What's Your Question?

How to Write a Research Paper

Writing a research paper is a bit more difficult that a standard high school essay. You need to site sources, use academic data and show scientific examples. Before beginning, you’ll need guidelines for how to write a research paper.

Start the Research Process

Before you begin writing the research paper, you must do your research. It is important that you understand the subject matter, formulate the ideas of your paper, create your thesis statement and learn how to speak about your given topic in an authoritative manner. You’ll be looking through online databases, encyclopedias, almanacs, periodicals, books, newspapers, government publications, reports, guides and scholarly resources. Take notes as you discover new information about your given topic. Also keep track of the references you use so you can build your bibliography later and cite your resources.

Develop Your Thesis Statement

When organizing your research paper, the thesis statement is where you explain to your readers what they can expect, present your claims, answer any questions that you were asked or explain your interpretation of the subject matter you’re researching. Therefore, the thesis statement must be strong and easy to understand. Your thesis statement must also be precise. It should answer the question you were assigned, and there should be an opportunity for your position to be opposed or disputed. The body of your manuscript should support your thesis, and it should be more than a generic fact.

Create an Outline

Many professors require outlines during the research paper writing process. You’ll find that they want outlines set up with a title page, abstract, introduction, research paper body and reference section. The title page is typically made up of the student’s name, the name of the college, the name of the class and the date of the paper. The abstract is a summary of the paper. An introduction typically consists of one or two pages and comments on the subject matter of the research paper. In the body of the research paper, you’ll be breaking it down into materials and methods, results and discussions. Your references are in your bibliography. Use a research paper example to help you with your outline if necessary.

Organize Your Notes

When writing your first draft, you’re going to have to work on organizing your notes first. During this process, you’ll be deciding which references you’ll be putting in your bibliography and which will work best as in-text citations. You’ll be working on this more as you develop your working drafts and look at more white paper examples to help guide you through the process.

Write Your Final Draft

After you’ve written a first and second draft and received corrections from your professor, it’s time to write your final copy. By now, you should have seen an example of a research paper layout and know how to put your paper together. You’ll have your title page, abstract, introduction, thesis statement, in-text citations, footnotes and bibliography complete. Be sure to check with your professor to ensure if you’re writing in APA style, or if you’re using another style guide.


how to write a paper 1 in english


IB English Paper 1 Explained


LitLearn Voted #1 IB English Resource for 2022

how to write a paper 1 in english

IB English Paper 1 is one of those nerve-wracking experiences that everyone has to endure. It’s especially scary because you have no idea what you’ll end up writing about for your final exam–and your grades depend on it!

The best preparation you can do is to be acutely aware of the exam structure and be familiar with strategies for tackling a Paper 1 in general.

If you want to fully wrap your head around the IB English Paper 1 guided analysis, then this blog post is definitely for you.

In 2014, IB 45 graduate Jackson Huang received a perfect 20/20 for his final Paper 1. In this guide, he will share his secrets on the IB English Paper 1 so that you can conquer it too! 💪

Topics included

Planning ahead

What is a paper 1 exam.

In a Paper 1 exam, you are given two mysterious, unseen texts , both of which are between 1 and 2 pages in length.

For IB English Literature SL and HL:

You’ll get two different literary texts types, including poems , short extracts from fiction and non-fiction prose (aka “normal writing” from novels and short stories), and extracts from plays (which includes stage directions and dialogue).

For IB English Language and Literature SL & HL:

The texts come from a plethora (new vocab for you! this blog is so meta!) of categories including magazines, editorials, speeches, interview scripts, instruction manuals, cartoon strips, you name it. Be prepared to be surprised. 😂 

So you’re given two unseen texts. What do you have to do now?

SL students , you’re in luck: Your task for 1 hour and 15 minute exam is to write a commentary guided analysis (IB renamed it) on just one of the two texts. The total marks for the exam is 20.

HL students , you’re in less luck: Your task in 2 hours and 15 minutes is to write a guided analysis on each of the texts. good luck have fun.

Wait, what’s a “guided analysis”?

At the bottom of the text, the IB English Gods and Goddesses pose a short, open-ended question about the text. Something to the effect of:

How does the relationship between Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus impact the narrative?

I’d recommend most students to use the default guiding question as the “entry point” for their essay. At the end of the day, though, you are still allowed to talk about anything, because the IB also says on the cover page of the Paper 1 exam:

Use the guiding question or propose an alternative technical or formal aspect of the text to focus your analysis.

But why make your life harder? Just go with the guiding question, UNLESS you are really confused by the guiding question…and the other text confuses you even more…and you are confident in an alternative focus of this current text.

What do I have to write about in a guided analysis?

Imagine that you’ve been asked to simply “talk about” a novel that you’ve recently read on your commute to school (this is joke obviously, who reads novels on the bus?). What would you “talk” about?

Immediately, a couple important aspects should seem worthy of a comment.

You now know that characterisation, thematics and plot are essential ingredients in any top-scoring Paper 1 guided analysis. By talking about these aspects, you are providing a holistic ‘comment’ on the text–which is exactly what we want.

