Format for Writing an Information Paper

Assorted-title book lot placed on white wooden shelf.jpg

An informative paper or essay is sometimes called an expository paper. Its purpose is to give specific information about a subject to readers. Writers may also use the informative essay to explore a topic of interest to them. Informative essays are also the basis for the persuasive essay. However, the essay, informative or persuasive, should not reflect the opinions of the writer. It should use research support to explain the topic and give merit to the writer’s ideas.

1 Choosing an Informative Topic

Writers should make a list of topics they are interested in. It is imperative to choose a topic that information can be found on. The best way to do this is to look up each topic on the Internet, in reference books and in indexes to see which has the most resources. Current and past resources are both used.

2 Determining the Focus

Skim through five resources about the chosen topic. Different types of sources should be used like magazines, reference books and newspaper articles. Write down the facts or information that are repetitive. Then determine the focus of the informative essay from these facts. In other words, determine what the paper is going to explore in more depth.

3 Support for Informative Essay

Informative essays must be supported with researched material. The most basic support would be facts found in more than one reference that are relative to the topic focus. Quotations from experts in the field should be used to support the facts and the writer’s ideas. Concrete examples are another form of support that give the reader a clearer picture of what the writer is explaining.

4 Writing the Informative Essay

The actual writing of the paper requires the following components:

Introduction -- Introduces the topic and explains the topic’s importance.

Thesis -- Tells the reader and the writer the focus of the paper.

Body -- Expands on the thesis and is the main part of the paper. This is where the facts and the writer’s ideas are supported with researched material.

Conclusion -- Summarizes the main ideas, restates the importance of the topic or relates the topic to readers’ lives.

5 Documenting the Research

All support material used in the informative essay must be documented within the text of the essay. Writers’ may use either MLA or APA style to do this. In addition to citing sources within the paper, a separate Works Cited page must also be included at the end. This page follows the same format used for the citations. Facts that are found in three or more sources are considered general knowledge and do not need to be cited.

6 Caution

An informative paper, whether it is used to just provide additional information about a topic or to persuade readers to the writer’s point of view, must never reflect the opinions of the writer. This will damage the writer’s credibility. Only when the writer’s opinions are based on and supported by research are they allowed to be part of the informative paper.

Cheryl Carpinello has taught high school English for 20 years. Her writing instruction has included analytical essays, persuasive essays, and major persuasive research papers. She has also published a middle grade novel, "Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend," which introduces young readers to Arthurian Legend.