How to Write a Perspective Paper

How to Write a Perspective Paper

As a college student, you’ll occasionally get asked to write a personal perspective paper. A perspective paper lets you express your feelings or opinions concerning an event or topic you consider important. If you don’t know how to write a perspective paper, it’ll be tough to finish that assignment. This post purposes to provide you with actionable ideas and tips regarding how to write a perspective paper. Since a perspective paper follows no distinct format, this won’t be a step-by-step approach. Hopefully, you’ll find writing a perspective paper easy and manageable once you’ve read through this article.

What’s the Purpose of a Perspective Paper, Really?

For most college students, few assignments make sense. Questions such as “why do I need to write a perspective paper?” are quite common. Who enjoys writing a perspective or research paper? Some students do, but most don’t. A perspective paper is an assignment like any other. And assignments can make life in college exhausting and uninteresting. Often, schoolwork feels like drudgery. It isn’t something that excites you. It’s often something you don’t want to do now.  Assignments may prevent you from getting the most out of your college experience. You know, you could be out there socializing and having fun. You could be enjoying yourself instead of sitting at your desk writing a perspective paper. But your professor asks you to write papers for good reasons.

Perspective Papers “Teach” You to Think, Reflect, and Communicate

Perspective papers allow teachers an opportunity to assess their students’ ability to express ideas, feelings, and opinions. Writing is communicating. Teachers want students to learn how to become better thinkers and communicators. The ability to think and communication are among the most in-demand skills in the 21st century. Additionally, perspective papers help instructors to know their students better. As your professor reads your work, she encounters your strengths and weaknesses. That’s how she learns how best to support you.

The Nature of a Perspective Paper

A perspective paper is an essay. However, it differs from other types of essays in several ways. Unlike most other types of essays, a perspective essay presents your own perspective or opinion. It isn’t interested in telling readers what people other than the author feel or think about an issue or event. In most types of essays, you typically use the views of others to support your own. And that’s a key difference.

Another key aspect that sets a perspective paper from other essays apart is that you don’t need evidence to support your opinion. You don’t need to keep saying, “Brandon and Bryant (20XX) assert that …..” But that doesn’t mean you can’t quote someone who expresses your opinion in a way that resonates with you. Here’s another distinctive feature that makes a perspective paper different than other essay types. You don’t need to be right or to have others agree with you.

A Perspective Paper Displays Your Opinion, a Perspective

A perspective paper is purely your opinion. That’s what an assistant professor at California State University, Johnie H. Scott, says. Readers don’t expect you to explain why you feel this way or that way about an issue. You don’t need to provide explanations for thinking particular thoughts and holding certain views. In short, your essay is what it is. And readers must take it that way. A perspective essay allows the author to reveal a bit of who they are. It lets the author’s personality shine, revealing the writer’s essence. Perhaps that’s why perspective papers are interesting to read.

No Rigid Structure for a Perspective Paper

Here’s one more thing. A perspective essay doesn’t depend on a rigid structure. In other words, there’s no formula to follow. That’s why we said this post isn’t going to elaborate specific steps to follow while writing a perspective paper. But a perspective paper is an essay. And essays feature three main components namely introduction, body, and conclusion. Your composition, too, must feature all three parts. Besides, it must present your perspective or opinion. Most importantly, your perspective paper should flow coherently and logically.

How to Write a Perspective Paper: Useful Tips to Guide Your Writing

The rest of this post will offer tips and ideas to get you started. You’ll also learn what to do when it comes to writing the body and conclusion of your perspective paper. Each section will describe a crucial element of the writing process. What follows in the next few sections is not “steps” for how to write a perspective paper, though. It’s a general description of all the elements to pay attention to as you develop your essay.

Get a Topic that Stirs Your Emotions and Breeze Through Your Perspective Paper

The whole writing process starts when you decide on a topic and ends when you conclude your main message. Sometimes, your teacher gives you a topic. Or they may allow you the luxury of choice. While choosing a topic, pick something you’ve pondered for a while; an issue you’ve allowed to percolate. Maybe it was a senseless neighborhood shooting related to the current racial tensions in the area. Maybe it’s about the plight of undocumented Latino immigrants who own rapidly growing small businesses. Perhaps you feel strongly about the “wrongness” of legal abortion in the country or your state. Settle on a subject that stirs your emotions. Such an issue easily inspires enthusiasm, passion, and motivation. With a topic you know and care about, you’ll breeze through your perspective paper.

