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Writing The Research Paper

The Introduction

The introduction is the first paragraph of a research paper. Its purpose is to create interest so a reader will want to continue reading. In most college research papers, this introductory paragraph contains two elements. However, be aware of any specific requirements established by your individual instructor.

  1. A general introduction to the topic. The opening sentence usually leads into two or three sentences that provide details about the subject. These sentences build up to a thesis statement.
  2. A thesis statement. A thesis statement may be one or more sentences. The length of an introduction and number of sentences for the thesis is dependent upon the length of the research paper.

Example 1

Hollywood has a long history of producing adventure films, including everything from King Solomon’s Mines to Jurassic Park. Just as society has evolved, action films have also evolved, becoming more focused on visual effects than dialogue and emphasizing technology more than storylines. The recent film Avatar is an excellent example of what is good and bad about modern adventure films. While Avatar has some obvious merits, there are also some significant flaws.

Example 2

King Arthur established the Knights of the Round Table. Alfred the Great provided us with a clear history during the Dark Ages. Richard the Lion-Hearted led the Crusades. The infamous Henry VIII established a new religion, uniting church and state. James gave us a version of the Bible nearly 400 years ago, and it is still widely used today. Victoria ruled for sixty-three years at the height of British power. Monarchs have ruled and influenced England for centuries; however, perhaps none was as singularly responsible for the country's development as Queen Elizabeth I.

Example 3

The term "sports" evokes many images: tennis, golf, basketball, baseball, football, and bowling, to name a few. During any of these friendly challenges of skill, one can witness players bouncing, hitting, passing, dribbling, throwing, or rolling a ball in order to score points. One sport exists, however, where the object is to deliver blows to the body of another in order to score points. This sport is boxing, a brutal exchange of hooks, swings, and jabs that may eventually knock one athlete unconscious. Because of injuries, short- and long-term neurological damage, and ring deaths, the rules of professional boxing should be changed.

The Body Paragraphs: Simple, Additive Structure

Once you have defined your research paper with an effective thesis statement, developed an outline, and written an introduction, the simplest way to develop the paper is by using a series of topic sentences--an additive sequence in which each paragraph introduces a new argumentative point in support of the thesis


General Subject: A Film Review
Focus: A review of Avatar

Thesis: The recent film Avatar is an excellent example of what is good and bad about modern adventure films. While the film has some obvious merits, there are also some significant problems.

Topic Sentence/Support Paragraph 1:

The best thing about Avatar, a quality that brings it alive, is the superb cinematography, which constantly intrigues and delights the viewer.

Body paragraph 1 then is developed with specific examples of superb cinematography.

Topic Sentence/Support Paragraph 2:

A second feature of the film that enthralls the viewer is the special effects, which are consistently inventive and absorbing.

Body paragraph 2 is developed with specific examples of special effects.

Topic Sentence/Support Paragraph 3:

Unfortunately, the same quality is not manifested in the plot, the characterization, or the acting. These faults really detract from one's appreciation for the film. Body paragraph 3 then is developed with specific examples of faults.

Note: Using this structure, each topic sentence introduces a separate point dealing with a part of the opinion established in the thesis. In this example, that main opinion is mixed (some elements were good, some elements were bad).

This format establishes a clearly defined structure in which each separate part of the main body adds a point to the argument. This format is effective for either a short essay or a long research paper.

The Conclusion

Since it occupies the most emphatic position in an essay, the conclusion should impress readers with points that you wish them to remember. In most college essays, the concluding paragraph contains two elements.

  1. An impression of finality. Readers should feel that they have come to the end of the paper and that the author has completed his purpose.
  2. A summation of the thesis statement. Readers should finish the paper with a clear understanding of the central idea developed in the thesis statement.

Example 1

With Avatar, the writer and director had an opportunity to escape today’s Hollywood mold of mindlessly predictable action films that focus solely on one explosive episode after another. The underlying concept of the film could have provided the basis for a genuinely thoughtful viewing experience. However, because of a predictable plot and canned characterization, Avatar proved a completely forgettable experience. Viewers who entered the theaters with expectations of any mental or emotional stimulation left with a feeling of frustration.

Example 2

From a child who was declared illegitimate after her mother was beheaded to arguably England's greatest monarch, Elizabeth and her storied reign occupy an important place in English and world history. It was she who was primarily responsible for advancing the development of England in the 16th century.

Example 3

Boxing has been a popular sport since the ancient Greeks reveled in watching one opponent physically beat another to death. To lessen the injuries, neurological damages, and deaths occurring from this sport, professional boxing rules need to be changed to those used in Olympic matches, where points are awarded for skill and precise landing of punches, not for physically harming an opponent. To continue allowing the present, legalized assault of boxing to masquerade as another friendly challenge of skill is to remain in barbarism.

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