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Basic Outline of a Paper: Introduction, Body, and Conclusion


The following outline shows a basic format for most academic papers. No matter what length the paper needs to be, it should still follow the format of having an introduction, body, and conclusion. Read over what typically goes in each section of the paper. Use the back of this handout to outline information for your specific paper.

The introduction should have some of the following elements, depending on the type of paper:

Start with an attention grabber: a short story, example, statistic, or historical context that introduces the paper topic

Give an overview of any issues involved with the subject

Define of any key terminology need to understand the topic

Quote or paraphrase sources revealing the controversial nature of the subject (argumentative papers only)

Highlight background information on the topic needed to understand the direction of the paper

Write an antithesis paragraph, presenting the primary opposing views (argumentative paper only)

The introduction must end with a THESIS statement (a 1 to 2 sentences in length):

Tell what the overall paper will focus on

Briefly outline the main points in the paper

Clearly present the main points of the paper as listed in the thesis

Give strong examples, details, and explanations to support each main points

If an argumentative paper, address any counterarguments and refute those arguments

If a research paper, use strong evidence from sources—paraphrases, summaries, and quotations that support the main points

III. Conclusion

Restate your thesis from the introduction in different words

Briefly summarize each main point found in the body of the paper (avoid going over 2 sentences for each point)

Give a statement of the consequences of not embracing the position (argumentative paper only)

End with a strong clincher statement: an appropriate, meaningful final sentence that ties the whole point of the paper together (may refer back to the attention grabber)

Decide on the thesis and main points first

You do not need to start writing your paper with the introduction

Try writing the thesis and body first; then go back and figure out how to best introduce the body and conclude the paper

Use transitions between main points and between examples within the main points

Always keep your thesis in the forefront of your mind while writing; everything in your paper must point back to the thesis

Use the back of this handout to make an outline of your paper

Possible ideas for the introduction (see front side of handout for suggestions

Thesis Statement (Usually the last sentence(s) in the introduction

Body (A paper may have a few or many main points; decide how many your paper will need)

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