Standard Paper Structure
Most academic papers take a standard form:
- They begin with an introduction that frames the paper’s project and signficance and encapsulates its findings in a thesis statement.
- The body of the paper comes next, providing background and context before delivering analysis and evidence for the main claim.
- Papers end with a conclusion, which echoes the introduction, emphasizes the implications of the work, and may make recommendations based on the findings.
Sometimes, essays include a counterargument. This may take the form of a section near the end of the paper in which the writer acknowledges and responds to alternative positions from the literature or anticipated critique from a critical or skeptical reader. The counterargument is often signalled by a phrase like “Some scholars have claimed” or “Critics of this position might argue.” Describe the counterargument charitably and accurately, then answer it with a rebuttal using clear evidence.
Longer, more complex research documents are often broken into subsections, which may be demarcated by section headings. In theses, the document will be divided into chapters. However, the general flow of even a lengthy research document still follows the sequence of first framing the project in the introduction, then providing relevant background or context, delivering analysis and evidence, and finally identifying conclusions and recommendations.
Some research write-ups will need to also include discussions of the methodology used to shape the research or conduct experiments. A literature review should be included in most theses, sometimes as a part of the introduction and in other cases as an early chapter.
Paper Structure Links
- Handout (printable): "How to Structure and Organize Your Paper," Odegaard Writing Center, University of Washington
- Webpage (printable): "Structure of a Scientific Paper," Kenyon College
- Webpage (printable): "Essay Structure," Harvard
- Video (5:33): "Components of a Research Paper," Center for Innovation in Research and Teaching
The following index makes searching for a specific topic easier and links to the appropriate place in the sequenced material. We think we have most of them, but please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if we are missing something!