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Make sure your paper is well-researched, cites appropriate and current doctrine, and follows our submission guidelines. Use the tabs above to review our writing tips.
A lead or introduction is the first paragraph or several paragraphs of your article. Its job is to get readers’ attention and draw them in. The body of the article is where you make your point(s), but you need a good lead to get them to want to read it.
Generally, a lead in an essay or peer-reviewed article summarizes the outline of the argument and conclusion that follows in the main body of the essay. That may be appropriate depending on the premise of your article. However, it is important to remember your audience ... the NCO Journal is a forum for your fellow NCOs. You should write for them. They are time-constrained, busy leading troops and focusing on mission accomplishment. So, if you want them to read your article, you need to hook them with an interesting lead.
There are two categories of leads, direct and indirect. The first gets right to the basics: who, what, when, where and why, with a dose of how if appropriate.
If the essence of the article is on the consequences of an event, a direct lead is best. It takes one step back from the event itself, provides perspective on a simple fact and lets the audience know its implications.
If a direct lead gets straight to the point, an indirect lead does the opposite. Rather than telling the audience about an event or its implications, indirect leads can zoom in to pick out a single detail, character or quote. It could be one detail or a single character in a large scenario. It could be an anecdote, which is in effect a story within the story. It can be a riveting quote or a striking visual image painted in words. It can be anything as long as it works.
When considering what kind of lead to use, ask yourself two questions: First, what is important about your article? A proposal or a new and better way of leading Soldiers, its implications, the big picture? Second, what is the most effective route into the article for the readers? Is it the idea itself or a person at the center of a scenario? Do you have a quote that drives home your idea’s impact? Whatever you choose as your starting point, it should immediately bring your article to life and get the reader interested and involved.
A thesis statement clearly identifies the article’s topic, includes discussion points, and is written for the NCO Journal audience. It belongs at the end of your lead or introduction. Use it to generate interest in your topic and encourage your audience to continue reading.
Think of the thesis statement as a complete sentence expressing your position. What’s the purpose of your article? Are you asking a question? Answering a question? Interpreting the subject? Making or disputing a point?
A thesis statement is not a statement of fact.
Your peers want to read something that engages them so you must write a thesis statement that is arguable, not factual. Do not write about statements of fact, they prevent you from demonstrating critical thinking and analytical skills.
To make your writing interesting, develop an arguable thesis statement. You may write to persuade others to see things your way or you may will simply want to give a strong opinion and lay out your case supporting it.
Expanding the Soldier/NCO of the Month Board
People First: PMCS Your Soldiers
Irregular Warfare: A Leadership Challenge
Three-Level-Down Approach to Suicide Prevention
Research articles are detailed studies reporting new and original work. You may find them referred to as original articles, research articles, research, or even just articles. Typically, these articles include an Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion, and Conclusion sections. Remember that the audience you’re writing for are your fellow NCOs and decide if this format it the best one to get your point across.
Example: Unit History: Soldiers’ Perspectives
Review articles provide critical and constructive analysis of existing material in a specific field. They usually provide a summary of existing material, analysis, and comparison. They may identify specific gaps or problems and provide solution recommendations.
Unlike original research articles, they provide analysis or interpretation on a specific topic. They can help explain new or different positions and ideas about primary sources, identify gaps around a topic, or spot important trends that an individual research article may not.
Example: Creating a More Effective Tool for Army Counseling
Feature articles are in-depth articles that go into detail about events, topics, trends, or even people. Their goal is to thoroughly explore a topic with interviews and the use of experts or even the main people involved. They also aim to show a previously unseen perspective on the topic. Their main goal is to provide enough detail so that the readers are familiar with every aspect of subject.
Example: Pregnancy or Promotion
These are some of the shortest articles written, from short to medium in length, and they describe an opinion or personal experience. Most essay writers concentrate on presenting their specific views on a topic and center the essay on just one specific subject.
Example: Growing Tomorrow's Leaders
Perspective, opinion, and commentary
Perspective articles are reviews of fundamental concepts or prevalent ideas in a field. They present a personal point of view critiquing widespread notions pertaining to a field. A perspective article can be a review of a single concept or a few related concepts.
