Don’t plan a lecture to your readers. Take them on a journey. The most fundamental mode of human communication is telling stories. When you come home and someone asks how you day went, you don’t say, “Well, the dominant characteristic of my day was frustration. I was frustrated with my fellow students, my teachers, and my coach.” Instead, you might say something like, “It was rotten. Everybody was being so loud in the commons at breakfast. I couldn’t focus to get my math homework done. Then, two freshmen decided to get an attitude with me for no reason. My English teacher wouldn’t listen to why getting her homework done was so hard, and finally, coach made me run suicides because my interim grades were bad.” Stories are essential to our understandings of ourselves, others, and the world around us. We tell stories because they connect us to one another. Situating your research paper in the world of story makes it instantly more accessible to readers.
The beginning of your paper should:
• Engage your audience’s attention and interest; you need to explain why learning more about this topic was personally important to you. • Explain what you already knew about the topic before you even started researching. • Let your audience know what you wanted to learn and why. State your central question and the sub-questions that support it. • Re-trace your research steps by describing the search terms and sources you used. Discuss things that went well and things that were challenging.
Here are a few examples.
The Sound of My Life by Carol Goncalves
What I Knew
I remember as a child spending many summer days swimming in the salt water at Fairfield Beach. At night, as I lay in bed, I could hear the sound of foghorns even though we lived three miles away. I can’t recall ever seeing the beach in the colder months and as the years passed by, Long Island Sound became just another...