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Research essays

Introductory paragraph

An introductory paragraph informs your reader about your

  • topic
  • purpose
  • perspective on the topic, which generally appears as your thesis statement.

An introductory paragraph could begin with

  • background information and facts
  • an anecdote or quotation (inspirational or informative)
  • a comparison or contrast
  • a perplexing statement that you will unravel in your research essay

An introductory paragraph

  • creates interest for your reader
  • introduces the broader scope of your topic
  • shows which part of that broader topic will be the focus of your essay
  • describes the parameters of the topic that you will cover
  • usually concludes with your thesis (or working thesis)

Body paragraphs

Each body paragraph must include

  • a single idea or point that supports your thesis
  • a topic sentence that lets the reader know what the paragraph will be about
  • analysis of the idea or point supporting your thesis
  • evidence that supports your argument
  • show how the evidence supports your argument


Evidence comes from your research sources and is

  • relevant to your point or argument
  • authoritative support for your arguments
  • presented in the form of examples, direct quotes and paraphrasing from scholarly sources
  • incorporated into your essay through introductory or signal phrases
  • analyzed to show how and why the evidence is relevant to your essay


Analysis will help you

  • discover the message you want to communicate to your reader
  • clarify the main points you want include
  • identify why your message is important in the context of the broader subject area. (Some instructors call this the "so what?")

Begin your analysis by asking yourself the following questions about your topic?

  • Who?
  • What?
  • Where?
  • When?
  • Why?
  • How?

For example, it is not enough to write a research essay describing the current Victoria sewage disposal system as bad and the proposed sewage treatment plan as good. You must make a well-thought-out argument about the merits and drawbacks of the current system and the proposed new system.

To determine the point of your research essay you might ask yourself

  • Who is for sewage treatment and who is against it? Why?
  • Where is the scholarly evidence to support treatment? To oppose treatment?
  • What does the scholarly evidence say about each system's strengths and weaknesses?
  • What are the costs to the environment if sewage is not treated? What are the costs to the environment if sewage is treated?
  • What are the costs to tax payers for sewage treatment?
  • Where should the proposed treatments sites be built? Why? Why not?
  • How could the current sewage disposal system be improved? How could the proposed sewage treatment system be improved?
  • Why is this topic important?

Asking yourself these and other questions you can think of about this topic will help you

  • develop, strengthen, or perhaps even change the message you want to convey to your reader
  • address and refute opposing points of view
  • understand your argument's importance in the broader context of the subject area

Integrating information from your sources

When integrating information from your sources, you must credit your source if you

  • paraphrase (put the words or ideas into your own words)
  • quote directly (include exact words in quotation marks)

How do I integrate paraphrasing or quotations from my source into my essay?

  • Use a signal phrase to introduce your quote or paraphrase and establish the authority of your source. For more information on signal phrases, quoting and paraphrasing see Camosun Library's APA (American Psychological Association), MLA (Modern Language Association) and CMS (Chicago Manual of Style) LibGuides.

How do I know whether I should quote or paraphrase?

  • Choose a direct quote when the exact wording must be used in order to maintain meaning that would be lost by paraphrasing.
  • Direct quotes and paraphrasing should not be used to create content in your essay.
  • Direct quotes and paraphrasing should be used as evidence to back-up your analysis and support the position you are taking in your essay.
  • If the quotes and paraphrases were removed from your essay, you should still have an essay that could stand on its own.

Concluding Paragraph

How should I conclude my essay?

You could

  • Reiterate your thesis using slightly different words
  • Summarize your main points
  • Look at the implications or significance of your thesis in a broader context.

You could also

  • Acknowledge there is a middle ground between your view and the opposing viewpoint
  • End with a question or hypothesis that you generated from your research and writing
  • Suggest a solution to a problem
  • Include a quotation that emphasizes the significance of your topic.
  • Show how your findings are significant to the discipline in which you are studying.

Ready for your first draft

Try to write your first draft all at once without concern for

  • length
  • clarity
  • grammar
  • spelling
  • sentence structure

Focus on getting your ideas down in writing because

  • writing your first draft will help you generate more ideas about your topic

Use an approach that works best for you 

  • point form or full sentences
  • computer or handwritten

As you write this first draft

  • think about your scholarly sources (your evidence) and where quotes and paraphrases can best be used to support your arguments.

Having a first draft means you

  •  have a tangible paper to revise and develop into a stronger research essay.

Remember to keep

  • your notes and  all versions of your developing research essay (should your instructor check for plagiarism)
  • a copy of your completed research essay