Opinion articles present your viewpoint on the interpretation, analysis, or methods used. They allow you to comment on the strength and weakness of a theory or hypothesis. Opinion articles are usually based on constructive criticism and should be backed by evidence and promote discussion on current issues.
Commentaries are short articles meant to draw attention to or present a criticism of a previously published article, book, or report, explaining why it interested you and how it might be illuminating for readers.
How-to articles are very specific and describe in great detail steps or tips to help readers do something specific. Most how-to articles include solutions to problems or answers to questions, and they can include everything from showing you how to lead Soldiers in a desert environment to how to conduct a counseling session. If it describes specifically how to do something and contains numbers or bullet points, it is likely a how-to article.
Short for opposite the editorial, an op-ed article is an opinion by the writer.
As a general rule, op-ed articles offer an alternate opinion from other articles, and are mostly written by an expert in that industry. Op-eds educate people about a specific issue and go into more detail than initially offered. In other words, an op-ed presents another view from the one previously published, and attempts to give more balance in the end.
These articles revolve around an individual’s accomplishments. They are in-depth and look at the person’s life, career, or chapter. They can include quirks, faults, significant events, strengths, character, and accomplishments. Personality profiles are informative but casual and are usually an interesting read.
The NCO Journal publishes book reviews which aim to provide insight and opinion on books relevant to NCO professional development.
Example: Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life...and Maybe the World
The following links are good places to start for those interested in reading and discussing the profession of arms:
What is an anecdote? Merriam-Webster Online defines it as a short narrative of an interesting, amusing, or biographical incident. They’re personal stories that make your article more relatable to the audience (your fellow time-constrained NCOs).
Anecdotes are used to give a personal perspective, illustrate a point, make people think about something, make them laugh, or tie-in personal investment into a story. Maybe something that happened in your life or career as an NCO in the Army inspired you to go in a certain direction and you’d like to share the story with your peers.
Example: The Look of Leadership
Formal articles can also be livened up with anecdotes that show how the information you’re sharing works in practice, and why people need to know about or think about the topic. You can also use anecdotes to amuse or entertain but keep the focus of your article in mind and make your anecdote relevant.
The difference between anecdotes and anecdotal stories - anecdotes are short, they may consist of one or two paragraphs. Anecdotal stories are longer. An anecdotal story can include a lot more detail, and you will spend more effort on drawing the reader into the scene so they feel part of it.
The Karate Kid Approach to Leadership Development
His Name Was Bourdo, published in the NCO Journal’s 1991 fall issue.
The Look of Leadership
As a rule, you should include headings and subheadings in your article to make it easier for your audience to see your points. It takes preplanning, but it keeps the reader interested in your article until the end and keeps your writing focused and prevents it from wandering off.
Long articles are from 700 to 3,000 words long, the writing style is similar to books, and usually handle more complex subjects. If you know your subject matter well, long articles are best because you can present a lot of information on a particular subject. Long articles should be simple and must adjust to audience needs if you want to communicate successfully. Your article should be as long as it needs to be, but you should consider turning a long article into a two or three part series, allowing NCOs to absorb the information in smaller bites.
Short articles are usually between 500 and 700 words long and usually focus on only one subject or point. They are written in an engaging style to keep the reader’s attention.
Unlike long articles, short articles should be simple in both content and language. Make them articulate and to the point. Keep the subject matter both simplified and focused, write in short paragraphs, and keep in mind it should be easy to understand, regardless of the audience.
As a forum for NCO professional development, we highly encourage submissions from all viewpoints, but we ask that you read and agree to the Terms of Participation listed below. Ensure your article is related and relevant to NCO professional development. However, we will consider articles that have value to the Army ... articles that introduce new concepts, provide fresh perspectives or views that differ from popular views. The experience and knowledge you share through this website will help support present and future NCOs and positively affect the future of the United States Army. Also, take advantage of the NCO Journal Facebook page to start a discussion and pass on your hard-earned knowledge and experience, mentor and be mentored, so that all NCOs can benefit from an open exchange of ideas. Please note the following Submission Guidelines:
NCOJ Publication Agreement PDF
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