But this is only half of the whole story.

The above list of three things would be very sufficient if you were just having a casual chat with your friends. But this isn’t a casual chat.


(While you read that 👆, picture this: You’re standing beside a pit so deep it goes to the centre of the Earth, and a Spartan–out of no where–kicks you over the edge and into the metaphorical pit of IB English.)

Digging Deeper

In IB English, your guided analysis needs to go deeper than just describing the characters, themes and plot, which constitute the ‘surface meaning’ of a text.

By the way, we’re using a literary text as an example to keep things simple. Of course, characters and plot aren’t important in non-literary texts like ads, infographics and articles. The same principles should apply!

Shallow and deep meaning in IB English Paper 1 analysis

Your analysis must go deeper than the surface meaning. Explain how exactly these characters, themes and plot events are established through the author’s intentional use of certain literary techniques. If you do that, you’ll be on your way to bigger and better analysis.

The IB wants you to dig deeper into the text and answer these two key questions :

These questions get to the heart and soul of analysis . In this blog post, I want us to focus on Paper 1 overall.

Your ONE mission in Paper 1

Let’s quickly recap what you need to do in a Paper 1.

These two points are helpful as a basis for understanding, but they won’t help you get concrete words onto the exam page. What we need now is a practical guide to writing an actual commentary:

A Practical Guide to Writing a Paper 1 Commentary

An IB English Paper 1 commentary boils down to 3 separate parts:

Choosing a thesis

The thesis or subject statement is a single sentence in the introduction of the guided analysis that states how the writer achieves their overall purpose.

This is also the main argument that you are trying to prove in your essay, and it’s typically related to the guiding question . The examiner can usually judge the strength of your analytical skills JUST from your subject statement alone, so it needs to be well-written!

Good thesis, bad thesis

Here’s a little quiz :

In the poem, the poet depicts a crying man in the city centre, which highlights the society’s aversion towards emotion, and demonstrates the overly masculine nature of society.
In the poem, the poet hyperbolises society’s aversion towards emotion in order to criticise masculinity as a restrictive social norm that inhibits the natural expression of emotion.

Can you tell which subject statement is better and worse? If so, do you know why one is better, or do you just  feel  it intuitively but cannot articulate your reasons?

Answer: the second one is better! 🎉

If you want to prepare properly for IB English Paper 1, create a Free account to get the full Free lesson on how to craft a top-quality thesis quickly during your exam. It’s a Free Preview of LitLearn’s ultimate IB English resource, so you’ll need to sign up for a Free LitLearn account to get immediate access to the lesson.

how to write a paper 1 in english

Get the Free “How to Write an Epic 7-Level Thesis” lesson inside LitLearn.

Choosing the right commentary structure for IB English Paper 1

Every text works best with a specific paragraph structure. Finding this match isn’t always easy, but it’s also one of the most important things to get right in your Paper 1 guided analysis.

You can organise your essay by:

Criterion C for IB English Paper 1 is Organisation . It’s worth a whole 5/20 marks, so it’s definitely in your best interest to choose the most appropriate structure for your commentary.

Pro Tip: I recommend students to stay away from the Big 5 . Sure, it’s useful as a memory device to tell you what elements to look for in a text, but it’s not a good essay structure for analysis.

Why? Because analysis is about examining the causal interplay between techniques, stylistic choices, audience, tone, and themes. The Big 5 and SPECSLIMS artificially silo these components in your discussion. Heed my advice or pay the price! (notice that rhyme?)

So in my opinion, there are only two types of structure that are most conducive (yep, another new vocab, omnomnom) to getting a 7. Ideas/themes  and Sections . Take this as a hot tip and run with it. If your teacher is forcing you to use other structures, then you’ll need to know why this is recommended.

I go into much more depth and explain it all inside Analysis Simplified , and the guess what? Yep, the full lesson on choosing the optimal structure for your Paper 1 exam is completely Free! (Sign up for the Free Preview, just click the button below.)

how to write a paper 1 in english

Writing body paragraphs: Why and How

Once you’ve chosen the best structure for your commentary and decided on a strong thesis as your central argument, the rest of the essay needs to revolve around proving  this argument.

How do you prove this subject statement? You do it by looking at individual points. These smaller points support smaller, more specific aspects of the overall thesis.

The idea is that each body paragraph, or point, aims to prove a separate, smaller aspect of the bigger thesis. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle : You must piece together smaller, more manageable pieces to build the bigger argument (i.e. the thesis).

In reality, this translates into writing 2, 3 or 4 points, each of which fits snuggly it its own paragraph or multiple paragraphs (depending on the complexity of the point).

In each point, you must include:

Obviously, this is a quick summary of how to write a high-quality body paragraph. If you want to really, really wow your teachers and examiners… then you’ll need to check out the Free Full lesson inside LitLearn. You’ll need to create a Free account to access the lesson.

how to write a paper 1 in english

Ironically, the most important part of IB English Paper 1 is not the analysis itself (well it is, but not really). The part you have to get right the first time is the plan. Most students do not know how to plan effectively, or get flustered in the exam and don’t plan, or don’t even try to plan because they think they’re above it. BIIIIG MISTAKE!

