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
- Identify the subject
- Explain the problem
- Provide background information
- Frame a thesis statement
- Analyze the subject
- Examine the first major issue
- Examine the second major issue
- Examine the third major issue
- Discuss your findings
- Restate your thesis and point beyond it
- Interpret the findings
- Provide answers, solutions, a final opinion
- To the introduction you can add a quotation, an anecdote, a definition, comments from your source materials, etc.
- Within the body you can compare, analyze, give evidence, trace historical events, and handle many other matters.
- In the conclusion you can challenge an assumption, take exception to a prevailing point of view, and reaffirm your thesis.
- As with the five-paragraph essay model, use this as a beginning point. It's not a form to fill so much as a suggestion of the general tasks you need to accomplish.
Paradigm for Advancing Your Ideas and Theories
- Establish the problem or question
- Discuss its significance
- Provide the necessary background information
- Introduce experts who have addressed the problem
- Provide a thesis sentence that addresses the problem from a perspective not yet advanced by others
- Trace issues involved in the problem
- Develop a past-to-present examination
- Compare and analyze the details and minor issues
- Cite experts who have addressed the same problem
- Advance and defend your theory as it grows out of the evidence in the body
- Offer directives or a plan of action
- Suggest additional work and research that is needed
Paradigm for Argument and Persuasion
- In one statement establish the problem or controversial issue that your paper will examine
- Summarize the issues
- Define key terminology
- Acknowledge those who disagree, perhaps making concessions on some points of the argument
- Use quotations and paraphrases of sources to build the controversial nature of the subject
- Provide a background to establish a past/present relationship
- Write a thesis to establish your position
- Argue in defense of one side
- Analyze the issues, both pro and con
- Give evidence from the sources, including quotations as appropriate
- Expand your thesis into a conclusion that makes clear your position, which should be one that grows logically from your analysis and discussion of the issues
Paradigm for Analysis of History
- Identify the event
- Provide background leading up to the event
- Offer quotations and paraphrases from experts
- Give the thesis sentence
- Provide a thorough analysis of the background leading up to the event
- Trace events from one historic episode to another
- Offer a chronological sequence that explains how one event relates directly to the next
- Cite authorities who have also investigated this event in history
- Reaffirm your thesis
- 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.