We all know that a paper’s body goes between the introduction and conclusion. But actually crafting a strong body can be challenging — in that text lies the detail of our entire argument! There, we present evidence from our research and analyze how this evidence builds upon itself to support our overarching argument. We structure this evidence and analysis differently from discipline to discipline. But, regardless of the form it takes, that structure is  critical to the success of the paper.

First comes the question of what evidence to include. In both technical and humanities papers, we identify a question or puzzle (motive); design our experiment or investigation around this question; and then use our findings as evidence for a thesis that answers our initial motive. In this section, we include papers from different disciplines that all marshal evidence and analysis to make a claim. Karen Jin’s paper on The Faerie Queen analyzes a few key lines of textual evidence from different scenes that address her initial question, and she uses this evidence to craft her thesis. Katie Hanss’s paper similarly presents findings based on her central question on zooplankton. She presents her data in its entirety, then locates key findings within the context of her experiment’s question and builds an argument from those. In both cases, the evidence we see is the result of their research; the thesis built from these results.

While a paper’s body always has evidence and analysis, the structure of this information varies across disciplines. Macro-structure, or the way we organize the body as a whole, is our first concern. In the humanities, we progress through our evidence to build to our thesis. In the sciences, clear sections delineate our structure: materials and methods, results, discussion, etc. In all fields, macro-structure logically leads the reader through research and findings to reach final destination of our argument.

Once we have macro-structure down, we turn to individual sections: micro-structure. In the humanities, each section or paragraph follows a repeating format. We introduce the topic or claim (in an argumentative fashion), provide evidence to support it, analyze and explain the evidence. Then we repeat in a new paragraph. Though the format remains the same, every section must build on the one before it to move the argument forward. Isabelle Laurenzi’s paper provides an excellent example of this type of progressive structure. She leads us step by step through her argument, every paragraph of her body building on the claims of the paragraphs before it, but never repeating the same step twice.

In the sciences, every smaller section has a distinct purpose. In the materials and methods section, we explain how we solved our initial problem. The results section is dedicated to what we found — evidence we collected via our methods. In the discussion section, we explain what our evidence proves. We can see some of this structure in Adrian Tasistro-Hart’s excerpt, which includes portions of his results and discussion sections. Adrian moves from detailing his findings (evidence) in the results section to showing implications of this evidence in his discussion (analysis and argumentation).

Within these sections, we present much of our evidence and analysis through figures (charts, tables, graphs, maps, etc). Both Adrian and Katie include figures as a form of evidence in their papers that translate into analysis in the discussion section. Figures and table present evidence (data) visually and make it easier for the audience to absorb. Figures can also analyze: The form in which data is displayed is in its own right an analysis. The data we choose to include, the way in which we display it, and the trends we choose to highlight are all choices that contextualize and give meaning to our raw data, and should further our argument.

The author


Abigail Kelly ’14 is from Beverly, Massachusetts, studying in the Religion Department. She works at the Writing Center on the Tortoise editorial staff and as a Head Fellow, and can be found singing jazz and classical music in various groups across campus.

Shannon Winston is a Writing Center Postdoctoral Fellow and a Writing Program faculty member at Princeton University. Her academic work examines the role of visuality, especially hindered and constrained visual tropes, in shaping literature from the French, Moroccan, Italian, and Algerian Mediterranean. Her secondary interests include global modernisms, theories of perception, and affect studies. She also writes poetry and is the author of Threads Give Way (Cold Press Publishing, 2010).