Before you even begin writing, you should plan out your commentary in sufficient detail. You will lose track of time, thought and sanity if you do not have a clear road map of every part of your commentary before you begin writing.

You can learn how to annotate and plan quickly & efficiently using the flowchart method inside Analysis Simplified , so that you can go walk out of your Paper 1 practice, mock and final exams feeling like that powerful and overly aggressive Spartan, kicking IB English in the butt (and into the deep, cavernous abyss)!

Jackson Huang

Jackson Huang


Skyrocket Your IB English Grade

Join thousands of ib english students inside litlearn..

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IB English Paper 1 – A Beginner’s Guide To A Level 7

how to write a paper 1 in english

Today’s advice is related to the IB English Paper 1 exam. Gave you shudders didn’t it?

Maybe I’m weird but in all honesty, the English exams really weren’t too stressful compared to the other exams I did. Just my personal opinion.

Also, it’s probably because English is my first language…BUT. Nevertheless, hopefully today’s tip will help you. With IB exams (or mocks) just around the corner, it’s a better time than ever to get a head start on your studying

So today’s advice is hopefully really going to help both SL and HL students in their IB English Paper 1 final exam (and Paper 2).

I did HL myself so the techniques I used when doing these exams worked for me. Hopefully they’ll work for you too. Fingers crossed.

IB English Paper 1, here we go. Let’s get you guys prepped.

Read, and read your IB English Paper 1 Texts Carefully

With IB English Paper 1, it’s all about textual analysis. You want to really immerse yourself in the paper and get your brain cranking out good questions and analysis.

That’s why you have to read. You have 4 texts, A, B, C, and D, to read and you need to compare and contrast them.

That’s not to mean compare A and D. No.

You need to choose between A and B or C and D. Not in any other order. Hopefully when you’re reading this, you’ll have plenty of time to practice the advice I’m giving.

If not, don’t fret. Panicking never helps.

So. Back to my point. First thing you’re gonna want to do when you flip over that big ol’ scary exam paper is allocate 30 minutes of reading time for yourself (20 if you’re doing the SL English Paper 1 exam).

Now look. It’s a 2 hour exam (an hour and a half for the SL English Paper 1) and no way are you going to get through that exam with a decent grade without prep.

During these 30 minutes, you need to be scribbling furiously on the texts. Bring highlighters with you or just underline or circle anything important.

Oh, and before I go on, you need to decide what you want to analyse. You can have a quick skim read and decide which to analyse more thoroughly or do a quick analysis of both sets of texts and then make a decision. It’s up to you.

Done with reading? Time to analyze

Here’s where the real fun begins.

Remember when I told you to highlight and circle anything important? You know like literary devices, thematic idea, tone of the writer, possible audience appeal, stylistic devices (which are the same as literary devices), and structure of the text?

Yeah well now you gotta analyse it all bit by bit. You realistically have about 15 (about 10 or so for SL) minutes by now.

If you’ve practiced past papers, which I highly suggest you do if you’re reading this ahead of the exam period, then 15 minutes (again, 10 for SL) should be enough time.

When you’re analyzing, remember it’s a comparison between the other text. So while you’re analyzing both texts, remember to ask yourself “Ok but how does this compare to the other text?”. This  has to translate into your writing.

You need to make it clear that you’re comparing and contrasting .

How you do it is up to you. What I used to do was write a whole paragraph on a point I had on a text and then in the next paragraph, start with “On the other hand, Text C tends to portray….” or if they were similar I’d go “Similarly, the author of Text D parallels Text C through the use of…..”

Another way I used to approach comparisons between texts was dedicate about half a paragraph for each text. With both methods though, you’re going to need to make sure you have a balance.

So basically each paragraph has to be of similar length to each other unless you have your points in the same paragraph. Then you have to make sure you have enough sentences dedicated to each point about the Texts.

Plan Out Your IB English Paper 1 exam response

I’m sorry to say but with your current time constraints, you’re gonna need to do a bit of multitasking and plan your way to that level 7.

While you analyze, your brain should be working overtime to try to paint some similarities and differences between the two texts.

Your essay obviously needs structure and you need to know how to do it. Here’s a good way of doing it. I used to write my paragraphs according to the following structure:

Audience/Purpose – Who is the author writing to and what is the purpose of them doing so?

Content/Theme – What’s actually in the text? Is there a theme you can detect?

Tone/Mood – What is the author’s tone? What kind of mood is he/she writing about?

Style – What kind of style do they write with? Formal, informal? Iambic pentameter or blank verse?

Structure – How does the author structure the text? Is there anything visually appealing? Images? Diagrams?

For each of these, I would write either two paragraphs, one point for each text. If I was rushing, I might squeeze both points into one paragraph. I would HIGHLY recommend you do the same.

