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Monkeys, Apes and Humans
Anthropology 1500
Department of Anthropology, University of Missouri-Columbia

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Paper Organization

The purpose of a scientific essay is to solve a "problem." Good scientific writing is concise and easy to understand. It has a different style and organization than other types of writing, such as mystery stories or personal letters. I suggest you use the following format for writing assignments in this class.

I. Introduction

A. What is the subject? Why is it interesting? What "problem" remains unsolved or controversial? Do not waste words.

B. Topic sentence. The main point of your essay. It can be a solution, a new approach, or a blueprint that prepares the reader for what follows in your essay. The topic sentence should be a killer. Underline it.

II. Body

A. Background. Information that helps the reader understand the subject. Review of ideas on the topic from your references.

B. Explanation of ideas or hypotheses. You may wish to include all hypotheses in a single paragraph, or devote a paragraph to each. Identify what each hypothesis predicts. This is often the hardest and most creative part of science! What information is useful for determining if the hypothesis is correct? What data would falsify the hypothesis, and what data would verify it? To compare and contrast different hypotheses, you need to identify different predictions from each. For example, hypothesis #1 predicts A, hypothesis #2 predicts not A, but B. Then we can "test" the hypotheses by examining data (do we have A or B?). Many hypotheses will overlap in their predictions, that is, all predict A, B, and C. But if only one of them predicts D, then that is the critical test that will identify which hypothesis is most valid.

III. Testing the hypotheses (results)

A. Restate predictions. Present information relevant to predictions. State whether data agree with predictions. Repeat as necessary. Discuss significance and validity of tests. If it is appropriate, identify new predictions based on these results. Be careful and reasonable. Make certain that data (facts, observations) are correct.

IV. Summary and concluding remarks

A. Restate the main problem.

B. Restate the main results.

C. Restate the significance. Have you decisively solved the problem, or is there additional research that would further clarify the issue?

The right stuff: Read each sentence out loud. Are you clear and to the point? Work hard on each sentence. Identify key locations in your essay, for example, your topic sentence, and grab the reader with a straightforward statement of your argument. Identify ideas and facts with proper citation (e.g., Jolly 1986 p. 247)

NOTs: Rambling on for several paragraphs before you get to the specific purpose of your essay. Do not attempt to hide weak ideas behind piles of fluff. The reader (= Prof. and TAs) is impatient! We want to know what you have to say ASAP.


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