Structuring a Basic Academic Paper

Structuring a Basic Academic Paper

Pretend you are in the fifth grade. Your class is finishing a unit on South Pacific history and culture. Your teacher has divided you into teams of four.  Each team is to write a paper on the subject. The topic is up to you. Your team decides to do a paper on how the ancient Rapa Nui (Easter Islanders) moved the huge moai statues up to twelve miles.

You are only going to write these parts:

Summary and title
Old Section
New Section


1. Choose a title that is specific.
2. Make sure it is not a sentence.
3. Capitalize the first word and all the important words.

Two Theories for How the Easter Island Moai Statues Were Moved


1. If you are responding to a prompt, then usually write a tag phrase. Here, none is necessary due to the prompt’s structure.

2. Write a What Statement. It should be a short sentence with two variables. At least one of the variables (or their relationship) must likely be New. That means the reader must not know much about it and must probably be interested.

As you have learned, a What Statement forms an image that looks like a barbell:

In this case—

Variable 1:      New     –           Hunt’s method

Variable 2:      Old      –           Van Tilburg’s method

Remember, it does not matter if the Old comes first in the hyperthesis. But it must go first in the rest of the paper. Therefore, you will start with Van Tilburg’s method.

Old Section

  1. Start a new paragraph.
  2. Center an asterisk

   3. Introduce the Old Section subject. Write a Claim. It should—

a. Be short.
b. Be arguable.
c. Use active voice.

Passive voice: Van Tilburg’s theory suggests that the moai were moved horizontally, on sledges.

Active voice: Van Tilburg’s theory suggests the Rapa Nui moved the moai horizontally, on sledges. 

    4. Define, describe, and/or discuss the Claim.

You have gathered the following facts.  They are not in order.

      • Stonehenge
      • Modern Indonesian gravestones
      • The Ancients slid the stones on logs or on a sledge on top of the logs
      • Ancient Chinese used sledges
      • Even recently, people in rural India move huge stones along trails
      • A sledge is similar to a sled
      • Great pyramid – 2.5 million stones weighing several tons
      • Archaeological evidence suggests that all ancient peoples who moved huge stones did so in basically the same way.

Small-Group Activity

Put the above bullets in a logical order.  You need not write up the results.

5. Provide evidence to prove the Claim.

You gathered the following facts.  They are not in order.

    • In 1956, Thor Heyerdahl and a team of Rapa Nui successfully moved a moai by dragging it.
    • In ancient times, the Rapa Nui probably used ramps to move canoes.
    • In 1886, Paymaster William J. Thompson and Rapa Nui dragged a moai5 miles.
    • In 1868, the crew of the HMS Topaz dragged a moai face down to the ship.
    • Thompson’s ship was Mohican.
    • The Mohican sailed for the Smithsonian Institution.
    • The Rapa Nui canoes were 100+ feet long and weighed 6-12 tons.
    • The Topaz sailed for the British Museum.
    • In 1997, Van Tilburg and a large team of scientists and Rapa Nui moved a moai by using a sledge and angling the log runners into a V-shape.
    • The canoe ramps are called canoe ladders.
    • Eight moai were stolen by museums.
    • In 1985, Heyerdahl tried moving a standing moai by rocking it.
    • In 1986, Charles Love tried moving a standing moai.
    • 1n 1935, a team from the Musée d’Art e d’Histoire in Belgium used a cargo net to haul a moai on a wooden sledge to a nearby bay.
    • Van Tilburg slickened the log runners with palm banana oil.
    • Heyerdahl’s second attempt to move a moai resulted in his damaging the base.
    • The Belgium team was aboard the Mercator.
    • Love attached a moai’s base to a wooden platform on a sledge. The statue soon fell.
    • Van Tilburg figured that if the ancient Rapa Nui could use canoe ladders to move canoes, then they probably would use the same method to move the huge statues.   

Small-Group Activity

Put the above bullets in a logical order.  You need not write up the results.

