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by David Barnhill last modified Aug 14, 2010 10:15 AM
You are here: Home > Env Stds/English 243: Introduction to Nature Writing > Two Models of Papers

Two Models of Papers

by David Barnhill last modified Aug 14, 2010 10:15 AM

There are many ways to write a paper. I present here two models, both of which are important approaches. The first is the more common; the second is one I tend to favor as a way of developing critical thinking. As is usually the case in presenting models, these are simplified overgeneralizations.

1. The Thesis and Proof Model

First paragraph: state topic and your thesis about it.

Body of the paper : clarify the different aspects of your thesis and prove it by evidence, argument, authority, etc.

Conclusion: restate your thesis in a way that incorporates your paper as a whole.

Goal: a clear, persuasive, and single interpretation of a topic, seeking the truth.


  • there is one correct interpretation of the topic
  • the point of the paper is to uncover, articulate, and defend that interpretation
  • the ideal of the paper is correctness of interpretation and persuasiveness of presentation


2. The Issues and Exploration Model

“A writer is not so much someone who has something to say as he is someone who has found a process that will bring about new things he would not have thought of if he had not started to say them. That is, he does not draw on a reservoir; instead, he engages in an activity that brings him a whole succession of unforeseen stories, poems, essays, philosophies. . . .”

-- William Stafford. Writing the Australian Crawl. University of Michigan Press. Quoted in “Staying Carefully Ignorant.” The Writer (Feb. 1982).


First paragraph : state the topic and identify a general, unifying issue as well as more specific questions that the paper will explore. Perhaps also state the way you will explore them and possible limitations in the exploration. You might also add a hypothesis that you will test.


Body of the paper: engage various issues, often articulating multiple possible interpretations, wrestling with the problems of each interpretation and showing the relative validity of each, all of which leads to more issues and questions to explore.


Conclusion: Reflect on what has been argued, which may not involve one tidy interpretation but a sense of relative validity in various interpretations as well as issues and questions left unresolved.


Goal : probing analysis of issues and a wrestling with problems, showing the complexity of the topic and of your own thought.


Assumptions :

  • important topics are filled with complex issues that do not yield simple answers, firm conclusions, or singular interpretations.
  • the point of a paper is to enter a process of exploration and discovery, rather than to prove some thesis
  • the ideal quality of a paper is intellectual openness, complexity of thought, and intensity of probing.