I-Search Paper Format Guide

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 the framework below:


Framework                                                 Directions and Explanations
The Search Story
    • Hook readers immediately

    • Explain what you already knew about your topic

    • Tell what you wanted to know about your topic

    • Include a thesis statement

  • Retrace your research steps
Grab your readers' attention. 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.

Tell what you knew. Briefly describe what you knew about your 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.

State your steps. Turn your research question into a statement that is based on your research.

Retrace your 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.

Updated August 18, 2015
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