Handout: Organizing Your Research Paper

Organizing Your Research Paper

Prepare to spend several weeks writing a good research paper. You can’t do this in 24 hours! Take time to think about the topic, explore its perspectives, determine your own purpose, and develop some type of outline before you begin your first draft.

Think about the topic. Think about what you know, what you don’t know, what you need to know, and how you’re going to get the information you need to write the paper.

Are you writing an informative paper or an argument paper? There are different ways to write each. We’re writing argument research papers in our class.

Organize your paper: Any paper has an Introduction, a Body, and a Conclusion.


  • What is happening? What do you see going on in regard to this issue? You see a problem and you don’t like it. Identify the issue to your audience. Let them see it clearly and share with them the common perspectives on the issue. Example: In today’s public schools we are seeing increased numbers of dropouts, greater peer pressure that leads to numerous social problems (drugs, violence, gangs, pregnancy), and greater rates of academic failure.
  • What should happen? This section contains your statement of claim. It should be clear and direct, and you should be able to identify what type of claim you are making (value, cause, policy, etc). Your claim is a “should” statement.  Example: Schools should adopt uniforms/uniform dress codes.
  • How do you make it happen/How will we solve this problem? This section overviews your main argument points. You’re arguing for something to happen. You can follow the “should” statement with a “because” or “by” statement. This statement contains your main argument points. Example: Schools should adopt uniforms/uniform dress codes because doing so will help retention rates, decrease peer pressure, and increase academic achievement. By adopting uniforms we can help solve these problems.

When you organize your argument in outline form just make your points briefly, as shown in the above examples. Your introduction will contain three statements that answer what is happening, what should happen, and how to make it happen.


  • Restate your claim. Let your audience know again what your claim is. This verifies what you have just said. Remember, in the introduction you’ve given an overall view of the problem. Now remind your audience that your purpose in this argument is to prove the value of, in the case of the above examples, school uniforms.
  • State and develop each main point in support of your claim. Since our example shows three problems that school uniforms can help solve, your argument is naturally divided into three sections. The body of your paper should address each point clearly and fully. State your first point: “Students are dropping out of school.” Discuss this problem. Why is it a problem and connect this problem to the argument for uniforms. Point out the value of uniforms in helping retain students. Use your own words. This is your idea. Expand on it. Discuss it from personal experience or discussions you’ve had. Then pull in source support. You should have researched this subject area and found some excellent, authoritative, published sources through the library databases. Use these sources to support your own point. Quote, paraphrase, and summarize. Use clear in-text citations. You will need to list all sources on a bibliographic page at the end of your report. Move from the first point to the second in this same manner until you have clearly argued all of your points.


  • Restate your claim. Remind your audience of the problem and the way you suggest to solve the problem.
  • Call your audience to action. Now that your audience has heard your entire argument, they should be able to use your argument points to solve the problem.


(A .rtf document of this handout is available to download here.)