SL students, you guys will benefit enormously if you follow what I’m saying. This is all the stuff that got me an overall level 7 in HL English. HL. Of course I’m saying that it’ll help given that you thoroughly practice these techniques. So it’s up to you really

So yeah. Up there is basically done for you plan. You should centre your analysis and reading around the plan I gave you above. Constantly ask yourselves the questions above and pick your texts apart finding answers to the questions:

“Ok what’s the likely target audience in this text? Why would the author target them? What’s the purpose ? Is it stated obviously or can I assume it?”

“What kind of content is it? What historical aspects does it refer to? What’s the thematic background of this piece?”

“What’s the tone the author is writing in? Why would he/she write in such a tone ? How about the mood that this afflicts on the reader? What can I say there?”

“What’s the writing style here? What kind of devices are used to achieve this effect?”

“Why does the author choose such a structure ? What can I say regarding this point?”

Ask yourselves those questions and find the answers as best you can. Remember it’s analytical. English is all about interpretation. So long as you have a solid argument, you can interpret the texts in any which way you want.

It’s not what you argue, it’s  HOW you argue. Are your analyses in depth enough to convince the examiner? That’s what you’ve gotta practice

Alrighty so that’s the first tip of this series. I’ll be sure to put up more posts relating to IB English Past Papers in future. I’ve still got Paper 2 to cover and I’m sure I’ll think of more tips to give for English Paper 1 in future.

On a side note though, I actually like giving past paper advice because the papers are quite similar for both HL and SL so the techniques I talk about can usually be put to the test in both cases.

Oh were you not looking for IB English Paper 1? Paper 2 you say? Never fear, Studynova is here .

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Hello Rhys, I have a paper 1 in a few days and I was wondering about a point you brought up repeatedly during this article. You mentioned that one must continually compare and contrast the 2 texts… However AFAIR in paper 1 you must only focus on 1 of the two texts? Please advise, Narun

Hi, you recommend writing one paragraph for each of the big five, but isn’t the essay supposed to have only an introduction, three bodyparagraphs and a conclusion? Please let me know as writing a paragraph for each subject would be much easier than fitting it all in three.

my English teacher spoke about this – yes, that’s generally a rule of thumb you could go by. however, it’s likely that the more paragraphs you have in an essay, the more analytical your essay appears to be because more paragraphs might insinuate that you have more points, and therefore you have thought a lot about the texts

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Hey, awesome tips you have here.

Would you mind giving a sample of one of your textual analysis?

Can you give me more tips for IB English Paper1?

Hey there. Here’s another article:

Hope it helps!

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how to write a paper 1 in english

IB English A: Literature and IB English A: Language and Literature

Whether you are taking IB English A: Literature or IB English A: Language and Literature, we all have to write Paper One.  This means we need to read critically, explore authorial choices, and consider their implications and how they shape meaning.  

This page is organized as follows:

Paper 1 – Quick Tips and Tricks For All Students

We get it. Sometimes you don’t have the time to watch lots of videos and sort through lots of documents. If that describes you, then Andrew and Dave highly recommend checking out the videos below. They are short, sweet, and have loads of critical tips and tricks to help you succeed on Paper One.

Watch this before your next Paper 1 for important reminders.

Ten Tips for Paper One

Don't make these mistakes! Easy fixes that add points.

Ten Pitfalls to Avoid for Paper One

Nobody wants to sound like a robot. Add some voice, would you?

Adding Voice to Academic Writing

Start with a firm handshake and finish strong.

Sample Intro and Conclusion

Remember: Discuss HOW the author USES text to impact the READER.

Discussing Reader Effect

Criteria B demands evaluation of the effectiveness of authorial choices.

Adding Evaluation

Language and Literature - Countdown to Paper 1!

Do you have a summative assessment or mock exam coming up?  Are you cramming content at the last minute?  If you are a Language and Literature student and this describes you, then you have come to the right place.  Each of the following TEN text types has CLOSE READING and SAMPLE RESPONSES WITH EXAMINER COMMENTS.  There are also documents with text type conventions and various other resources you need to achieve academic success.  Watch the videos and crush Paper 1.



Stimulus Text

Student Response


More Conventions




LINK: BoW Grant Snider






Conventions Stimulus Text

More Nonliterary Text Types:

Wow, that was quite a playlist!  But…there’s more to learn.  Don’t worry!  Dave and Andrew LOVE nonliterary text types.  Political cartoons?  Check.  Film, photos, and documentaries?  Yes, please.  Opinion articles and advertisements?  You betcha.  If those sounds interesting, that’s because they are.  Check out the nonliterary text types below and rest assured that your Paper One exam performance will be one that you can celebrate.

Political Cartoons

Political cartoons are self-contained commentaries on an important current event or key aspect of society, and they’re humorous.  Look out for colors, symbols, and other hidden ideas lurking in the subtext.  Remember: just like literary authors, cartoonists make a series of choices in their work intended to shape meaning.  Look carefully.  Detect nuances and implications.  Evaluate.  Ace Paper 1.

Learn how to deconstruct political cartoons.

Cartoon Terms

Cartoon of Cartoon Terms

Now that you’ve learned some basic terms, let’s apply them to more cartoons.

