Research paper? What image comes into mind as you hear those words: working with stacks of articles and books, hunting the "treasure" of others thoughts? Whatever image you create, it is a sure bet that you are envisioning sources of information--articles, books, people, artworks. Yet a research paper is more than the sum of your sources, more than a collection of different pieces of information about a topic, and more than a review of the literature in a field. A research paper analyzes a perspective or argues a point. Regardless of the type of research paper you are writing, your finished research paper should present your own thinking backed up by others ideas and information.
The introduction is, in many respects, the conclusion written in reverse: start by generally introducing the larger topic, then orient the reader in the area you’ve focused on, and finally, supply the thesis statement. Avoid repeating exact phrases that you already used in the conclusion.
An outline will help you organize your thoughts before you dig into the writing process. Once you’ve developed your thesis statement, think about the main points you’ll need to present to support that statement. Those main points are your sub-headings. Now, organize your thoughts and information under each sub-heading.
Any information that doesn’t fit within the framework of your outline, and doesn’t directly support your thesis statement, no matter how interesting, doesn’t belong in your research paper. Keep your focus narrow and avoid the kitchen sink approach. (You know, the one where you throw in every bit of interesting research you uncovered, including the fungal growth in the U-joint of your kitchen sink?) Everything you learn may be fascinating, but not all of it is going to be relevant to your paper.