What is a contribution?
How to determine the main idea and contribution of your paper
- Don’t start by describing your methods: “I analyzed mobile information terminals and found many issues related to power failures and natural disasters.”
- Instead, focus on your main idea, like this: “A single-function emergency information terminal using energy harvesting technology would allow users to access important information during natural disasters. ”
- Distilling your main idea will take some thought and effort.
- You might need to rewrite your paper several times.
- You might also need to write your discussion section first.
- After confirming the terminology and methods described in your discussion section, write your conclusion.
- Then, determine your main idea.
- Once you decide your main idea, help readers to get it quickly by putting it in your introduction.
- Your introduction should include the purpose of your research
- What specific question will you explore? How does it fit with previous research?
Why you should start your paper with your main idea and contribution
- Your readers are busy and impatient.
- Most of them will not read your entire paper from start to finish.
- Instead, most readers will skim your text looking at topic sentences, key words, and headings in order to understand what you are talking about.
- After they form their initial impressions, they might review each sentence to understand your logic and methods.
- How can you catch and hold their attention during their initial skim?
- First of all, be sure to include your main idea and contribution in your first paragraph.
- Most writers do not tell us the contribution of their paper until the end of their paper.
- Please do not make this mistake.
· Find and circle your contribution.
· If you cannot find your contribution, or if it is spread out across several sentences, spend a moment crystallizing your ideas into one clear contribution sentence.
· Then, draw an arrow to the top of the page. Your contribution goes at the top!
Homework: Reorganize and write your paper so that your contribution appears in the first sentence.
- Updated by Vince on Sat 20 Aug 2016
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