Apply your new cartoon skills to academic writing.

Cartoon and Sample Writing

Sentence Stems for Analysis

Put it all together and check out this 7.


They’re everywhere on our phones and screens.  Advertisers work to cut through the clutter, grab our attention, and subtly influence us to make choices to buy, buy, and buy some more.  Accordingly, Dave and Andrew believe it’s essential to learn the tips and tricks companies use to manipulate our attention and persuade us to act.  Check out these videos.  Not only will you improve your Paper 1 performance, but you will also be a more skilled and savvy consumer who is attuned to the features our favorite brands employ in their ads.

Learn key terms and how to break down ads.

Features of Advertising

Mnemonic for Deconstructing Ads

There's more to learn! Add these skills to your toolbox.

15 Techniques of Advertising

More Tools of Persuasion

Put it all together and write an organized piece of academic writing.

The Model Paragraph

Opinion Articles

Whether they agree with what’s happening in our world or not, writers of opinion columns implement a series of choices in their work to maximize their persuasive effect.  A close cousin of speeches, these short and complete texts pack a punch.  Look carefully at how they’re structured, how they use rhetoric, and how they end strong.  Learn this stuff.  It’s Paper 1 gold.

What tools do these writers use? Add these terms to your list.

Persuasive Elements in Opinion Articles

Now that you’ve got some basic skills and some terms under your belt, let’s apply them to three different opinion articles and see what we can do.

Put it all together and see what it looks like.

Paper One Student Sample (original)

Paper One Student Sample (highlighted)

Literary Text Types

Regardless of the course you are enrolled in, we’re all studying literature.  How is prose fiction different than prose nonfiction?  What about drama and poetry?  Are there any special skills and tips to learn?  We’ve got the answers to these questions and more down below.  Consume these resources and become a better critical reader and writer.  

Prose Fiction

What’s prose fiction?  Think novels.  Think short stories.  Think “imaginative” writing.  It’s one of the cornerstones of the course for a reason, as it teaches us about the human condition and fosters empathy.  Learn how to be a close reader of prose fiction and let your knowledge shine when you write your Paper 1.

Literature can be tough. This acronym for deconstruction will help.

SCASNI acronym for annotating fiction

Learn more about how our SCASNI protocol can foster deeper analysis.

SCASNI applied to a Paper One Text

Put it all together and check out this full Paper 1 response.

Paper One – Full Student Response

Prose Non-Fiction

This course requires exploration of nonfiction texts as well.  So what exactly is this stuff anyway?  Think memoirs.  Think travelogues.  Think philosophy and other insightful texts that present factual information in an entertaining and literary way.  We love prose non-fiction, and so do our students.  These were our mock exams as well as former IB exams.  

Remember: Paper 1 is a reading test first. Watch this video.

Assessment Text (original) Assessment Text (annotated)

Yes, diaries show up on assessments. Familiarize yourself with this text type.

Assessment Text (original)

Assessment Text (annotated)

We love a good memoir. Another former IB Lit assessment here.

Check out what this writer does. They know what they're doing!

Student Response (original) Student Response (highlighted)

Another strong Lit response. You getting the hang of this yet?

Student Response (original)

Student Response (highlighted)

Our final mock exam in this Lit series. Another strong response.

Student Response (original and highlighted) Three Different Styles of Introductions

Sure, we understand poetry is abstract, but we promise it can be fun! It’s complex and requires deep thinking, but that’s where the magic lives.  Check out the videos and documents below.  You’ll find poetic terminology, close reading strategies, and sentence stems to guide your writing.  Watch.  Learn.  Master.  You’ve got this!  

Just like any text type, poetry has its own set of terms. Learn them!

Poetic Terms

Sample Poem with Annotations

Now you know some terms. A few more pieces and you're on your way.

How to Read a Poem

Acronym for Analyzing Poetry

Words to Describe Mood and Tone

Maya Angelou Poem For Analysis

Let's practice our new skills with a nature poem from Mary Oliver.

Mary Oliver Poem for Analysis

Mary Oliver Poem (fully annotated)

Check out this former IB Exam where we break down a great poem.

Document: Poem – “Tyre Shop” by Bob Orr

Check out the full student response and compare your work to the sample.

Document: “Tyre Shop” – Full Student Response

Andrew and Dave love drama.  But, you’ve got to remember to pay attention to the stage directions. What can you see and hear on stage?  What props do you notice?  How are costume and staging used for effect?  So many things to explore!  It’s important to learn the basics for now, but stay tuned for more content in the future.  Our students love drama, and so will you.  Immerse yourself in this text type and enjoy!

We'll add more content soon. For now, master these important conventions of drama.

Dramatic Terms Annotated Passage

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10 Expert Tips – Paper 1 Language and Literature

By  robyn goyette.

(IB English A: Language and Literature, IB English A: Literature Tutor at  The Edge Learning Center )

IB English Paper 1

Got a 4 and want a 6? Got a 6 and can’t seem to achieve that elusive 7? Grab the examiner’s attention with these 10 expert tips designed to get you that higher score on your IB English Paper 1.

