The assignment for this last part of the term paper assignment is to:
One-half of the grade on this last part will be on the Introduction and Conclusion. The other one-half will be on the revisions you make to parts 1-4. Did you correct the mistakes I pointed out?
The purpose of the Introduction is to catch the readers attention. Most readers will read the first one or two paragraphs to decide if they want to read any further. What is the major issue discussed? Why is it interesting? How will you address the issue?
For example, look at the introduction to Chapter 10 in this course. The first paragraph makes a very general statement about the subject and why it is interesting. OK, you may not find chapter 10 fascinating. But you wrote on an interesting topic that has been getting a lot of attention in the press. Home prices have been rising rapidly and are now the highest relative to income that they have been in at least the last 30 years. How can you possibly expect to buy a home?
The second paragraph in Chapter 10 provides a slightly more detailed outline of what the chapter covers. Now that you have the readers attention with the first paragraph the second paragraph tells the reader how you will discuss the issue. This allows the now interested reader to determine if there may be new information or analysis contained in the report.
That is it for the introduction. Generally you do not summarize the results you obtained. A recap of all the observations you make can be unsettling to a reader because it stimulates questions of why and how (and who, what, where) before you a ready to answer them. The reader starts going through Section 1 wondering how on earth this relates to the observations you mentioned in the introduction. Notice I said "generally". For example, my suggestions for the first paragraph above in fact includes two of your results: "home prices have been rising rapidly and are now the highest relative to income that they have been in at least the last 30 years." But these statements are meant to grab attention. Notice I did not specifically say these are observations made in this paper. You would discuss your observations or results when they are particularly significant or interesting in themselves. That is not really the case for this paper.
The purpose of the Conclusion is to summarize your major observations. At its simplest you could have one paragraph with each sentence (or maybe two or three sentences) in the paragraph summarizing the main observation made in each section of your paper. For example:
- home prices have been rising steadily with income
- the ratio of home prices to annual median family income is now the highest its been...
- the relationship between home prices and income is not a good measure of affordability. A better measure is... Contrary to the trend in the relationship between home prices and income, the percentage of a family's income that goes to paying a mortgage is now the lowest...
- and so on
The conclusion is also the place for one of the most important discussions usually overlooked by students - topics for future research. You will never write a paper that exhaustively covers any topic. In fact, the narrower the scope of your paper the better. The worst thing you can do when writing a research paper is try to cover too much ground. Sure there are many other issues that are directly related to what you have written about but that doesn't mean you should cover them in the body of the report. Do one thing well rather than many things poorly. The conclusion is where you can discuss a wish list for research.
Recall in the Part 1 assignment I wrote: "Look for and print out other housing data that is available such as housing vacancies, houses sold, houses for sale, and others, which we might use later on in this project. Also keep in mind that the conclusion of the paper, which we will write last, should include topics for further research. We can't cover everything."
What you are saying in a paragraph on topics for further research is that the measure of housing affordability developed in this paper can be applied in investigation of other housing issues such as rental rates, rental vacancy rates, the trend in home quality (e.g., square footage)... In other words, you are pointing out that this paper is not a dead-end. It presents a foundation for future research. Give it some thought. Come up with a list of a few items that you find interesting and that you expect are related to housing affordability.