How to Write a Paper at the Master's Degree Level

Updated February 21, 2017

Writing a paper at the master's degree level requires considerably more research and planning than a paper at the undergraduate level. The requirements for these papers can vary according to the discipline in which you are writing and by the professor who assigned the paper. Furthermore, not all papers at the master's degree level are written for the same purpose, although most are written with a research emphasis.

Choose a paper topic based on the existing scholarly literature in the field in which you are conducting research. Research at the master's degree level is primarily based on attempting to come up with a topic that is narrow in scope, but answers a significant question that exists in the scholarly literature. One of the primary purposes of the master's level paper is to prepare the student for later doctoral research and writing. Once you have chosen a topic, read the major works by other scholars in the field that research that topic to see what the major themes are in the scholarly literature.

Analyse the existing literature and look for problems in the existing scholarship. Some scholars may have reached unwarranted conclusions based on the data they have used to write their work. Others may have left questions unanswered. Yet other scholars may have conducted research that is now contradicted by new data that has emerged. Critique the existing scholarship so that your paper makes a contribution to the ongoing scholarly debate. This will prepare you for the work you will be completing if you go on to pursue a doctorate.

Create an outline for your paper. The outline should consist of an introduction, body and conclusion that your paper will follow. Many graduate level papers have an abstract that precedes the introduction also. Whether or not you use an abstract or not depends upon what discipline you are conducted your research in and whether or not it is required by your professor. Your outline's body should consist of all of the major significant points of your paper so that you can map out your train of thought throughout as you go.

Write your rough draft based on your outline. Remember that your paper's primary purpose is to review the existing literature and suggest possible directions for new research or critique the existing research. Your rough draft should be formulated with this intention in mind.

Revise your paper as necessary in order to assure that it is both thorough and clear in its assessment of the scholarly debate. Make reasonable conclusions and suggestions regarding the direction of future debate and draw your own definitive conclusion as the starting point for that debate. In doing so, you will have positioned your research in such a way that scholars will be forced to answer your work, if your research is of publishable quality.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Jared Lewis is a professor of history, philosophy and the humanities. He has taught various courses in these fields since 2001. A former licensed financial adviser, he now works as a writer and has published numerous articles on education and business. He holds a bachelor's degree in history, a master's degree in theology and has completed doctoral work in American history.