Tip #1 The introduction

Go beyond the requirements. Write your introduction with 8 essentials in mind:

how to write a paper 1 in english

Example Introduction

This is a 3-panel advert ( text type ) about homelessness in Britain ( content ), published by Crisis at Christmas, the national charity for single homeless people ( writer ), in The Guardian Newspaper, a few weeks before Christmas, during an economic downturn ( context ). Through a confident, compassionate yet urgent tone ( tone ), Crisis appeals ( purpose ) to citizens’ rational, emotional, and ethical sides ( audience ) for donations to help support single homeless people during the inclement gift-giving season ( message ).

Tip #2 Context

Show off your critical thinking skills . Give the internal context, where the text is published, and the external context, what’s going on in the world at the time:

Internal context (hints at the target audience)

External context (hints at the writer’s message)

Tip #3 Tone

State the writer’s attitude and how it changes:

Tip #4 The Body

Use the 8 essentials as topics for your body paragraphs:

Topic 1  – text type & content Topic 2  – writer & context Topic 3  – purpose & audience Topic 4  – tone & message

Tip #5 The Point

State the topics in the 1st sentence of each paragraph:

Topic 3 – Purpose & Audience The purpose is to appeal for donations from UK citizens.

Topic 4 – Writer & Context Crisis at Christmas, a national charity for single homeless people, published their ad in a popular broadsheet, a few days before Christmas, during an economic downturn.

Tip #6 Analysis

Expand your topics using PEEL paragraphing (point, evidence, explain, link):

Topic 2 – Writer & Context

P →  The writer’s ethos is . . .

E →  This is evident in . . .

E →  The effect of this is . . .

L →  The purpose of this . . .

P → The context is . . .

E → This is evident in . . .

Tip #7 Evidence

Pull evidence directly from the text . Look for these structural features and stylistic devices:

Tip #8 Explain

Explain each piece of evidence in 3 ways to thoroughly develop your analysis:

Tip #9 Link

Voice the connection between the reader’s reaction and the writer’s intention:

Tip #10 The Conclusion

Comment on the ad’s effectiveness :

Comment on the ad’s implicit message :

Comment on the ad’s global issue :

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how to write a paper 1 in english

The English Revision Room

Helping you with English Literature!

IB Literature Paper 1

Paper 1 is the most straight-forward of your two exams. However, it is possibly the most difficult to prepare for because you will not know what text you are going to talk about. It is entirely unseen , which means that in theory – unless you’re very lucky – you haven’t read the texts before.

The IB describes it below:

how to write a paper 1 in english

The task is slightly different for HL students:

how to write a paper 1 in english

The main difference is this:

Mark schemes

This paper will test your ability to:.

You will be therefore be marked on 4 criteria:

Take a look at the mark scheme below:

how to write a paper 1 in english

For a 5, you therefore have to show you literally understand what is happening as well as exploring more subtle hidden meanings. You need have made your own views of the text clear. You also need to be using evidence (quotations and paraphrasing) constantly, embedded within your answer, in order to support every assumption and argument you make.

how to write a paper 1 in english

For a 5, you therefore need to be routinely identifying word choices, language/stylistic/structural devices and recurring themes or ideas. You should be able to say what their function is within the text and how they have been used. You then need to evaluate how this function influences the meaning and interpretation of a text – why use this specific simile to influence the reader? What is the author’s purpose?

how to write a paper 1 in english

For a 5 you therefore need to make sure that your paragraph structure is super organised and that each paragraph adds to your argument and overall analysis. If you stray from the question or your argument, this could impact your organisation marks.

how to write a paper 1 in english

For a 5, you therefore need to be highly accurate in your spelling, punctuation, grammar and sentence structure. You need to choose sophisticated but appropriate vocabulary – there is no point using big words if you don’t understand them! Your register (formality) and style must also be consistently effective.

Back to contents…

So, how do you achieve this in the time you are given?

Active reading, start with active reading.

Whenever you read a text, you should not just read it passively – especially during a timed exam!

Make sure you have an impressive highlighter collection and that you read with a highlighter or pen in your hand . The trick is to engage with the passage or poem by picking out important themes, ideas, devices or information relevant to your chosen question.

Let’s imagine for a minute that you are NOT using the guiding question (remember, it is not compulsory ).

You are facing this extract from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein . Try to read it actively. What stands out? What could you find to talk about?

