- By Daniel Millions
- Published 11/19/2008
Most research papers follow a standard structure that anyone can follow to compose one. The reason that many students fear research papers is because they think they are too confusing. However, if one properly follows the steps to writing a research paper and adheres to the general structure, the process is actually quite painless. The first part of a research paper is the introduction. In this section, you lay out a brief overview of what the paper is going to be about, and include any assumptions that are made. While the introduction should be comprehensive, it should not be too detailed that it takes away from the other parts of the paper. In addition, the introduction should also present the thesis. A thesis is technically defined as, an unproved statement put forward as a premise in an argument. In other words, you need to make a statement upon which you will argue. For example, if you wanted to say that alternative energies must be heavily invested in, then that idea should be the central theme of the thesis. A thesis is supposed to be one sentence, and it sets up what you will write about in the rest of the report. There should also be a question posed, and it should offer the opportunity for a two sided debate.
Sticking with the alternative energy idea, an acceptable question would be, “Would investing in alternative energy be good for the United States from an economic and social standpoint?” Two contrasting points can be drawn from that question, and while the answer you personally support should be elaborat
ed upon primarily, the alternative solution should also be positively (and negatively) acknowledged. The next section of the paper is the body. This is by far the longest portion of the assignment, and can range from anywhere between two and twenty pages. For most people, the actual range is around five to eight pages. The body includes many sub-segments, as it is too large to not be further decomposed. First, you should reiterate some of the main points made in the thesis. Next, start intensively analyzing specific arguments, in the order that they were mentioned in the thesis. Depending on how many arguments you have, you will have to break the text in to an appropriate number of paragraphs. The entire body is where the highest concentration of references is, and in some cases there will not be any citations in the introduction or conclusion. Therefore, you will have to include parenthetical citations at the end of statements that you paraphrased or quoted. After you have made all your arguments, the research paper is wrapped up in the conclusion. In this section, you reinforce the ideas supporting your point of view, and ultimately claim that your perspective is the correct one. This is where most of your own ideas are included, so there will be very few, if any, parenthetical citations.
The last page of any type of research paper is the works cited page. All of your sources should correspond to at least one parenthetical citation in the body of the paper. The sources should be arranged in alphabetical order, and should be structured according to either Modern Language Association (MLA) or American Psychological Association (APA) guidelines.