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I have never written an English paper in my life am in Middle School. My mom (I am homeschooled) is requiring that I "write a paper". The problem is that while I read scientific papers and have written quite a few technical design documents for my own purposes, I have absolutely no idea where to start or what it should look like when you are writing about a story. Can someone explain step-by-step how to correctly write an English paper? Note, my problem is NOT that I do not know how to write, it is that I do not know how to write this type of paper.

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    Hello, and welcome to SE :) Being a school exercise, I would think that your mom, as your teacher, would give you some requirements and examples on what she wants you to achieve. It's impossible to do something if you don't know what that is, or how it looks. There are many examples of good layouts for a scientific paper, for instance, but it's impossible to suggest one without knowing what you specifically have to do. – FraEnrico Nov 13 '17 at 14:13
  • She is not very helpful but in general I am just supposed to "Write a paper" on this topic – Anonymous Nov 13 '17 at 14:15
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    Typically 4 - 5 paragraphs (intro/conclusion make 2 of them). Choose a book, focus on literary elements throughout the book to find the theme of the book. Choose 2 or 3 literary elements and each of those becomes a paragraph. Draw directly from the book for your analysis. Assume the author has a message and a purpose, and explain how their use of literary elements conveys their message and serves their purpose. – DPT Nov 13 '17 at 14:46
  • It seems to me that it is too broad of a task as you described it. If it's a paper about a story you must write, should it be a short review of the story itself, without any deviations on your opinion about it, or should it contain your opinion? I'd suggest you to read the story first, try to understand it's purpose and meaning, and start from there. Write few sentences about the story, characters, meaning the author wanted to put in it, etc. – Claud H Nov 13 '17 at 14:49
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It does sound like the assignment isn't specific enough, but that might just mean your mom wants you to write about it in whatever way seems to work best for you.

That said, it's sort of important to have a specific focus when you're writing any kind of educational paper, so with the parameters you've been given, I'd say you just have to select one.

It's pretty easy to recap the plot of a story, especially if you're good at writing. I can tell you all about the three little pigs and which houses blew down and which one stood up. So typically, when you write about a story, you write about it as a way to examine a particular part or aspect of the story as it is written, meaning you're really writing about the way the story is written, more than about the story itself. Rather than writing about what happened with the pigs and the houses, I begin to think about why things happened the way they did.

For simplicity, I'd say you'd probably want to write about the story as it relates to the author and the way he or she wrote it, or about about a particular element of the story itself.

This is a pretty good, if a bit bland, overview of a literary analysis, which is probably a type of paper that would impress/satisfy your mom/teacher.

But basically, I'd say just think about what's interesting about the story, and write about it. The big thing to remember is that in really any educational paper, you're trying to make some kind of point that you hope your reader will find interesting, and then you're backing it up with examples from the story.

Is the moral/lesson your story is teaching really interesting? Examine that and prove that it's the best analysis of what the lesson is by using examples from the text.

You could examine a character's motivations - why did they behave in a certain way? What kind of theme does your story have? Is it teaching a particular lesson? How?

As for structure, a fairly simple but effective structure goes as follows:

  • Introduction: Catch interest with a hook, explain what you're talking about (title of story and author), make your overall argument in a thesis statement, (Contrary to popular belief, the children's story, The Three Little Pigs doesn't teach just delicious bacon is; it teaches the importance of hard work.) And then stick in a sentence to transition to...
  • Body Paragraph 1: Topic sentence that says specifically your first reason for believing your thesis statement (The value of hard work is clear because the story shows the terrible results of shoddy craftsmanship and a sow-like work ethic.) Sentences that provide an example and explain how that example proves the point. And a closing sentence that sort of wraps it together.
  • Repeat for at least another body paragraph, if not two, with differing reasons (Hard work especially pays off when the three wolves are saved by their savvy older brother who built a freaking house of stones instead of completely useless trash.)
  • And a conclusion that sort of recaps your main ideas.

If your mom is picky about formatting and whatnot (and if you're planning on going to college, she should be!), this is a handout I used when I was teaching Literacy a couple of years ago that (I hope) does a pretty good job explaining how to use quotes/evidence from text in your writing.

Hopefully that provides you some focus and some resources to help get you on the right track! Good luck!

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