Leadership Communication Skills Center

Marine Corps University Communications Style Guide


Revision refers to the process of systematically questioning the ideas, structure, and development of a piece of writing. During the revision process, you will evaluate your central argument, the ideas you use to support that argument, and the language you use to present your ideas. Though many writers may think of revision as proofreading or “line editing,” it is first a process of evaluating ideas and structure and second a process of correcting grammar and formatting errors. The amount of time you spend revising depends on the type of document you are working with and your time constraints, but you should expect to spend almost as much time revising as drafting. The chapter is divided into the following sections: an overview of the revision process, global- and surface-level revisions, and ordering elements in a research paper.


CSG 4.1 Overview of the Revision Process

After you complete your first draft, try to distance yourself from the paper. If you are writing a longer research paper or term paper, allow a few days between the drafting and revising stages; if you are under a tighter deadline, try putting the paper aside for a few minutes while you complete another task. You will be more likely to spot logical, structural, and grammatical errors if you allow for some time between the drafting and revising phases.

Many students make the mistake of attempting to write and revise at the same time. Evaluating your writing while you are still determining what you want to say may hinder you as you put your ideas on paper. This simultaneous writing and revising process may cause you to focus primarily on word choice and grammar, but revising the paper involves more than simply giving it one last read through. Rather, the revision process requires you to evaluate the logic, structure, and organization of your argument, as well as sentence-level issues that may distract the reader from your message. When you revise the paper, you will examine it for two different types of issues: global- and surface-level issues.

Global-level issues refer to what many people may deem “big picture” issues—the thesis, logic, organization, focus, and idea development. When you revise for global-level issues, you will need to question the validity of your argument and how you have supported the argument. You will evaluate your central claim (thesis), decide whether you still agree with that claim, and critically think about whether the information you include to support that claim is accurate, valid, and convincing to your target audience.

Surface-level issues refer mostly to sentence-level elements such as sentence structure, word choice, punctuation, and general formatting. Though most people think of the revision process as the act of correcting these surface-level issues, you will spend the majority of your time concentrating on global-level issues, since these may require you to adjust the content or focus of your writing. For example, you will not want to focus on perfecting sentence-level grammar and mechanics only to delete those grammatically perfect sentences later in the revision process.


CSG 4.2 Global-Level Revisions

CSG 4.2.1 Evaluating Focus and Purpose

Sometimes it is easy to stray from the expectations of the assignment or task at hand when you are passionate about your subject. Therefore, a key part of the revision process is evaluating the draft to make sure the focus of your writing is appropriate. Below are a few elements you may want to take into consideration as you evaluate the focus of your draft.


Strategies for Evaluating Focus

1. Review your assignment question, concentrating on some of the key words (see chapter 2 for more information about identifying key words).

• Does your draft address your specific assignment prompt?

• If your writing task is not necessarily academic (e.g., professional military writing), does it fulfill all of the requirements of the project?

• Does your draft accomplish the task at hand? If you determine your paper does not meet the requirements of the assignment, it is likely you will need to make significant revisions, as you may need to adjust the paper’s content, not just the presentation of that content.

2. Review your draft, considering the audience’s background, familiarity with the topic, and expectations.

• Does your paper approach the assignment or task in a way that is appropriate, considering the audience’s familiarity with your subject and purpose for reading the paper? For instance, if you are writing a report, does it include all of the information your supervisor or colleagues will need to know?

• Will the evidence you present be convincing to your target audience?


CSG 4.2.2 Evaluating the Central Argument

Sometimes your ideas about your topic will shift as you write, especially if you are drafting a longer paper that involves a great deal of research. You may find, therefore, that your initial thesis statement no longer reflects the argument you wish to present. Similarly, even when writing a shorter paper, you may find your ideas about your topic change as you begin to defend your argument and develop your rationale. As you finalize your draft, you will want to make sure that your thesis presents a clear argument and that the argument is sustained throughout the paper. Below is a checklist you might use to evaluate your central argument and supporting examples.


Checklist: Evaluating the Central Argument

  • The paper contains an arguable thesis statement or statement of purpose that accurately captures your perspective on the topic.
  • The thesis uses clearly defined terms.
  • The argument presented in the thesis is sustained throughout the paper.
  • All of the paper’s subarguments relate to the thesis in some way.


For more information on thesis development, consult chapter 3; for more information on argument development, consult chapter 7.


