Skip to Main Content

My First College Paper (MLA) - South Bend-Elkhart: The Paper's Skeleton

This guide is for anyone, whether this is your first college paper or you just need a refresher course!


The introduction is sort of the like the movie trailer for your paper.  It should give the bare bones of what your paper is about and why the reader should care.  Think of it as an expanded thesis statement.  One of the big things every good introduction will have is some sort of "hook".  This can be a controversial quote, a surprising statistic, or a bold statement.  The purpose is to "hook" the reader into wanting to read more. 


Taken from the Prentice Hall Reference Guide (8th ed.) by Muriel Harris & Jennifer L. Kunka


The conclusion is another important part of your paper.  If nothing else, you want the reader to remember a strong conclusion.  There are several different conclusion styles to choose from, so pick the one that you feel best suits your paper.

Summary (Good for longer, research papers)

Question (Gives readers something to think about)

Call to Action (Good for persuasive essays)

Quote (A good ending quote will make your paper memorable)

Evaluation/Interpretation (Good for descriptive, informal essays)


Taken from The Writing Process: A Concise Rhetoric, Reader, and Handbook by John. M. Lannon

Everything in 5's

One of the important things to remember when writing out your paper is the Ivy Tech standard of fives. 

A typical 3 to 5 page paper should have:

  • At least 5 paragraphs
  • Each paragraph should have least 5 sentences.

Basic Paper Outline

This is a typical outline.  You can use this to plan out your paper.


 A. Introduction

   1. Thesis Statement

   2. Supporting Statements

B. Body

   1. Support Paragraph  

      a. Topic Sentence

      b. Supporting Statements (Usually includes research data, quotes, etc.)

   2.  Transitional Paragraph

      a. Topic Sentence

      b. Supporting Statements

   3.  Support Paragraph

      a. Topic Sentence

      b. Supporting Statements

   4. Transitional Paragraph

      a. Topic Sentence

       b. Supporting Statements

   5. Support Paragraph

      a. Topic Sentence

       b. Supporting Statements

C. Conclusion