Structure of a Research Paper: 5 Rules from Experts

This article focuses specifically on the rules of structure.

Rule #1) The Introduction

An effective introduction should have three basic parts – a hook sentence, background information, and a thesis statement. The thesis statement is a must and we will go into that shortly. But the first two are parts that can be often overlooked and when poorly written a distraction to what should have been a good start. Be sure to captivate the reader right from the start, as well as provide ample background context about the main idea you are exploring.

Rule #2) The Thesis Statement

Many consider the thesis to be the most important part of any academic writing. It states exactly what position you are taking on a given argumentative issue. In the case of a research paper you are telling the reader in a single unifies sentence your claims. Usually, the thesis statement should be placed at the end of the introduction where it is easily identifiable and effectively transitions into the body paragraphs.

Rule #3) The Body Paragraphs

Body paragraphs can follow a similar structure to the introduction’s background context, which can in simple terms be said to move from the broad to the narrow. A topic sentence should start each body paragraph to let the reader know precisely what that paragraph is all about. Next, you want to include one or two sentences which state what your original ideas on that topic are, followed by supporting evidence taken from your study. This could be a combination of others’ work as well as data collected in a clinical study for instance.

Rule #4) The Conclusion

The conclusion should always begin with a rephrasing of the thesis statement. This shouldn’t be copied word for word. It should be a newly written sentence that communicates your original hypothesis. The following sentences should summarize and synthesize the major discussion points brought up throughout the paper. Never incorporate new information. Everything should have been stated earlier.

Rule #5) The Bibliography

Finally, the bibliography should be written and formatted accurately to easily demonstrate the high-level academic work you have conducted. Each entry must adhere to the rules as determined by the type of resource it is (e.g., book, article, dissertation, etc.). The bibliography makes your work credible in the eyes of academics and your peers and should be treated equally as important as any other part of the research paper.