Here’s What One Physician Wrote About

Thomas H. Lee, a physician working for some hospital in one of the states wrote an interesting perspective piece. As a doctor, Lee has seen lots of patients. As happens everywhere, some of them regained their health. And others succumbed to illness.

Someone like Dr. Lee sees death all the time. He sure must know a thing about death. Possibly, a doctor subconsciously processes different work-related events and scenarios all day. But there’s an interesting reason Dr. Lee picked a patient’s death as his subject. The physician’s patient didn’t actually die; his hospital killed him! Now, that’s exciting, isn’t it? You want to hear how Dr. Lee’s hospital killed his patient. Unsurprisingly, the title of the perspective essay this physician wrote is: Coming Back from the Dead.

The Author Chose an Issue that Naturally Stirs Interest: Death

The subject of Dr. Lee’s piece is death. But it’s not death as we know it. Presumably, someone at Social Security Administration had incorrectly updated the Death Master File. Dr. Lee’s patient’s wife had died a couple months ago.  As Social Security entered the data from the diseased person’s death certificate, they made a mistake. They incorrectly classified Dr Lee’s patient as dead the same day they did (correctly) his wife. Dr. Lee got the shock of his life when he called his patient’s family to offer his condolences. The “dead” patient answered the call himself! As the author of the essay states somewhere, events such as this one are odd, but not rare.

You can now understand why Dr. Lee chose the title his piece carries. Your story may not be about an “erroneous death,” but it should be interesting. What we learn here is that an exciting story provides great material for writing a perspective essay.

Writing the Introduction and Thesis Statement of Your Perspective Paper

As mentioned earlier, a perspective paper must have an introduction. It may or may not have an abstract. It all depends on what your professor or the journal you’re interested in wants. Your abstract should be brief, around 150 words. But you won’t usually need to include an abstract.

Aren’t an Abstract and Introduction the Same Thing?

What is the difference between an intro and an abstract anyway? An abstract concisely states your paper’s purpose, what you did, and its findings. An abstract needs no references. The introduction, on the other hand, presents definitions and the paper’s rationale. It also explains what the author expects to find. One key difference is that an intro cites references to prop the argument that informs the paper’s hypotheses. While your personal perspective paper needs a thesis statement, it certainly doesn’t need hypotheses and research questions. For that reason, you don’t need to cite references for the introduction.

How to Write an Intro that Kills it

A great introduction is one that instantly grabs a reader’s attention. So, write an attention-grabbing intro. That piece of advice has almost become a proverb. But that’s because the statement carries tons of sense. If your introduction is dull and uninteresting, readers will likely ignore your paper. And your professor might throw a terrible grade at your GPA. There are different effective ways to write a captivating intro. Back to Dr. Lee’s perspective essay. Look at his first sentence. “WHAT HAPPENS WHEN SOMEONE DIES? That’s a question, and one most readers would find interesting. Plus all text is in uppercase. To get a captivating intro all of the time, learn how to use essay hooks.

Essay Hooks Help You Grab Attention

Questions rarely fail to get attention. Everyone knows what happens when a person dies. But the author still asks what happens. You expect the author to provide details you may not know. Or to describe known information in a way that’s fresh and interesting. Judging from the title, you know that Dr. Lee’s essay will not describe funeral arrangements and graveside services. After all, the dead person in the story came back from the dead! Both his title and intro create a sense of suspense. The reader can’t wait to know how the author’s character “died” and rose from the dead. But a thought-provoking question isn’t the only way to write a great intro. You can have a statement that contradicts traditional wisdom. Or a statistic that stands out. Think of an essay hook you can use to pull readers toward your composition and keep them there.

