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An I-Search paper is a personal research paper about a topic that is important to the writer. An I-Search paper is usually less formal than a traditional research paper; it tells the story of the writer’s personal search for information, as well as what the writer learned about the topic.

Many I-Search papers use the structure illustrated in this framework:

The Search Story

  • Hook readers immediately. Your readers are more likely to care about your topic if you begin with an attention-getting opener. Help them understand why it was important for you to find out more about the topic.
  • Explain what you already knew about your topic. Briefly describe your prior knowledge about the topic before you started your research.
  • Tell what you wanted to learn and why. Explain why the topic is important to you, and let readers know what motivated your search.
  • Include a thesis statement. Turn your research question into a statement that is based on your research.
  • Retrace your research steps. Tell readers about your sources – how you found them and why you used them.

The Search Results

Describe the significance of your research experience. Restate your thesis.

Discuss your results and give support. Describe the findings of your research. Write at least one paragraph for each major research result. Support your findings with quotations, paraphrases, and summaries of information from sources.

Search Reflections

Describe important results of your research. Support your findings.

Reflect on your search. Describe what you learned and how your research experience might have changed you and your future. Also, remind readers of your thesis.


Source: This Writer’s Model has been formatted according to the standards of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, Fifth Edition | Copyright © by Holt, Rinehart, and Winston. All rights renewed.

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