the importance of key concepts and facts and support arguments and your point of view with impact of outside powerful, colorful, and expert input. Quotes can clear up difficult or debated point of view with documented statements from experts and show how complex the issues being address are with emphasizing the points you are trying to make (Lambie, et al., 2008).


Guidelines for paraphrasing in papers

Paraphrasing is preferred when you are reporting on past research or when you are restating in your own words the research findings of others. In doing paraphrasing it is important to rewrite the original in about the same number of words and provide citation to the source in body of the text. You use quotation marks to retain exceptional words or phrases from the cited source and use the same mood in the paraphrase as contained in the original like: satire, doubt, humor, etc.(Lambie, et al., 2008).


How to avoid plagiarism
Plagiarism is taking the words of another writer and presenting them as your own. The best way to avoid plagiarism is to use appropriate citation and to practice paraphrasing the writings of others. Most important you need to utilize the APA Guidelines for citing sources in text (APA, 2010, p. 207) (Lambie, et al., 2008).


Review your paper asking yourself the following questions

1. Does your review of the literature specify a clear statement of the problem being addressed in the paper? Does it lead to your major research question and does it document the need for the study?

2. Are there specific research questions/hypotheses that are defined operationally? How do the concepts in your literature review pertain to the outcome variables in the research questions?

3. Is the research methodology explained sufficiently to allow for replication? Are the major procedural elements described so readers understand what happened and the rationale for following the identified procedures?

4. Is there a clear explanation for choosing the selected research design and have the statistical assumptions associated with this design been met? Can the readers understand why you the researcher employed a particular design and its advantages and limitations?

5. Beyond reporting statistical significance have you explained findings within confidence limit intervals and effect size estimates to better understand the utility of the data? In cases where lack of statistical significance occurs, did you ascertain whether there was sufficient statistical power?

6. Are conclusions and implications for research and practice stated in the paper consistent with data found in the study? Have you overstated what the data indicate particularly in cases where lack of statistical significance, weak effect sizes, and/or small confidence interval estimates occur? (Herbert, 2007)


In reviewing your research paper address these issues

Mechanical errors of Grammar and Spelling

Mechanical errors of no citations to back up your point of view

Microstructure of writing-poor flow of thoughts not well connected and lack of sequencing of thoughts and concepts

Macrostructure of writing-weak quality of argumentation and lack of clarity of purpose

Watch for plagiarism to insure the scholarly writing is yours and not just cherry picked from other writers

Avoid the contagious disease plaguing graduate students: procrastination

Set and follow a strict timeline for completion of the scholarly research and writing necessary to complete the project Diezmann, 2005).


In editing your paper you should address these Issues

1. Quality of Ideas: Are your ideas expressed in your paper clearly focused? Do your ideas expressed tackle complexity of your topic well by giving both sides of the issue? Do your ideas demonstrate good critical thinking-answering the “So what?” questions? Have you effectively used substantial references and citations?

2. Rhetorical situation and arrangement: Does your writing  present as a persuasive, credible and a reliable source? Is your paper logical and rhetorically appropriate to the subject and purpose? Does the title and introduction capture the reader’s interest?

3. Development: Is the information contained in paper full, accurate and satisfying? Have you thoroughly researched the paper to fill in gaps or to enrich the content of the paper? Have you demonstrated strong development of ideas by the points you make in strong well stated paragraphs which are presented in an orderly fashion? Is there little padding or repetition in the paper?

4. Style: Is all spelling, grammar, wording, and punctuation in the paper accurate? Doe the paper follows APA Guidelines as accurately as humanly possible? Are there good transitions between paragraphs? Are the sentences strongly and accurately worded for good emphasis and power? (Leahy, 2002)


So are you ready to write a scholarly paper?

Make sure you:

  • Use the APA Publication Manual and APA Style Guidelines for Electronic References
  • Read all of the articles posted in the references on this site
  • Have done an exhaustive search of the literature on your specific focus of your scholarly and research work
  • Have a thorough understanding of all of the mechanics which go into the writing of manuscripts

Just Do It!! Get your initial draft done with a catching introduction

Then revise, revise, revise, etc.

Best of Luck!


American Psychological Association. (2007). APA Style Guide to Electronic References. Washington, D.C:  American Psychological Association. Washington, D.C:  American Psychological Association.


American Psychological Association. (2010)(Second printing or greater).Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. Washington, D.C:  American Psychological Association.


Broskoske, S. L., (2007). Prove your case:  A new approach to teaching research papers. College Teaching, 55(1), 31-32.


Diezmann, C. M. (2005). Supervision and scholarly writing: writing to learn-learning to write. Reflective Practice, 6(4), 443-457.


Hebert, J. (2007).  Further thoughts on writing for publications.  Rehabilitation Education, 21(2), 71-72.


Kosciulek,  J. F. (2005). Practical guidelines for effective writing Part II-Organization.  Rehabilitation Education, 19(1), 3-4.


Kosciulek,  J. F. (2006) Practical Guidelines for Effective Writing Part III-Writing the first draft.  Rehabilitation Education, 20(1), 3-4.


Lambie, G.W., Sias S.W., Davis, K.M., Lawson, G., & Akos, P. (2008). A scholarly writing resource for counselor educators and their students. Journal of Counseling and Development, 86(1), 18-24.


Leahy, R. (2002).  Conducting writing assignments. College Teaching, 50(2), 50-54.


Simmons,  M. P. (2004). Writing for successful publication. The Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin, 70(3),13-17.