CSG 4.2.3 Evaluating Structure and Organization

Organization refers to the order in which you present the ideas in your paper and how the paper’s argument progresses from one section to the next. An organized paper is often recognized as having a logical flow. The list below provides some issues to consider as you evaluate the organization of your document.


Checklist: Evaluating Structure and Organization

  • The introduction provides enough information for the reader to understand the argument that will be discussed in the body of the paper.
  • The thesis statement appears in the paper’s introduction.
  • Each body paragraph supports the thesis in some way.
  • Paragraphs are arranged in a logical order; paragraphs build upon one another.
  • The paper includes transitions that provide readers with a sense of direction and carry readers from one idea to the next.
  • Connections between paragraphs are clear.
  • Connections between sentences within paragraphs are clear.
  • The conclusion draws broader implications from the information and arguments that are presented in the body, rather than simply summarizing the main points.
  • The conclusion is free from new information and/or evidence.


One technique for creating a reverse outline is to write a one or two-sentence summary of each body paragraph. You can then put all of those summary sentences in an outline. This technique gives you a clear picture of the ideas you have covered in the paper and the order in which you have addressed those ideas. Once you have a clear sense of what you have written, you can determine whether the information in the body of the paper is organized in accordance with the thesis or if the thesis needs to change. You might also be able to see whether or not the paper supports all aspects of the thesis and if you need to add paragraphs or sections to fully support the thesis.

Note: if you are working with a longer document and are short on time, you might consider writing a one- or two-sentence summary of each main section.

Reverse outlining a sample paper: the following section demonstrates how you might reverse outline a short essay to evaluate its organizational structure. The paragraphs in this section are extracted from the body of a student essay that debates the degree to which United States foreign policy has been driven by Wilsonian idealism since Wilson’s presidency. Each paragraph is followed by a summary sentence that will become part of the student’s reverse outline.

Thesis: Wilsonian idealism has been a consistent theme throughout American foreign policy, as demonstrated by the United States’ advocacy for national self-determination, its promotion of economic cooperation through an open and interdependent world economic system, and international support.

Body paragraph 1: During the course of the twentieth century, the United States consistently demonstrated its commitment to advocate national self-determination around the world. In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill announced the Atlantic Charter, which was a joint declaration of common principles toward which the United Kingdom and the United States would strive. The principle of national self-determination was distinctly expressed in the charter, which committed both governments to seek the restoration of “sovereign rights and self-government” to nations that have been denied those rights. In 1947, President Harry S. Truman reinforced this principle when he addressed a joint session of Congress and established the Truman Doctrine, which reoriented American foreign policy from its previous stance of isolationism. In his speech, Truman most notably declared that it must be “the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.” Beyond rhetoric, the commitment to national self-determination had a significant bearing on U.S. military interventions in far-flung conflicts such as the Korean War and Vietnam War. It is evident that national self-determination is a central and underlying principle that has steered American foreign policy for significant periods of the twentieth century.

Body paragraph 2: The American foreign policy actively enhanced collective security through establishing international organizations and treaties. Echoing Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech, the eighth and final principle in the Atlantic Charter asserted that “all of the Nations of the world, for realistic as well as spiritual reasons, must come to the abandonment of the use of force.” This represented an important acknowledgement of collective security that eventually led to the establishment of the United Nations (UN) in 1945. The United States also demonstrated its resolve to enforce collective security in both the Korean War in 1950 and the Persian Gulf War in 1990. The United States took the lead to pass resolutions, rally international support, and convince member states to contribute to collective action as part of the UN. The United States further enhanced collective security through the ratification of collective defense arrangements such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Southeast Asia Treaty, and the Rio Treaty. These regional arrangements, legitimized by Articles 51 to 54 of the UN Charter, contributed to the preservation of international peace and security.

Body paragraph 3: Concomitant with the approach to collective security, the United States also promoted the Wilsonian ideal of economic cooperation through an open and interdependent world economic system. The United States played a key role in the establishment of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD, or the World Bank) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 1944. These international institutions engendered economic interdependencies by regulating world currencies and promoting global commerce. At the onset of the Cold War era, the Truman administration enacted the Marshall Plan to catalyze economic recovery for Europe and Japan after the destruction caused by World War II. While the underlying purpose of the Marshall Plan was to thwart the spread of communism, the financial and economic aid promoted international free trade and integrated Western Europe into the new global economy. President William J. “Bill” Clinton further substantiated the desire to construct an integrated global economy when he convened Congress to ratify the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1994, which was later replaced by the World Trade Organization (WTO) to facilitate international trade agreements. In line with Wilsonian ideals, the American foreign policy championed several economic reforms in the twentieth century, which led to unprecedented levels of global economic cooperation and interdependence.


