Basic Paper Organization

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I. Introduction

The job of your introduction is to give the reader the information s/he will need to understand your thesis. You should think about the introduction as a funnel or a water slide -- once the reader begins reading it s/he should be pulled into the thesis.

A. Thesis Statement

A thesis statement should be comprised of the argument you are making in your paper. It tells the reader what you are asserting. The thesis can be stated in either one sentence or expressed through a few sentences. However, you should make sure that your thesis statement is in your introductory paragraph (don't keep your reader guessing!).

B. Preview of your argument

Following the statement of your argument, you should touch upon the evidence you will use to support your thesis. These points map out all you plan to argue during the rest of your paper. This is not the place to explain your evidence. That will be done in the body of the paper.

C. Alluding to the Conclusion

Your introduction should give you a jumping off point for your conclusion. Your conclusion may go a little above and beyond the basic argument you've made. For example, the conclusion may address some implications, effects and consequences of the thesis statement. You want to mention these briefly but save the explanation and elaboration for the body of the paper and the conclusion.

II. Body

There are a variety of ways to structure the body of your paper. The following suggestions are intended to be a guide, not an unyielding blueprint.

A. Points of argument.

A basic means of laying out an argument is to follow the structure you have set up in the introduction. For example, you want to elaborate, explain or defend each point of evidence that you've mentioned, in the order they were mentioned, in the introduction. If they are related, specify as to how. Most importantly, demonstrate how each point supports your thesis.

B. Dealing with criticisms/alternative arguments.

If there are criticisms of or weaknesses in your argument, be sure you address them. You should note criticisms or alternative explanations and discuss them in relation to your points of argument to illustrate why the reader should accept your argument instead of an alternative one.

III. Conclusion

Restate the argument/thesis. Usually, this entails reiterating the points you have already made but in a very concise fashion. The conclusion summarizes your argument and ties the paper together. A good conclusion can also include any other ideas you have drawn from your experience in formulating the argument. You may speculate as to how your argument might hold up in different circumstances or discuss some implications of your argument for a broader topic. Your conclusion should not contradict your thesis and should not contain any real surprises.

Top six problems in introductory paragraphs

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