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Anthropology: Student's Practical Guide to Writing Papers: Magical Rule #3

Magical & Effective Rule #3

A term paper should be conceived of as a whole. It should have thematic unity and an integrated structure.

If you stick to your problem and your outline, you should have no trouble writing a unified paper; unity just means sticking to the central idea of your paper and your plan for discussing it.

Structure refers to the organization of the parts of your paper. A paper consists of three main parts: an opening or introduction, the body, and a conclusion. But these parts must be tied together, and subordinated to the main purpose of the paper, which is to tell someone about your analysis and interpretation of the problem you have formulated and researched. You want to make the paper as easy to understand as possible.

So first you tell them what you're going to say...

The introduction clarifies the nature of your topic; it states your research problem and your strategy for understanding this problem. Your opening ideally puts the reader in the mood for reading the paper; it serves to spark some interest. But mainly it prepares the reader intellectually for your main effort--the body of the paper. The best introductions are often written after the body of the paper is already drafted, so that they can lead to it as effectively as possible. Remember: one way to bomb on a paper is to promise one thing and deliver something else.

...and then you say it...

The body of the paper carries out your strategy or plan for analyzing and interpreting your material. This part of the paper goes into details: it lays out all the necessary information and ideas in a logical order (that is, in the sequence in which the reader needs to know them in order to understand you). The body is organized in terms of answers to questions, cause and effect, comparison and contrast; it supports generalizations with data, or derives generalizations from data.

...and then you tell them what you've said.

The conclusion wraps things up. It reminds the reader of the nature and significance of the problem you set out at the beginning, and sums up the meaning and implications of your analysis. It tells the reader what has actually been discovered and what it means. The conclusion concisely restates your intentions and plans, and tells the reader succinctly what happened when you carried out that plan. In other words, it summarizes and synthesizes the progression of your understanding from the opening statement of your problem through the detailed development of the problem in the body of the paper.