New Section

  1. Insert and center an asterisk.

   2. Introduce the New Section

Small-Group Activity

Write a Claim for the New Section. Use the What Statement of the hyperthesis.

 3. Define, describe, and/or discuss the first sentence.

Small-Group Activity

Describe Hunt’s method. Be precise.

4. Provide evidence for the Claim.

You gather the following pieces of evidence.  They are not in order.

      • When Hunt visited Easter Island, he noticed that the moai had been carved twice: once in the quarry and once at the ahu, the platforms on which the statues stood.
      • He called moai that had not reached the ahu “road moai,” because they were along the road. He called the moai that had reached their destination “ahu moai.”
      • The road moai’s eye sockets were only slits. The ahu moai’s eye sockets were like a human’s.
      • The road moai had protruding bellies, making them look like a bowling pin. The ahu moai’s bellies were flat, like an athlete’s.
      • There are a lot of road moai. Van Tilburg says the statues are along the roads for ceremonial reasons. But Hunt and his team noticed that most of the road moai occurred at hills.
      • Hunt and his team figured out that the road moai eye slits could hold ropes securely.
      • The road moai on a downhill slope are face-downward. The road moai on an uphill slope are face-upward. Hunt contends that …
      • A lot of the road moai had broken necks. Van Tilburg says those occurred during a civil war between tribes. Hunt says they broke when the moai
      • The “roads” on the island are broad paths. If Van Tilburg’s theory is right, the the roads would be flat.  That’s because …  However, the roads are convex, sort of a little U-shaped. Hunt thus believes that …
      • The roads average about 3% grade, which means that the roads are mostly flat, even though the island is very hilly. The flat roads indicate that the Ancient Rapa Nui flattened as many hills as possible and built up depressions. If Van Tilburg’s theory is right, then …. Hunt’s theory suggests that …
      • For the Rapa Nui to carve the moai twice didn’t make sense. Why not just carve it once?  For the moai to have been carved twice must mean that …

Individual or Small-Group Activity

  1. Put the above bullets in a logical order. You need not write up the results.
  2. Answer the questions.

Conclusion Section

  1. Start a new line. Center an asterisk.

    2. Describe the “bigger picture.” Tell why the difference is important. 

a. Discuss what Van Tilburg’s and Hunt’s theories have in common.
b. Discuss what Van Tilburg’s theory says about the Rapa Nui.
c. Discuss what Hunt’s theory says about the Rapa Nui.

Individual or Small-Group Activity

Put the following in a logical order. You do not need to add anything. 

    • As a result, she says, the Rapa Nui destroyed the island’s ecosystem.
    • Both Van Tilburg and Hunt agree that, by 1876, there were only 111 islanders left.
    • According to Van Tilburg, food shortages led to civil war and starvation.
    • He says that the islanders brought rats (to eat) and that the rats multiplied into the millions and ate the palm tree nuts and seedlings. That’s why the palm trees did not regrow.
    • However, he says, the islanders still had plenty to eat.
    • Hunt and his associates say that the Europeans brought disease and slavery.
    • Hunt says that no trees were needed to move moai.
    • Hunt says that there never were more than 3000-4000 islanders.
    • If Hunt is right, then the Europeans caused the island civilization to collapse.
    • If Van Tilburg is right, then the islanders caused their civilization to collapse.
    • She says that the population dropped from about 13,000 to about 3000-4000.
    • That led to soil erosion and then an inability to grow crops.
    • There were 1.3 million palm trees when the first settlers arrived.
    • They were the largest palm trees to ever exist in human history.
    • Van Tilburg and Hunt agree that the Rapa Nui cut the trees to make way for farming.
    • Van Tilburg says that the Rapa Nui also cut the trees in order to move moai.
    • Van Tilburg’s theory and Hunt’s theory both have to do with environmental mistakes.
    • When the first European settlers arrived in 1722, there was plenty of food.
    • When the Rapa Nui arrived at Easter Island, it was uninhabited.

Individual or Small-Group Activity

  1. Complete the exercise:       Newfoundland and Labrador

Optional Activity