A Thesis Statement Culminates Your Perspective Paper’s Intro

Whether you’re writing an analytical paper or a perspective paper, your intro must display a well-thought-out thesis statement. A thesis statement works pretty much like the Earth’s gravitational force. The Earth pulls everything toward its center. Similarly, a good thesis statement strongly pulls every argument, sentence or word toward it. The statement makes sure you stay on course. And that you only write sentences and words that help your story.

Here is Dr. Lee’s thesis statement. “His story has implications for the design of systems in which human error is infrequent but inevitable.” Consider that statement. It clearly tells you what to expect; what the author will discuss. Story. Implications. Systems. Error. You know it’s going to be a story.  And its purpose is to demonstrate that the current systems are not error-proof. You also learn that what the author’s going to discuss doesn’t happen frequently, but it does.

The writer’s narrative revolves around his thesis statement. The author introduces his patient, but he doesn’t mention the name for obvious reasons. He also mentions the patient’s wife. Then, he proceeds to describe how the error happened and its effects. The essay also talks about the difficulties the patient experienced as he tried to correct the mess. Before you write your thesis statement, think. Organize your thoughts into a message; SOMETHING to say.

Tips for Crafting the Body of Your Perspective Paper

Maybe your perspective paper intends to reflect on gun control. Perhaps the idea of guns being in the hands of mentally sick people or sadists or racists bothers you greatly. You have pondered it for long. It’s about time the world knew what you think. Your goal isn’t to build an argument against guns, though. Remember: you’re not writing an argumentative or persuasive essay. It’s a perspective paper.

Maybe an innocent, loving, hard-working, well-known person in your community got shot. Maybe the culprit is a known racist. Perhaps they have mental health problems. Did they have a troubled childhood? With such facts, you can compellingly express your feelings about the emotive issue of gun control. You might describe the virtues of the killed person. You might bring their grieving family into the picture. Or talk about the little kids who have no idea what happened to Dad or Mom, but who’ll will always miss their parent. Your perspective essay may tell the reader what you think concerning who should handle guns. What’s your story? Whatever it is, make it interesting.

Include Facts, Names, Dates, Illustrations, and Quotes

A perspective paper isn’t interested in being right or winning an argument. You don’t even have to explain or support the points you present. Also, you’re the source of the information, and you don’t need to provide citations or evidence. But that doesn’t mean your composition should not contain facts, dates, or illustrations.

Consider Dr. Lee’s composition. He states facts, gives names, and mentions places and documents. For example: the patient “died” on December 28, 2015, the exact date his wife died. Also, the author provides the exact date and time Social Security systems got updated with the details of the patient’s “death.” The date was April 12 (2016), and the time was 11:15 a.m. The patient learned he could not access his bank account on March 3. The author even includes two relevant facts from other sources. For example, he states that “…the error rate is well below 1 %…” He also says that about 1,000 false deaths happen each month. Note that he doesn’t support the claims. It’s a perspective paper, and evidence isn’t the most important thing.

Also, the author quotes Tejal Gandhi, a leader of an important organization that focuses on patient safety issues. That made what the person said relevant. It may seem like the author needed support for his assertions, but that’s not so. Sure, Gandhi understood patient safety issues, and the words uttered had weight. However, the essay would still be great without the quote.  You can use quotes, or you can decide your perspective paper doesn’t need them. Additionally, you don’t need to provide citations for such quotes.

Facts, Dates, Names, Illustrations, and Quotes Help Move a Story Forward

All the facts and details the writer provides in the story work hard to move the story forward. For example: the author mentions the death of the patient’s wife, but why? The death helps Social Security Administration staff to “kill” the author’s patient. Facts, names, and dates matter. They give life to your story, making it seem as real as it is. Such details tell the reader that they’re reading about real events that happened to people in real places. Your composition might mention the name of the killer, their age, race, time, and place. It might also provide the victim’s name and other relevant details. Why did the killer do it? Did they shoot them just because they were sick, had a gun and the victim belonged to the wrong “race?” The sweetness of a story is in the details. Note: the details should never to be more important than the story.