When the summary sentences are combined, the student might produce a reverse outline similar to the one depicted below. Consider the author’s thesis in the context of the outline: Do all of the points relate to and support the thesis? Does the thesis need to change to reflect the information the author presents in the body of the paper? The supporting points of the thesis are enumerated to make the argument’s structure more apparent for the reader.

Critique of reverse outline and thesis: in comparing the reverse outline with the thesis, we can see that the supporting points in the body of the paper are arranged differently than they are presented in the thesis. While the thesis addresses economic cooperation as the second supporting item and international support as the third supporting item, these supporting points are reversed in the body of the essay. For the thesis to match the organization of ideas in the body, the author has two choices:

1. The author could reverse the order of the body paragraphs so the paragraph on economic cooperation precedes the paragraph on collective security through international organizations.

2. The author could revise the thesis to match the organization of ideas in the body of the paper (this is usually the easiest fix).


The thesis might also need to be a bit more specific and define what “international support” means in this case. Some of that language could be a bit more concrete.


New Outline with Revised Thesis

Revised thesis: Wilsonian idealism has been a consistent theme throughout American foreign policy, as demonstrated by the United States’ advocacy for national self-determination, its enhancement of collective security through international organizations and treaties, and its promotion of economic cooperation through an open and interdependent world economic system.

A. The United States showed its commitment to self-determination through the Atlantic Charter, the Truman Doctrine, and its involvement in the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

B. The American foreign policy actively enhanced collective security through establishing international organizations and treaties, particularly the United Nations.

C. The United States has promoted the Wilsonian ideal of economic cooperation through an open and interdependent world economic system, which is evident through its establishment of and involvement with the World Bank, World Trade Organization, and IMF.


Critique of revised thesis and outline: in this version of the outline, the supporting points in the body of the paper mirror the order in which they are addressed in the thesis statement. The wording of the thesis is also revised to clarify what is meant by “international support.” This rewording helps to make the connection between the thesis and the information that appears in the body of the paper clearer for the reader.

Keep in mind that the purpose of reverse outlining is not to create a perfect outline but to create a cohesive, well-organized paper. This means you will need to make sure your draft reflects all of the changes you make as you revise your outline. For instance, the author of this outline would want to include the revised thesis statement in his or her introduction and would need to make sure that the body paragraphs appear in the correct order.

For more information on how to properly structure and organize an academic paper, consult chapter 3.


CSG 4.2.4 Evaluating Evidence

After reviewing your draft’s central argument and organization, you will want to ensure the evidence you use to support your thesis is credible, persuasive, and factually correct. Supporting evidence refers to the specific examples and facts (often found through the research process) that you use to support your thesis statement or central argument. Below is a checklist you might use to evaluate your use of evidence.


Checklist: Evaluating Use of Sources

  • The paper’s claims are backed up by supporting information from primary and/or secondary sources. While you may draw from personal experience, most academic and professional writing should use examples and ideas from outside sources to provide sufficient support for the paper’s claims.
  • The paper presents original thoughts (i.e., it is not merely a compilation of information from other sources). If more than one-third of the text is quoted and/or paraphrased information, you may want to reevaluate your use of source material, as you may be diminishing your own ideas by spending too much time discussing what others have said about your topic.
  • The paper analyzes the evidence it presents. The paper interprets the evidence it presents and provides sufficient context for the reader to understand any quoted or paraphrased information, as well as statistics.
  • The reader can easily differentiate between your discussion of others’ ideas and findings and your interpretation of those ideas. See section 3.5.2 for more information about transitions and signal phrases that may help you to distinguish your voice from that of other writers and researchers.
  • The paper uses a variety of credible sources. The paper should use both primary and secondary sources, and those sources should be written by a variety of authors (i.e., the paper should not be entirely made up of sources that are written by the same author or organization). Section 6.3 provides guidelines for evaluating source credibility.