IT WAS on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet. It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs. How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form? His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! — Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips. The different accidents of life are not so changeable as the feelings of human nature. I had worked hard for nearly two years, for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body. For this I had deprived myself of rest and health. I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart. Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out of the room, continued a long time traversing my bed chamber, unable to compose my mind to sleep. At length lassitude succeeded to the tumult I had before endured; and I threw myself on the bed in my clothes, endeavouring to seek a few moments of forgetfulness. But it was in vain: I slept, indeed, but I was disturbed by the wildest dreams. I thought I saw Elizabeth, in the bloom of health, walking in the streets of Ingolstadt. Delighted and surprised, I embraced her; but as I imprinted the first kiss on her lips, they became livid with the hue of death; her features appeared to change, and I thought that I held the corpse of my dead mother in my arms; a shroud enveloped her form, and I saw the grave-worms crawling in the folds of the flannel. I started from my sleep with horror; a cold dew covered my forehead, my teeth chattered, and every limb became convulsed: when, by the dim and yellow light of the moon, as it forced its way through the window shutters, I beheld the wretch — the miserable monster whom I had created. He held up the curtain of the bed and his eyes, if eyes they may be called, were fixed on me. His jaws opened, and he muttered some inarticulate sounds, while a grin wrinkled his cheeks. He might have spoken, but I did not hear; one hand was stretched out, seemingly to detain me, but I escaped, and rushed down stairs. I took refuge in the courtyard belonging to the house which I inhabited; where I remained during the rest of the night, walking up and down in the greatest agitation, listening attentively, catching and fearing each sound as if it were to announce the approach of the demoniacal corpse to which I had so miserably given life. Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

What did you find?

Some ideas I might talk about:

Planning will help with organisation!

When practising your skills at home or in school, it is often helpful to make thorough plans before writing a full essay. Planning time is factored into the exam time you are given, so don’t be afraid to spend 10-15 minutes planning before you write.

I am a fan of a mind-map OR a table. It is up to you to find what works best for you.

how to write a paper 1 in english

Whichever format works for you, it is important to keep your plan organised . These ideas will then help you to organise your paragraphs and therefore your essay.

Writing your essay effectively

Each teacher has a different version of paragraph and essay structures, but the basics are usually the same. I will walk you through my version (one that I was taught as a trainee teacher an embarrassingly long time ago) which was also suggested as a recommended paragraph structure by the leader of an IB training course I went on.

Your basic essay structure should look like this:

So, what is a thesis?

A thesis is a posh word for the main argument of your essay. This is the most important part of any essay and should be decided before you begin to write.

 The thesis statement usually appears at the end of the introduction.  It contains the main argument of your essay, and it helps the examiner by summarising ideas and indicating the scope of your commentary.  

The claim that you make in your thesis statement does not have to be super insightful or perceptive – this will come in your essay . ­For example, perhaps you will argue that the text is about a complicated relationship. You may argue that it is uses unusual linguistic devices to explore this. In the thesis statement you can indicate a few ways in which the author achieves his or her purpose. These ‘ways’ or ‘aspects’ may refer to major stylistic features of the stimulus text. That is why you must read actively and plan carefully.

Look at the examples below – what makes a GOOD thesis statement?

Text 1, an extract from the novel ‘Great Expectations’ by Charles Dickens, includes figurative language, repeated exclamation marks and rhetorical questions to emphasise the madness of Miss Havisham and her misconceptions of love.

This is a good thesis statement because it comments on the underlying ideas of the text, such as “madness” and “misconceptions”. It also offers scope by exploring three “aspects” of the text: figurative language, repetition and rhetoric.

Coe portrays a complicated and unbalanced relationship, through the implication that the husband having an affair has realised he does not love his mistress. Coe uses symbolism, stilted dialogue and hyperbole to satirise the unfolding “romance” of the affair and suggest that it will not end well for either party.

Many good thesis statements comment on the author’s purpose. The key phrases in this thesis statement are “Coe portrays” and “Coe uses… to satirise…” These phrases place the author’s purpose at the centre of the commentary.  It also then gives specific aspects it will explore.

Text 1 is an extract from ‘Atonement’ which uses many different devices for effect. It is about two people whose relationship is unclear.

Unfortunately, many candidates write such vague and meaningless thesis statements. They can be inserted into any commentary. Avoid a general thesis statement.  Also, if you say their relationship is unclear you are hinting that you didn’t understand the text.

How can you make sure your thesis is specific enough?

One way is to use specific verbs to reveal the author’s purpose. Take a look at the list below:

how to write a paper 1 in english

Another is to keep yourself specifically focus on the exact devices used. The formula might look something like “Through the use of x, y, z the author (insert impressive verb here)…” (we’ll come back to this later!)


Writing your introduction.

Once you have annotated your text, formulated a thesis statement and drawn a mind map, you are ready to write the introductory paragraph to your commentary. If you can, it is worth answering questions like: “Who wrote the text?”, “What type of text is this?” And “Why did they write it?” These questions are answered succinctly before including the thesis statement.

For example:

Text 1 is an extract from ‘The Rotter’s Club’ by Jonathan Coe. Published in 2001 but set in 1970’s England, Coe portrays the failing marriage of Bill through his illicit affair with Miriam. Coe portrays a complicated and unbalanced relationship, through the implication that the husband having an affair has realised he does not love his mistress. Coe uses symbolism, stilted dialogue and hyperbole to satirise the unfolding “romance” of the affair and suggest that it will not end well for either party.

Note that this is one of the thesis statements from earlier, but with some added details about the general plot of the extract. Looking at this introduction and thesis, the structure of the essay becomes clear:

Introduction check-list

Keep it short and focused.