Paint Clear Word Pictures

Pictures are powerful when it comes to communicating ideas. Grasp your paint brush. Dip the soft bristles in carefully chosen words and paint vivid pictures that will linger in your audience’s mind. Look at the way Dr. Lee paints his word pictures. The author’s patient stops at an ATM for some cash, and that’s when he sees the first “sign of death.” The bank had frozen his account. People don’t use words such as frozen and death when talking about fetching cash from an ATM. But as used in the physician’s perspective essay, the word frozen and sign of death deliver a powerful impact. And they prepare the reader for the shocking revelations that follow this event.

How Long Should Your Perspective Paper Be?

It can be relatively long. Or it can be relatively short. It depends on the word count required or how detailed you want the paper to be. You’ll likely get asked to write a five-paragraph essay, and that’s about two or three pages. Dr. Lee’s perspective essay has about 20 paragraphs, and some are one-line or two-line paragraphs. Check with your instructor about how long you piece should be.

Here’s How to Conclude Your Perspective Paper

If your intro is attention-grabbing, your conclusion should be memorable. What’s the ONE thing you want to stay with the reader? That should be your conclusion’s focal point. The conclusion can be one paragraph or two or three. It can be long or short, but it should hit the reader’s ears hard. Dr. Lee concludes his perspective essay by telling the reader about the kind of systems he would like to see. He’d love to see systems designed to anticipate different possible problems and errors. He subtly reminds the reader that his patient followed involved steps to have the error corrected. That’s when he states that a good system should enable quick and painless error correction.

Tip: Decide what your perspective essay’s takeaway should be. Then, find a compelling way to say it. You’ve learned the fundamentals for how to write a perspective paper. Now, work. Put the tips you’ve learned to work. Be creative. Expect a grade that pleases your GPA.

Get the Grammar, Spelling, Punctuation, Formatting, Editing, and Proofreading Right

Same old advice there. But incorrect spelling, grammar, punctuation, and formatting can rob you of points. So can an inappropriate style or failure to thoroughly edit and proofread your work. There’s nothing much to say about writing your sentences in perfect English. But your teacher shouldn’t see annoying sentences such as “He don’t” or “They doesn’t.” Some people may speak or write like that in their everyday conversations, but not you.

Good editing and proofreading should fully address every spelling and punctuation mistake. Have someone — maybe a friend — read your work and give feedback. Mind spending a little money on professional editing services? If you don’t, consider asking the best editing services near you to help with editing and proofreading. Well, maybe you don’t need an editor for a personal perspective paper. But using one for a paper you wish to publish is advisable.

Formatting should be pretty easy. For each page, one-inch margins should surround the paper’s content. Make sure all text uses Times New Roman 12-point font. But check with your teacher first.

Take Care of Style and Tone

While a perspective essay may not require evidence and citations, the style and tone should be appropriate. Use idioms and phrasal verbs, but don’t overdo it. Don’t use slang or abusive language. Stay away from contractions, just like you would with an analytical essay. The tone must never feel or sound condescending. You’re not better than the audience, after all. Understand it’s a privilege to have your reader’s ears and time. Be respectful. In short, stick to a formal style and use an appropriate tone to get your points across.

Takeaways from “How to Write a Perspective Paper”

We’ll bullet-point the most important points to save you time and help you easily remember them. Here’s what to remember:

  • A perspective paper is about your opinions rather than other people’s opinions.
  • Pick a topic that moves your heart with emotion.
  • Let facts, dates, illustrations, names, and quotes work hard for your paper.
  • Use word pictures where possible.
  • You likely don’t need an abstract, but you may include it if your teacher asks you to.
  • You’re not trying to advance an argument. You just want to share your thoughts and feelings about a specific issue with your audience. It’s not about winning. It’s about helping readers feel as you do.
  • The conclusion, just like the introduction, should be impactful. Make sure to have a power-packed takeaway that provokes readers’ thoughts.
  • Refine your work by weeding out grammar, spelling, punctuation, and formatting mistakes. Focused editing and proofreading should easily do that.
  • Get the style and tone right.
  • Have someone read the paper and provide actionable feedback. That person might be a friend or even a professional editor. You’ll spend money, of course, but it’s worth it.

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