In addition to evaluating the credibility and accuracy of your claims, you will also want to consider the types of sources the paper uses and how you have used those sources to make your points. The following checklist provides guidelines for evaluating your use of sources.


CSG 4.2.5 Evaluating Documentation

Once you have evaluated your use of outside source material, you will want to make sure you have used proper documentation practices to provide attribution. The checklist below provides some issues to consider as you check your citations.


Checklist: Evaluating Documentation

  • An endnote follows all paraphrased and summarized information.
  • All run-in direct quotes are placed within quotation marks and followed by an endnote.
  • All block quotes are indented five spaces (tabbed right), single spaced, and followed by an endnote.
  • The paper is written in your own words. Sometimes it is easy to accidentally copy an author’s phrasing, tone, or style. Remember to reread your document to make sure that if you have borrowed words or ideas from an author, they are properly documented.
  • All of the direct quotes that you use in the paper are introduced with a signal phrase (e.g., “according to the author” or “as demonstrated by the author”).
  • The paper includes a bibliography, which is an alphabetized list of all the sources that are cited in the paper. See chapter 8 for more information about quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing; see chapter 9 for more information on how to format endnotes and bibliography entries.


If you are using Microsoft Word 2007 or a newer form of the Office tool (e.g., Microsoft Word 2019 or Microsoft 365), you will find a resource on the toolbar that will help you to format citations and bibliography entries in American Psychological Association (APA), Modern Language Association (MLA), and CMOS citation styles. However, the citations that these tools generate often contain minor errors in terms of sequencing of publication information and punctuation. For this reason, we advise students to use Microsoft Word’s endnote numbering tool and to format the citation’s publication information by hand (using the guide found in chapter 9). For specific information regarding how to use the automatic endnote tool in Microsoft Word, see Appendix B. For information about the format of Chicago Manual of Style citations, see chapter 9.


CSG 4.3 Surface-Level Revisions

Once you have made the global-level revisions needed to improve the paper’s logic, organization, and structure, it is time to begin revising the document for surface-level issues. Before you begin this process, you may want to print out your paper, as it is often easier to spot errors on a hard copy than it is to spot them on a computer screen. Below are some strategies you can use to revise your paper and improve tone, diction, word choice, clarity, concision, and correct use of grammar and punctuation.


CSG 4.3.1 Tone

Tone refers to the attitude the author adopts toward the audience and the subject of the paper or presentation. Tone refers not only to the degree of formality used but also to the specific attitude of the writer. For instance, your writing may have a grave, serious, sarcastic, impassioned, or plain-spoken tone. Remember, the tone of your writing may affect your credibility. While it may be appropriate to use a humorous or passionate tone if the purpose of your communication is to entertain or express an opinion, this type of tone may also cause readers to discredit the claims you make in the paper.


CSG 4.3.2 Diction

While many people use the word diction to refer to pronunciation, this word frequently refers to the types of lexical choices that are made in a document. When evaluating your diction, you need to question whether the vocabulary used in your paper suits your intended purpose and audience. For example, the vocabulary used when writing to a friend is different from the type of vocabulary used in a formal research paper. Below are some examples of word pairs used in different contexts.

Correspondence versus letter

Oversight versus accident or goof-up

Improvement versus a step-up


The word pairs above are similar in meaning; however, they have varying levels of formality. For instance, while you may use the word oversight in formal writing, you would likely choose to use the word accident if you were conversing with a friend.


CSG 4.3.3 Word Choice

Each word in your paper should match your intended meaning as related to your topic and argument. The following rules outline effective word choice.

1. Express parallel ideas in sentences in parallel form. Chapter 11 provides an in-depth explanation of parallel structure.

Incorrect example: I enjoy running, swimming, and I love to dance.

Correct example: I enjoy running, swimming, and

2. Keep verbs in active voice (the subject goes before the verb). Only use passive voice to soften criticism or keep a neutral tone to the piece, and avoid passive voice if your instructor does not prefer its use in formal writing.

3. Use words that are familiar to the audience and avoid unnecessary jargon or technical terminology and acronyms. When using acronyms, always spell them out and put the acronym in parentheses on first use in your paper.

4. Use specific language as opposed to clichés or idioms, which readers may not understand. This type of language is often seen as too informal for academic or professional writing.