If the essay title is in the form of a question, then the introduction will need to outline your answer to the question.

Introductions should be:

Introduce the topic

How you start your essay will depend on the question or title. If the questions are:

(a) What do we learn about the nature of the relationship between the speaker, the mahout and the elephant in this poem? (b) In what ways is the speaker’s perception of the elephant and the experience developed during the course of the poem?

You could  answer directly  in a couple of sentences:

‘The speaker in poem simultaneously respects and pities the elephant as she is cynical of the mahout’s intentions. Her perception is developed from one of awe to deep respect as she learns more of the elephant’s life against the backdrop of working in New Delhi and realises she is being mistreated.’

You could utilise key words from the question in your response.

Give some context

In some essays, it can be useful to give some  brief  context in an introduction. This could be:

This is difficult with an unseen text, but some will have a clear context or theme. For example, in past exams, students have been given poetry or prose about specific wars or moments in history.

Include your specific thesis

This should go at the end of your introduction as a sign-post to your examiner that your argument is ready to be developed.

What to avoid

An introduction will give the reader their  first impression of your ideas . So it’s useful to spend time thinking and planning what to include.

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Tips for HL English Literature Paper 1

Christina Hviid

There are two papers for HL English Literature. Paper 1 is a guided literary analysis of unseen literary passages from different text types. Paper 2 is a comparative essay based on two literary works written in response to a choice of one out of four questions. For students taking the exam in May 2022, Paper 2 has been removed due to the Coronavirus pandemic. That means performing well on Paper 1 is more important than ever! Here are some tips for preparing and completing Paper 1.

Preparing for Paper 1

In Paper 1, you will be given two unseen literary texts: a poem and a prose passage. You’ll have 2 hours and 15 minutes to write a literary analysis for each of the texts. Although it may seem as if Paper 1 is too difficult, there are various ways you can prepare for it. 

First, familiarize yourself with different literary devices/authorial choices. This website has a list of different literary devices with explanations and examples for each. Not all of them will come up in the passages, but make sure you know the more common ones, such as similes, metaphors, and symbolism. 

Next, I recommend looking up past papers and writing just the introduction paragraph for your analysis. Start with a hook, introduce what you’ll be talking about in your analysis, and end with a strong thesis statement. Your thesis statement should not simply restate the question – instead, it should make clear what you’re trying to prove. The introduction paragraph is the most important part of your essay because it sets up everything that comes after it. By practicing writing your first paragraph, you’ll get used to forming an outline quickly and you can jump right in on exam day.

As you get closer to the exam, try doing full practice runs . Look up past papers and use them as a practice. Spend the first 15 minutes reading and annotating the passages, and then form a quick outline of your essays. In the outline for the introduction, write out your full thesis statement and set up your body paragraphs. Your thesis statement should explain what authorial choices are being used in the text and why. When you outline your body paragraphs, include topic sentences, direct quotes from the text (write only the line numbers to save time), and how the quotes support your thesis statement.

For your conclusion, think about a larger meaning to the text and why it’s important. After writing your outlines, you’ll have 2 hours to write the essays, so spend about 1 hour on each one. You might go over the time limit in the beginning, but you will get faster the more you practice! Also, familiarize yourself with the mark scheme and what the examiners are looking for.

On the Exam Day

By this point, you should have done multiple practice exams and feel fully prepared for Paper 1. Make sure you go to bed early the night before and eat a good breakfast to keep yourself energized. Don’t study too much the night before the exam – take the time to rest and clear your mind instead!

You have 2 hours and 15 minutes to complete Paper 1. Use the reading time and the first 15 minutes to absorb the texts. Read each text once without annotating them. Then, go back and read them more in-depth, annotating each one and noting the literary devices used. You can even start making an outline for your analyses – draft your thesis statements and the main points of your body paragraphs.

Focus your topic sentences on authorial choice. The things that occur in the texts aren’t happening passively – the author is making these things happen. Identify what the author is doing in the text and how the author’s style, language, structure, and tone contribute to the overall meaning. 

Quote the passage multiple times per paragraph. Paper 1 is a literary analysis, so your argument must be supported with evidence from the passage. Don’t choose random lines from the passage – choose quotes that demonstrate authorial choice. Try to use many short quotes instead of a few long ones, and explain how the quote supports your argument. Rather than simply restating the quote, explain what authorial choice is being used, why the author may have used that authorial choice, and what effect it has on the reader. My English teacher always tells us to “go for the low hanging fruit.” In other words, choose the quotes with the most obvious authorial choices so you’ll have an easier time explaining them. Remember that literary analysis is incredibly subjective. There is no “wrong” interpretation, as long as you can back it up with textual evidence.

Finally, use your time wisely ! Try not to spend more than an hour on each analysis. If you have extra time, you can go back and proof-check or expand upon what you already wrote.

I hope you found these tips helpful and made you more confident about Paper 1. The most important thing is to do the preparation – that way, you won’t have to worry on exam day. Trust in your abilities, and I know you’ll do great! Good luck!

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