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Arkansas State University

Starting Your Research Paper: Planning Your Paper

Time for the dreaded paper? Learn how to get started!

Planning Your Paper

Now that you have done your research, you are ready to plan your paper.  It's a good idea to at least think about the order you're going to write your paper.  It'll help the flow of writing as well as greatly help when writing your introductory paragraph.

Before planning your paper, go over your professor's directions.  Some professors are very specific in how they want the paper written.  If there is anything that you are unclear about in the directions, ask.  Often times, the professors leave it up to you to plan your paper. 

The following tips should work in most cases, but may not work in all:

Flow      Sometimes, papers just have a natural flow to them.  For example, if you need to include background information about your topic, that's going to be one of the first points in your paper.  You wouldn't put background information at the end of the paper.  Same with talking about future trends -- that's something that would go at the end of the paper.
Pro / Con   When planning out your paper, plan to match points together.  If your first point is a con, immediately follow it with the matching pro (or visa versus).  Often with a pro/con paper, you will pick a side. If you do, offer the other side first and then follow with your side.  This will make it look as though you're rebuking the opposition and will make your paper stronger.
Original Research   If you are writing a paper that requires you to provide your own original research or insight, you should start off talking about other people's research or literature first and then work your way towards your stuff.  You want end your paper with your original material.
Weak to Strong   In most cases, the closer to the end of the paper, the more important the point is.  This is partially because when people read your paper, they will remember the final points more than the beginning ones.  It's a good idea to have your paper go from your weakest point to your strongest point.  You want the stronger points to be the one that people remember.  So, how do you tell weak points from strong ones?  Look at how many supportive claims you will have for each point.  The more supportive claims, the stronger the point.