5. Rely on short words for clear, concise writing; however, make sure they are appropriate for the assignment and academic level.

a. Use strong, active verbs, such as illustrates instead of shows.

b. Use specific nouns, such as Clausewitz instead of the strategist.

c. Avoid using intensifiers, such as extremely, really, and importantly.

d. Begin sentences with specific words instead of ambiguous pronouns (e.g., the submarine versus it or this).

e. Avoid changing verbs into nouns and adjectives with endings such as –ion, –ment, and –ency (e.g., make a payment --> pay or the production of --> producing)

6. Vary the length of your sentences to make your writing interesting and to keep the audience’s attention. Use a mix of sentence lengths and structures for variety, but select the type that best fits the thought.


CSG 4.3.4 Clarity

Try to evaluate your writing from your audience’s point of view. Use language your audience will understand. Describe, illustrate, and repeat key ideas that may be less familiar to your audience. You may explain difficult concepts by connecting any new information to existing ideas or experiences the reader may have with a topic. Below are strategies for writing clearly.

1. Make sure you select words that convey your exact intent.

Unclear example: It was a good meeting.

Clear example: The meeting resolved three questions.

2. Use concrete language as opposed to abstract language—words that do not represent anything in the physical world. Concepts and ideas (e.g., love, freedom, and success) are usually represented in abstract terms. While you will likely need to use abstract terms in your writing, you will want to break these terms down so the reader can understand what they mean within the context of your paper. For example, cross-culturally and even within cultures, individuals may have different ideas regarding moral behavior.

3. Use inclusive language instead of clichés, euphemisms, idioms, and careless phrasing that may produce two or more interpretations of an idea.

Example cliché: It was raining cats and dogs. (This would be impossible to occur literally, so it may not make sense to someone unfamiliar with the expression.)

Example euphemism: She passed away last year. (Some readers may ask questions like “Where did she pass?” and “How far away?”)

Example idiom: She is the apple of my eye. (This phrase may not be familiar to your readers, who may come from a variety of different backgrounds and countries/nationalities.)

4. Use jargon only when appropriate and necessary. Jargon is technical language used by a specific group of individuals as a form of shorthand. While jargon is understood by the people within that specific group, it is often meaningless and confusing to outsiders. Avoid using jargon when writing for or speaking to people outside of your group or when your paper may be read by a wider audience. Use jargon sparingly when you are writing formally.

Example: head versus bathroom

Example: deliver the mail versus meet the goal

5. Avoid using ambiguous acronyms and abbreviations. Although an acronym may have one meaning in the U.S. Marine Corps, it may mean something entirely different to a professional from another field. Abbreviations can be confusing because they vary across and even within fields of study. In addition, abbreviations like prof instead of professor are often seen as too informal for academic writing; spelling out these terms can improve formal voice.

Marine Corps example: PME stands for professional military education.

Physician’s example: PME stands for progressive myoclonus epilepsies in regard to seizures caused by epilepsy and other genetic disorders.


CSG 4.3.5 Concision

Concise writing uses just enough words to clearly and specifically state a point, while verbose writing uses too many words to convey a point. If you can eliminate words within a sentence without changing the meaning or grammatical structure, it is often best to cut them out. Below are some strategies for making your writing more concise.

1. Eliminate filler words.

Verbose example: in light of the fact that

Concise example: because

2. Eliminate unnecessary prepositional phrases.

Verbose example: This character and nature of the Continental Army was a direct result of the profound significance of George Washington’s motives for joining the cause and his actions during the war. (30 words, 5 prepositional phrases)

Concise example: George Washington’s motives for joining the Continental Army and the actions he performed during the war directly shaped the Continental Army’s character and nature. (24 words, 2 prepositional phrases)

3. Look for sentences that begin with “there are” or “it is.” Forms of the verb “to be” (am, are, is, was, were, been, be) can make your sentences wordy and less active. If possible, try to replace these verbs with active verbs (argues, establishes).

Verbose example: There are many students who enjoy Socratic-style seminars.

Concise example: Many students enjoy Socratic-style seminars.


Try to vary your sentence length and construction in order to keep your writing interesting. Figure 23 is an example of a paragraph with repetitive sentence structures.


Figure 23. Sample paragraph with repetitive sentence structures


Note that all of the sentences in this paragraph begin with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps or IRGC + a verb. This is causing the sentences to read almost like a collection of bullet points rather than a coherent, flowing paragraph. Transitional words and phrases are added to this paragraph in figure 24, which allows for clearer connections between ideas.


