What is the Body of a Research Paper?

Diane Goettel

The body of a research paper is the section that supports the thesis and makes up the bulk of the paper. It is bookended at the front by the introductory materials and the thesis statement and at the back by the conclusion. The length of the body is proportional to the length of the paper as a whole. A five-page research paper, for example, would probably have a body that was between three-and-a-half and four pages long. A 60-page research paper on the other hand would probably have a body between 50 and 55 pages long.

The body of a research paper supports the paper's thesis, or main point.
The body of a research paper supports the paper's thesis, or main point.

In addition to text, the body of a research paper might include images, graphs, maps, and tables. Even if dozens of graphs or images informed the thesis, it is important to only include select items so that the paper does not become riddled with interruptions in the text. These items should be included and cited as per the rules set forth in the style guide that is being used. The same is true for all of the sources that are cited within the text of a research paper.

The body of a scientific research paper typically explains the methodology the author used.
The body of a scientific research paper typically explains the methodology the author used.

The main part of the text can be seen as having two purposes. The first is to support claims and assertions made in the thesis statement at the beginning of the paper. The second is to show the research that the writer completed in order to back up her thesis. Despite the fact that the thesis statement is at the beginning of the research paper, it is meant to be the culmination of all of the research that was completed and analyzed as part of the research project. All of this research and its various resulting conclusions that inform the thesis are detailed within the body.

One of the most important things to do when writing the body of a research paper is to organize the information. Don't worry about the writing being perfect and polished in the first stages of writing. Instead, focus on how the information will be presented within the paper. There are a number of ways to organize the body, but the most important thing to focus on is finding a way to present the information in a way that is clear and logical so that the reader will understand the purpose of the research as well as how it supports the claims made in the thesis statement.

The body of a research paper may include images, graphs, maps, and tables.
The body of a research paper may include images, graphs, maps, and tables.

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Discussion Comments


I observed through high school and college that for many students choosing research paper topics, doing research and writing a research paper was the hardest thing in the world to do.

Having students in first and second grade begin to learn how to write a research paper would make it so much easier for them to do later on. They would have a good feel for the basics.

Students in the early grades could be guided through the process in a very simple way. The different parts of writing a research paper could be broken up. Students as a group could choose a general subject like animals, then decide on some aspect of animals like "where they like to live."

Next, each child would choose an animal's habitat and do research on the internet. Figuring out a thesis would require some help. Organizing the material, finding pictures, and making charts etc. would depend on the child's age.

Doing the write up might be a challenge. They could do a little at a time - learning about introduction, conclusion and grammar skills.


To my way of thinking there really doesn't need to be strict formulas to follow when writing a research paper. My approach usually was to write a brief thesis with a couple of variations.

Then before I started writing the body, I would write a simple outline. The outline was very informal, but it served my purposes. Some people may need to do a formal outline, and that's fine.

Then I would organize my information on index cards and mix them around until I found an order that I liked. Then came the "write" and the "rewrite."

Before the first write, I always tried to decide what audience I was writing this to and what I was attempting to tell them. Lastly, I went back to the thesis and wrote it in a clear, concise manner.


@MissDaphne - That's a really good idea about writing the body first! I may start recommending it to students who come into the library looking for research paper help.

I admit, I never want to write an outline. When I was in school, I wold always just dash off the first draft and then go back through later spiffing it up. But then I had a teacher who required that we turn in a very formal outline.

I thought I could outsmart her by writing the rough draft, then going back and writing an outline of what I had already written! But here's the thing - what I had written didn't make a nice outline, because it was disorganized. So I had to make revisions to make it fit the outline.

From then on, I always used that technique - dash off a rough draft, then write an outline while revising the rough draft to be more organized. Who says the outline has to come first?


The article is right-on in suggesting that you make a research paper outline before you get started. This can be as formal as you want; some people like to use Roman numerals, capital letters and so on, all the way down to the lowercase Roman numerals, while other people just like to make some scratches on a piece of paper.

Something a lot of students don't realize is that you can actually write the body of the paper first! As long as you know what your thesis is, there's no need to write the whole introduction. A lot of people sit down to write the introduction and get stuck looking for that perfect hook, when if you just start writing the "meaty" part of the paper, the hook will probably just come to you!

But again, you have to have your thesis and some idea of what you're going to write about, or you'll just start putting junk on the paper.

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