There are a multitude of different types of articles, including news stories, features, profiles, instructional articles, and so on. While each has specific qualities that are unique to its type, all articles share some common characteristics. From forming and researching your idea to writing and editing your work, writing articles can give you a chance to share compelling and important information with readers.
Part One of Five:
Forming Your Idea Edit
Get familiar with the type of article you want to write. As you’re figuring out your topic and focus, think about the type of article that will best suit the points that you want to convey. Some article types are better suited to certain topics. Some of the most common types of articles are:
- News: This type of article presents facts about something that happened recently or that will happen in the near future. It usually covers the 5 Ws and H: who, what, where when, why and how.
- Feature: This type of article presents information in a more creative, descriptive way than a straight news article. It can be an article about a person, a phenomenon, a place, or other subject.
- Editorial: This article presents a writer’s opinions on a topic or debate. It is intended to persuade the reader to think a certain way about a topic. 
- How-to: This article gives clear instructions and information about how to accomplish some task.
- Profile: This article presents information about a person, using information that the writer typically gathers through interviews and background research.
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Brainstorm your topic. Make a list of potential topics. You might want to write about immigration or organic food or your local animal shelter. In order to write a coherent yet concise article, you need to narrow the topic. This will give you something more specific to write about, which will make for a more forceful article. Ask yourself these questions:
- What interests you about this topic?
- What is a point that people usually overlook?
- What do you want people to know about this topic?
- For example, if you want to write about organic farming, you might say to yourself, “I think it’s important to know what organic labeling means on food packages. It can be very confusing to know what it all means.”
Choose something you’re passionate about. You should care about the topic you choose to write about. Your enthusiasm will show in your writing and will be much more engaging for your readers.
- Your goal is to convey enough passion that your readers think the issue in your article is worth caring about.
Conduct preliminary research. If you’re not at all familiar with your topic (if, for instance, you need to write on a specific topic for a class assignment), then you will need to start conducting some preliminary research.
- Enter some key words into an online search engine. This can lead you to sources that write about your topic. These sources can also give you an idea of different approaches to the topic.
- Read as much as you can on the topic. Visit your local library. Consult books, magazine articles, published interviews, and online features as well as news sources, blogs, and databases for information. A good place to start looking for data not readily apparent on the Internet is the Gale Directory of Databases, which exists in both book format (available in libraries) or online .
Find a unique angle. When you have decided on your topic and you’ve narrowed it down to something more specific, think about how you can make this article stand out. If you are writing an article about something that other people are also writing about, try to be unique in how you approach the material. You should add to the conversation, not exist alongside it.
- For example, for the organic food topic, you might focus on one grocery shopper who doesn’t understand organic food labeling. Use that opening anecdote to lead into your main argument, known as a “nut graph,” which summarizes your unique idea or point of view.
Hone your argument. In most articles, the writer makes an argument. This is the main thrust of the article. Then the writer finds evidence to support this argument. In order to make a quality article, you need a quality argument. After you’ve settled on your unique angle, you can really zero in on the argument that you’re trying to make.
- For example, if you are writing about how one person learns how to read organic labels, your overall argument might be that the public needs to be aware that many companies misuse organic labeling. This leads to dishonest practices in product advertising. Another topic might be: it’s important to know who owns your local media outlets. If corporate media organizations own your local newspaper, you may get very little media coverage of your area and not know much about your own community.
- Write your argument in one sentence. Post it near your computer or writing area. This will help you stay focused as you start working on your article.
Part Two of Five:
Researching Your Idea Edit
Learn about your topic and argument. Start researching your specific topic and argument. Go beyond the preliminary research you already conducted. Learn the fundamental issues at stake, the pros and cons, what the experts say, and so on.
- The best writers have a “documents state of mind.” They search both for primary (original, unpublished) documents as well as secondary documents on that subject.
- Primary sources can include a transcript from a legislative hearing, lawsuit filing, county property indexes with folio numbers, discharge certificates from the military, and photos. Other primary sources could include government written records in the National Archives or special collections sections of your local or university library, insurance policies, corporate financial reports, or personal background reports.
- Secondary sources comprise published databases, books, abstracts, articles in English and other languages, bibliographies, dissertations and reference books.
- You can find information on the internet or in a library. You can also conduct interviews, watch documentaries, or consult other sources.
Gather supporting evidence. Start identifying ways that you might support your overall argument. You should gather about 3-5 solid examples that support your overall argument.
- You can make a longer list of evidence and examples. As you gather more evidence, you will be able to prioritize which ones are the strongest examples.
Use reliable sources. Be wary when researching online. Draw only from reliable sources like reputable newspapers, experts on the topic, government websites, or university websites. Look for information that lists other sources, since this will help back up any claims made by your source. You can also find sources in print, and the same precautions should be taken there.
- Don’t assume that one source is completely accurate. You’ll need several unrelated sources to get the full picture.
Keep track of your research sources. Write down where you get your information so you can cite the sources. Typically, the bibliographic information for a source includes the author’s name, article title, publication title, year, page number, and publisher.
- Choose a citation style sooner rather than later, so you can compile citation information in the correct format. MLA, APA, and Chicago are some of the most common citation styles.
Avoid plagiarism . When you are looking at other sources, be careful about how you compile information. Sometimes, people copy text into a single document to use as notes for their article. But in doing so, they risk potential plagiarism because the copied text gets mixed up in their own written work. Be sure to keep careful track of which writing is not yours.
- Don’t copy any text directly from another source. Paraphrase this text instead, and include a citation .
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