Figure 24. Sample paragraph with varied sentence structures


CSG 4.3.6 Grammar and Punctuation

Checking your paper for correct grammar and punctuation is another aspect of revising for surface-level issues. You may find it is difficult to identify grammar and punctuation errors in your own writing, primarily because when you read your own work, you may have the tendency to subconsciously fill in words and punctuation marks that are missing from the text. In addition, you may rely on spell check to identify and correct many of these errors for you. Although spell check and other word processor grammatical tools are useful, they will not catch every error or provide the best solution to correct errors. This is also true of digital writing assistance tools available online, such as Grammarly. Therefore, you need to develop strategies to identify and correct errors without relying on these tools. The textbox below provides some of these proofreading strategies. Chapter 10 provides in-depth information regarding correct grammar and punctuation usage, as well as strategies for correcting common errors.


Proofreading Strategies

1. Place your finger under each word and read the word silently.

2. Make a slit in a sheet of paper that reveals only one line of type at a time; use the slit to read each page of text line by line.

3. Read the document out loud and pronounce each word slowly and carefully. Record yourself reading the paper, using an iPhone, tape recorder, or any software that allows for audio recording. Play the recording back and listen for discrepancies.

4. Have a spouse or friend read your paper.

5. If you are still having trouble with grammar and punctuation and need instruction on revising these types of issues, you can make an appointment with your respective school’s writing center for feedback.


CSG 4.4 Ordering of Elements in a Research Paper

Because the research papers MCU students write are diverse in terms of topic and focus, the LCSC does not provide research paper templates. The LCSC faculty recommend students allow the paper’s topic and purpose to drive its organization of ideas and methodology, as opposed to encouraging students to adapt their topic and purpose to a predetermined template.

Rather than offering a template, this section presents some general guidance and details regarding the front matter elements, main body sections, and back matter elements that will appear in most research papers. Please be advised that individual schoolhouses typically put out their own set of formatting guidance for MMS, future war, and IRP papers.

Before turning in the final draft of your research paper, you may want to use worksheet 3 to ensure the elements of your paper are arranged in the correct order.

Worksheet 3: Ordering of Elements in a Research Paper

Title page

___ Executive summary

___ Table of contents

___ List of figures

___ List of tables

___ Preface and acknowledgements

___ Main text

___ Introduction

___ Thesis statement

___ Body

___ Conclusion

___ Appendices

___ Endnotes

___ Bibliography


The following pages include descriptions of the primary elements you should include in an academic paper and the order in which they should appear. However, it is important to remember not all research papers will contain all of the components listed below. This section provides an overview of the elements you might be asked to include in a research paper and the order in which you should present those elements.

All information in this section is adapted directly from The Chicago Manual of Style.


CSG 4.4.1 Front Matter

The term front matter refers to the items that precede the main text. The front matter gives the reader a sense of the paper’s organization and the author’s intent for writing the paper. This is where you may want to provide acknowledgements for individuals who assisted you in the development of your paper.

Title page: the title page should contain the full title of your paper, your name, and the date. The place of publication or place where the paper was submitted (e.g., Marine Corps University and your professor’s name) should appear on the title page as well. For an example of the title page that you will use when submitting your MMS paper, please consult the MMS Writing Guide.

Executive summary: An executive summary presents the main points of a longer document and recommends action. The executive summary is generally written for someone who may be too busy to read the entire document (e.g., a general or Senior Executive Service member) but who needs to understand the information presented in the document, making precision and accuracy of information essential. If you are summarizing an academic work—as you will likely need to do if you plan to write an MMS, IRP, future war, or contemporary issues paper—the executive summary should include a condensed explanation of your findings and a recommendation based on those findings. This type of summary focuses on the conclusion you came to as a result of your research and should not discuss the method you used to conduct your research. Figure 25 is an example of an executive summary.


Figure 25. Sample executive summary


Abstract: Though the longer papers you write at Marine Corps University will typically require an executive summary, you will likely be required to develop an abstract if you are submitting work for publication. Much like an executive summary, an abstract will identify some of the points that are presented in a work, but the tone and focus of the abstract may be slightly different. In many cases, abstracts precede academic articles and help readers decide whether or not they want to read the entire article. Unlike the executive summary, which is usually written for a supervisor or a more general reader, the abstract may contain technical language that is unfamiliar to individuals who do not have subject matter expertise. Below are descriptions of two types of abstracts.

