Standard Paper Structure - Graduate Writing Center

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Standard Paper Structure


Most academic papers take a standard form:

  1. They begin with an introduction that frames the paper’s project and significance and encapsulates its findings in a thesis statement.
  2. The body of the paper comes next, providing background and context before delivering analysis and evidence for the main claim.
  3. Papers end with a conclusion, which echoes the introduction, emphasizes the implications of the work, and may make recommendations based on the findings.

Sometimes, essays include a counterargument. This may take the form of a section near the end of the paper in which the writer acknowledges and responds to alternative positions from the literature or anticipated critique from a critical or skeptical reader. The counterargument is often signaled by a phrase like “Some scholars have claimed” or “Critics of this position might argue.” Describe the counterargument charitably and accurately, then answer it with a rebuttal using clear evidence.

Longer, more complex research documents are often broken into subsections, which may be demarcated by section headings. In theses, the document will be divided into chapters. However, the general flow of even a lengthy research document still follows the sequence of first framing the project in the introduction, then providing relevant background or context, delivering analysis and evidence, and finally identifying conclusions and recommendations.

Some research write-ups will need to also include discussions of the methodology used to shape the research or conduct experiments. A literature review should be included in most theses, sometimes as a part of the introduction and in other cases as an early chapter.

Paper Structure Links

GWC - all topics list heading

Writing Topics A–Z


This index makes findings topics easy and links to the most relevant page for each item. Please email us at writingcenter@nps.edu if we're missing something!

A-Z content menu

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

A

abbreviations

abstracts

academic writing

acronyms

active voice

adjectives, compound

advisor, selecting and working with

AI

apostrophes

appointment with GWC coaches, how to schedule

argument

article usage

artificial intelligence

assignments, understanding them

audience

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B

body paragraphs

booking an appointment with a GWC coach

brackets, square

brainstorming

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C

capitalization

citations

charts

ChatGPT

citation software

citation styles

clauses

clarity

clustering

coaching, about

coaching, how to schedule

colons

comma splices

commas, FANBOYS

commas, introductory

commas, list

commas, nonessential / nonrestrictive information

commas, Oxford

commas, serial

common knowledge

commonly confused words

compare-and-contrast papers

compound adjectives / modifiers

concision

conclusions

conference presentations

conjunctive adverbs

coordinating conjunctions

copyright and fair use

critical thinking

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D

dangling modifiers

dashes

dependent clauses

dependent marker words

display equations

distance learning

double submission of coursework

drafting

Dudley Knox Library

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E

editing your own work

editing: outside editors

em dash

en dash

equations

exclamation points

executive summary

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F

FANBOYS

FAQs

figures

first person, use of in academic writing

footnotes

fragments

free-writing

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G

generative artificial intelligence (AI)

gerunds

grammar

graphics

graphs

group writing

GWC appointment, how to schedule

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H

homophones

Honor Code, NPS

human subjects research

hyphens

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I

ibid.

incomplete sentences

independent clauses

Institutional Review Board

interviews, conducting

introductions

IRB

iThenticate

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J

Joining the Academic Conversation

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L

LaTeX

library liaisons

lists, syntax of

literature reviews

logic and analysis

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M

M dash

making a GWC appointment

mathematics

memos

methodology

modifiers, compound

modifiers, misplaced

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N

N dash

nominalizations

note-taking

noun clusters

numbers

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O

organization

outlining

Oxford comma

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P

paragraph development

parallelism

paraphrasing

parentheses

parts of speech

passive voice

periods

persuasion

phrases vs. clauses

plagiarism, how to avoid

plagiarism-detection software

plain language

polishing

prepositional phrases

prepositions

pronouns, clarity with

pronouns, grammar of

proofreading

publishing

punctuation

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Q

questionnaires, administering

questions

quotation marks

quoting

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R

Reading with Intent I

Reading with Intent II

redundancies

reference software

reflection papers

research

research guides, discipline-specific

research questions

restrictive vs. nonrestrictive information

reusing papers

reverse outlining

revision

roadmaps

run-on sentences

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S

scheduling a GWC appointment

self-citing

semicolons

sentence fragments

serial comma

signal phrases

significance

so what?

source blending

sources, engaging with / critiquing

sources, evaluating the reliability of

sources, citing

spelling

standard essay structure

STEM / technical writing

Strategic Reading I

Strategic Reading II

style

subject–verb agreement

subjects, grammatical

subordinating conjunctions

summarizing

surveys, administering

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T

tables

technical writing

tense

that vs. which

thesis advisor, selecting and working with

thesis process overview

Thesis Processing Office (TPO)

thesis proposals: common elements

thesis statements

thesis writing

this, that, these, those

tone, professional

topic sentences

transitions

types of papers

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U

United States or U.S.?

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V

verbs and verb tense

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W

which vs. that

why write?

writer’s block

writing process

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Z

Zotero

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