When you write a body paragraph in a research paper, your job is to take the evidence you’ve found and clearly explain how this evidence proves your point (topic sentence/supporting point). Haphazardly dumping all the evidence randomly into a paragraph won’t do it. Think about the order of the evidence, and explain how each bit of evidence supports your point. Take a look at the example immediately below. The colored type is the author’s original thought–the point and the “connectors” that introduce each bit of evidence by explaining what the reader should look for in that evidence–what makes it different than the other evidence in the paragraph. The black type is a quote or paraphrase of the evidence.
Notice that the vast majority of the paragraph is evidence and that most of the evidence is paraphrased rather than quoted. Notice also that the source is indicated for every bit of evidence, regardless of whether it is quoted or paraphrased.
As you write and edit your body paragraphs, keep these things in mind:
- Reread your point and evidence from the outline for the paragraph you’re about to write. Is the point really the “moral of the story” for all the evidence you plan to use? If it isn’t, change the point, or consider adding or removing evidence if that will help. If you change the point, make sure that it still supports the thesis and doesn’t overlap with other points. Of course, you may change your thesis too if necessary.
- Decide what should be paraphrased and what should be quoted. In general, paraphrase almost everything, about 90 percent. Quote only small parts of the original that you think are especially compelling. Take a look at the example above; your paragraph should quote that much or less. Remember that if you are paraphrasing (explaining it in your own words), you still must cite the source, but do NOT use quotes. If you are taking something word-for-word, use quotes.
- Decide how to cite your source. (You will learn the formal procedures of how to do this in a later lesson.) If there is nothing particularly persuasive about the source, simply cite it in parenthesis at the end of the sentence. If you think it will help you persuade your reader of the point, introduce the source in the sentence before you give the evidence. The first time you mention a source, consider explaining who they are, and giving a touch of background. From then on, use only their last name, the company name, or the parenthetical citation at the end of the sentence.
- Insert your own original sentence before or after the evidence to explain to the reader how the evidence relates to the point and to the rest of the paragraph. These sentences are in red in the following example.