1. Descriptive abstract: the descriptive abstract provides an overview of the topics that will be covered in the paper, the purpose of the study, and the method used to conduct the study, but it does not present the study’s findings or conclusions.

2. Informative abstract: an informative abstract tends to be more specific in that it presents the argument the paper will make. It contains a citation of the work, a restatement of the thesis and problem that will be addressed within the paper, and conclusions that you have drawn as a result of this research. In some cases, especially when conducting experimental research, you may include the methodology you used to collect the data.

Table of contents: The table of contents should precede most of the front matter, with the exception of the title page and epigraph (see section 8.4.6 for more information). The table of contents should list all subsequent parts of the front matter (e.g., list of illustrations, list of tables, foreword, preface, and acknowledgements) and the corresponding pages of these items. Additionally, the table of contents should list the main sections or subjects covered in the paper and their corresponding page numbers.

List of figures: If you have included figures in the main text of your paper, you will want to include a list of figures. This list should include the name of each figure presented in the text and the page number on which it appears. For an example, see the list of figures in this style guide. Appendix B provides guidance on labeling and citing visuals (e.g., figures, tables, charts, and pictures).

List of tables: The Chicago Manual of Style recommends separating visuals within the text into figures and tables. If you have included both figures and tables in your text, they should be labeled and listed separately. For instance, a paper might contain figure 1, figure 2, figure 3, and table 1.

Preface and acknowledgements: The preface contains several key pieces of information, including the “reasons for undertaking the work, method of research (if this has some bearing on readers’ understanding of the text), brief acknowledgments . . . and sometimes permissions granted for the use of previously published material.” See the preface at the beginning of this style guide for an example of information to include.


CSG 4.4.2 Main Text

The main text refers to the introduction, body, and conclusion of your research paper. Where the front matter typically contains Roman numeral-style page numbers, the main text will be separated by a section break and will start on page one in Arabic numerals. For more information on page number format and section breaks, see Appendix B. When writing shorter assignments, which may not necessarily contain front matter such as a table of contents or a preface, the main text should directly follow the title page. Refer to chapter 3 for more information about drafting an introduction, body, and conclusion.


CSG 4.4.3 Back Matter

The back matter appears after the main text and includes information that amplifies the concepts and ideas expressed in the main text; it also includes documentation information, as the endnotes and bibliography are part of the back matter.

Note: The Chicago Manual of Style (17th edition) states a list of abbreviations may be included as a part of the front matter or in the back matter; however, this list—commonly referred to by military students as a list of acronyms—is typically placed in the back matter in research papers written by Marine Corps University students as more of a glossary or appendix defining unfamiliar terms. Consult with your faculty member, dean, or supervisor for individual guidance.

Appendices: Appendices may contain information that serves to augment facts, ideas, or concepts discussed in the main text; however, any information that is essential to the reader’s understanding of the paper should be placed in the main text not in an appendix. When you have only one appendix, refer to the material simply as the appendix. When you have more than one appendix, each one should be assigned a letter or number (i.e., appendix A, appendix B, appendix C).

Glossary: Texts containing foreign words and technical language may contain a glossary that provides definitions of terms that are likely to be unfamiliar to the reader. The entries in this glossary should be arranged in alphabetical order.

Notes: The Chicago Manual of Style allows writers to cite sources with either endnotes or footnotes, saying the “decision of where to place the notes is generally made by the publisher.” However, Marine Corps University advises all students to use endnotes unless otherwise specified by a faculty member. Endnotes should be placed after the appendices (if your document contains any) and before the bibliography. The font size of the endnotes is often determined by a publisher, though endnotes often appear in the same font size as the main text or may be one type size smaller. Chapter 9 provides specific guidance for formatting endnotes in CMOS.

Microsoft Word’s automatic endnote numbering tool makes it much easier to keep track of your endnotes, and the LCSC faculty members encourage you to use this function for your papers at MCU. See appendix B for step-by-step directions for generating endnotes in Microsoft Word.

Bibliography: The bibliography is a list of the sources you cited and consulted throughout the course of your research. For more information about formatting bibliographic entries, see chapter 9. Bibliography entries should be placed after the endnotes, which will require you to insert a section break between the bibliography and endnotes. See appendix B for more information about how to create section breaks.