Research Paper Paradigms

Do not assume that the material below is like a tax form—good writing is not simply a matter of filling in all the blanks correctly. It is true, however, that the academic world expects research writing to conform to some conventions, and it's also true that a beginning writer sometimes appreciates a scaffold for the work.

In that spirit, here are four suggestions for research paper outlines.

General, All-Purpose Research Paper Paradigm

  1. Identify the subject
    1. Explain the problem
    2. Provide background information
    3. Frame a thesis statement
  2. Analyze the subject
    1. Examine the first major issue
    2. Examine the second major issue
    3. Examine the third major issue
  3. Discuss your findings
    1. Restate your thesis and point beyond it
    2. Interpret the findings
    3. Provide answers, solutions, a final opinion


Paradigm for Advancing Your Ideas and Theories

  1. Introduction
    1. Establish the problem or question
    2. Discuss its significance
    3. Provide the necessary background information
    4. Introduce experts who have addressed the problem
    5. Provide a thesis sentence that addresses the problem from a perspective not yet advanced by others
  2. Body
    1. Trace issues involved in the problem
    2. Develop a past-to-present examination
    3. Compare and analyze the details and minor issues
    4. Cite experts who have addressed the same problem
  3. Conclusion
    1. Advance and defend your theory as it grows out of the evidence in the body
    2. Offer directives or a plan of action
    3. Suggest additional work and research that is needed

Paradigm for Argument and Persuasion

  1. Introduction
    1. In one statement establish the problem or controversial issue that your paper will examine
    2. Summarize the issues
    3. Define key terminology
    4. Acknowledge those who disagree, perhaps making concessions on some points of the argument
    5. Use quotations and paraphrases of sources to build the controversial nature of the subject
    6. Provide a background to establish a past/present relationship
    7. Write a thesis to establish your position
  2. Body
    1. Argue in defense of one side
    2. Analyze the issues, both pro and con
    3. Give evidence from the sources, including quotations as appropriate
  3. Conclusion

Paradigm for Analysis of History

  1. Introduction
    1. Identify the event
    2. Provide background leading up to the event
    3. Offer quotations and paraphrases from experts
    4. Give the thesis sentence
  2. Body
    1. Provide a thorough analysis of the background leading up to the event
    2. Trace events from one historic episode to another
    3. Offer a chronological sequence that explains how one event relates directly to the next
    4. Cite authorities who have also investigated this event in history
  3. Conclusion
    1. Reaffirm your thesis
    2. Discuss consequences of this event on the course of history; that is, explain how the course of history was altered by this one event

Lester, James. Writing Research Papers: A Complete Guide. 9th ed. New York: Longman, 1999.