English 102

Research Paper Organization

One sign of a paper that is not sufficiently developed is that it is organized by source rather than by the author's main ideas:

  1. Introduction
  2. First Source
  3. Second Source
  4. Third Source
  5. and so on

A well-developed research paper is organized point by point.

  1. Introduction
  2. First major point to support the thesis
  3. Second major point needed to support the thesis

And so on for all the points you need to prove to prove the thesis. The Research paper focuses on your own thesis, and uses the sources as needed to provide support for the thesis.

A good rule of thumb: Most paragraphs in the Research paper should cite more than one source. If your paper typically cites only one source per paragraph, that’s a sign that the paper should be re-organized.

Think of a car engine: when we do critique (as in the Literature Review), we're not driving the car (what you do normally when you read). Instead, we're popping the hood and taking the engine apart to see how it's made and find the broken pieces. Now, with the final research paper, you've got ten or more engines in front of you, and you're pulling them apart, taking pieces from one and pieces from another and putting them together into a new engine, one you build yourself. Don't just present the reader with one engine and then another and then another. Build your own, single engine from the parts of the others.