The Structure of an Academic Paper
  • 2-minute read
  • 5th January 2014

The Structure of an Academic Paper

Most academic papers have a five-part structure. This can vary depending on what you are writing (a full-length dissertation or thesis will include dedicated literature review, methodology and results chapters, for example).

Nevertheless, a shorter essay will always require the following parts:

  1. Title
  2. Introduction
  3. Main body
  4. Conclusion
  5. References or bibliography

These parts can be characterized as follows:

1.    Title

The title of your paper should clearly indicate the subject matter and the argument you are going to put forward.

2.    Introduction

The introduction should outline the topic of the essay, the rationale for your research (i.e., why the topic is worth studying and your motivations for doing so) and the general structure of your argument.

3.    Main Body

This is the core of your paper. In the main body, set out each point of your argument in turn and discuss how they contribute to your overall point. Each point should be supported by evidence, such as examples, quotations or data.

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4.    Conclusion

The conclusion should be a concise review of the main points explored and your final thoughts on the matter. No new material should be introduced at this stage, but nor should you simply summarize what you have written so far.

Instead, focus on how each part of your argument contributes to your final position. Try to write something that leaves an impression on the reader.

5.    References

At the end of your document, make sure to include a list of the sources you used to write your paper. If you’re not sure, remember to check with your institution about which referencing style to use. Commonly used referencing styles include Harvard, MLA, and APA.

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