Basic Guidelines To Structuring A College Research Paper

  1. Question
  2. The most important aspect of your structure is the question that you are attempting to answer. This is the first thing that the reader sees, and must always be your main structural element; everything is built from this foundation.

  3. Introduction
  4. Explain how you will answer the question. An introduction is not an introduction to the whole field, it is not an introduction to everything you know about the field, it is not about vague connections; it is simply a statement about what the reader is about to experience.

  5. Literature Review
  6. Once you have clarified your starting point, and the direction, you must explore some of the ways that the topic has been addressed in the past. This shows that you know the area. Research is about saying new things, but it is about saying new things in an already developed context.

  7. What You Will Do in Relation
  8. This allows you to demonstrate how your research differs, and how it fits in to the existing field of research. Your research is relational, as in, much of its value will come via its relationship to other works in the same area. Think about your favourite bands, or writers, for example: we do not enjoy them in isolation, but in relation to one another.

  9. Begin Your Argument
  10. Now that you have told the reader where they are, where you are, and where you intend to take them, you can begin putting the groundwork in place. You can begin with some broad statements, and continue refining as you move through.

  11. Make Sure to Evidence Everything
  12. Use your reading to support the claims that you make. You cannot, for example, say A is B if it is not self-evident: you must demonstrate why you are concluding this. You must structure your research paper around this evidence, because it is the structure from which your argument hangs. If the foundations, and the support are not well constructed, your building will collapse!

  13. Conclude
  14. You conclusion is the final point of the structure: your intro opens, the body fills, and the conclusion brings everything home, unambiguously. This is where you ensure that the reader has followed your argument, and that they will understand precisely what you intended to demonstrate.