Your research paper should demonstrate a deep understanding of your selected topic. This understanding should primarily be based on your own understanding of the subject. However, you must refer to the viewpoints of valid sources to support your main ideas. An effective research paper synthesizes information from multiple sources into a thoughtful, unified essay.
A paper must find its own way as an independent writing process; however, your reading of various scholarly sources should have revealed to you that writers conform to similar patterns in the development of their work. These basic patterns, or formulas, are paradigms (general models) of a given type.
The paradigm differs from the outline by serving as a pattern of reasoning for many different papers, whereas a traditional outline, with its specific detail on various levels of subdivision, is useful for only one paper. To phrase it another way, a paradigm is a general model for a paper, and the outline lays out your specific method for your specific paper.
I. The Opening à Your opening paragraph should gain your reader’s attention and identify the
focus of your paper. Use ONE of the following suggestions listed below to help you get
started on your opening:
A. Summarize your subject very briefly. Include the title, author, and the type of
work. This can be done with a what-and-how statement.
EX: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is one of the most well-known novels of the
Romantic Era. The story is one that has seeped into popular imagination…
B. Start with a quotation from a source and then comment on its importance (always
think in terms of your thesis).
EX: Ernest Hemingway stated, “All modern literature comes from one book by
Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn…all American writing comes from
that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing good since.”
C. Begin with an explanation of the author’s purpose and how well you think he or she
achieves this purpose.
EX: According to Hawthorne’s analysis of the plays of William Shakespeare…
D. Open with a few general statements about life that relate to the focus of your thesis.
EX: Chaos often rules on the fringes of society.
- Begin with a general statement about the topic you are analyzing. Then discuss your
subject within this context.
EX: The best science fiction always seems believable and logical within the
context of the story line. This is certainly true…
**NOTE: USE ONLY ONE OF THE ABOVE OPENINGS**
Regardless of the opening you employ, your introductory paragraph should include the following elements:
1. A thesis statement that establishes your particular point of view on the subject,
2. A brief summary of the work or topic in two to four sentences,
3. Background information or definition of terms that relate directly to your
thesis (if necessary),
4. Any broad, comprehensive quotations or paraphrases that help to establish
your thesis, and
5. Biographical facts about the author that relate to specific and pertinent
issues (literary analysis only).
II. The Body à Your thesis should serve as a unifying force for the elements of your topic. The
body should develop support for your thesis. To make sure that you effectively explain each
of your main points, follow the steps provided below:
A. State each main point so that it clearly relates to your thesis;
B. Support each main point with specific details or direct quotations from the text you
are analyzing. NOTE: In general, each body paragraph should have a minimum of
one critical and one textual citation;
C. Explain how each of these specific details helps to prove your point. NOTE: Try to
organize your writing so that each new paragraph deals with a separate main point;
D. The manner in which you organize the body of your paper will be entirely dependent
on your thesis and the critical approach used in your analysis. Possible essay
organizations include the following essays: persuasion, comparison, classification,
definition, cause and effect, and evaluation.
III. The Conclusion
In the last paragraph, tie all of the important points together and make a final statement about the main focus of your analysis. Give your readers something to think about long after they have put the paper down.
The conclusion satisfies the curiosity piqued by your introduction. Most often the conclusion restates your thesis (vary your wording, of course). After restating the thesis, writers often branch out with more general statements about their thesis. You may want to include one of these common techniques in your conclusion: a quotation, a question, a vivid image, a call for action, a warning.
If you began your introduction with a question, now you may restate it with an answer. If you started with a striking image or a quotation, you may wish to echo or expand it. If you began by stating a problem, the conclusion may propose a solution or predict consequences. In short, leaver your reader with an idea to consider further, even after your essay has concluded.