Accounting's unique resource

All required accounting courses share something in common. They each feature a writing component to keep you on your toes and deepen your capacity for critical thinking and expression. Think of each of these writing assignments as stepping stones on the path to confidently communicating in the workplace, regardless of your chosen career path.

You can use this page to make an appointment with us and find helpful pointers for your writing assignments.

What exactly does the writing program do?

  • Presents in-class tutorials to guide you with course writing assignments
  • Holds one-on-one advising appointments between writing consultants and students
  • Grades course assignments with helpful individual feedback
  • Conducts and grades the accounting writing skills assessment
  • Learn more about one important project, the Speaking Truth to Power assignment

That's right. We conduct and grade the accounting writing assessment. This means we are the perfect resource for assessment advice and preparation.

Make an appointment

Questions? Contact Carl Follmer, Assistant Director of the Accounting Writing Program at or 319-335-0913.

Sharpen your skills

What is a sentence fragment? How do you correctly use quotations? Can you avoid repetitive phrasing?  Get the right answers to these questions and more with all of our guides to help you with your micro and macro writing skills.

Before you begin your writing assignment

What kind of document is it? You should first assess the type of document your professor is asking you to write. The audiences for each of these papers are sure to be different.

  • Memos: A memo begins with a header that includes the date, the name of the author, the name of the intended recipient, and the subject matter. Memos can include “I” or “we” because they're less formal than standard essays.
  • Client Letters: A business letter to a client can be formal or informal depending on the writer/reader relationship. Client letters can include “I” or “we.”
  • Opinion or Position Papers: An opinion paper will be a more formal essay. It will analyze your own point of view and use source material to support it.
  • Summary/Analysis Essays: A summary/analysis paper will first synthesize the subject matter under consideration (usually found in a published article or articles), then scrutinize the importance of the topic. It is similar to an opinion or position paper except that you will be analyzing someone else’s point of view.
  • Research Papers: These papers take a more scientific approach to the material. They suggest a hypothesis regarding a particular topic and set about to prove or disprove the hypothesis using outside sources. Research papers are the most formal of all the types of papers mentioned here.

Now that you’ve identified the type of paper you’re writing, you should think about your audience. If you understand the expectations of your audience, then you will understand your own role. Respect your audience, don't rehash material your reader already knows, and refrain from using jargon with a nontechnical audience. Do your best to present your material in a coherent and concise manner and combine your sources with your own thinking.


How to organize your paper

When you write from a plan or outline, you are more likely to achieve your desired purpose. An outline is just what it sounds like—it is the shape your paper will eventually take. Outlines are most useful for more formal essays and research papers, but you can also use them for planning the shape of client letters and memos. An outline can be as simple or as elaborate as you need it to be.

Here’s the standard 5-paragraph essay outline:

I. Introduction
II. Topic sentence #1
    A. Sub topic of #1
    B. Sub topic of #1
    C. Sub topic of #1
III. Repeat
IV. Conclusion

The basic rule is: superior items require subordinate items. You can't present main ideas without also providing support for them. And don’t worry if you don't know everything you’re going to say before you start writing your essay. Most people figure out what they're going to say somewhere in the middle of their first draft, which is why we write first drafts. 

How to write a thesis statement

A thesis statement is a useful tool for helping your reader understand what your main point is going to be. A thesis statement both makes the paper easier for the reader to follow and helps you to organize your arguments more effectively.

Do I need a thesis statement?

Almost everything you will write as a student (and later as an accountant) will benefit from the inclusion of a strong thesis statement. It will highlight the importance of what you’re writing and immediately help you clarify what you’re going to discuss. 

The one exception to this general rule is the taxation paper. If your professor is asking you to explain how a particular tax issue works, it is likely you don’t need a thesis statement; a summation of the tax issue under discussion will suffice.

If you’re still uncertain as to whether or not you’ll need to include a thesis statement, see one of the writing consultants for clarification.

How do I write a strong thesis statement?

Most of the assignments you’ll receive in the accounting department will include a question or problem the professor is asking you to address. Answering this question is the first step toward developing a strong thesis statement. A good thesis statement will do the following:

  1. Identify a specific, narrow topic. Your thesis statement should give a clear and simple summary of the most important ideas or facts in your essay.
  2. Present a clear and original opinion about the topic. As well as offering your reader a summary of the facts you are going to explore, your thesis statement should also make clear what your argument will be regarding those facts.
  3. Establish a tone appropriate to the topic, purpose, and audience.
  4. Appear near the beginning of the paper. A strong thesis statement can be one sentence or two (though not more than two). 

Don’t wait until your conclusion to make your argument clear. Your thesis statement should convey the general tone that your essay will take, so the reader can be prepared to agree, disagree, or suspend judgment.

Need a bibliography?

We've got everything you need to know about generating a bibliography that's as awesome as your paper.

How to write a bibliography

Want to improve your public speaking along with your writing?

Newly open, the One Button Studio is the best way to practice presentations and improve your public speaking skills.

Check out the One Button Studio

John Deere and Meredith Corp

The Accounting Writing Program is grateful for the generous support of Deere & Company, the Meredith Corporation, State Farm, and additional funding from alumni.