How to Write an Outline for a Research Paper

Very often the quality of a paper depends on how well all the stages of work have been planned. It is undoubtedly a crucial factor which shouldn’t be underestimated.

Planning helps you manage your time in completing a certain amount of planned work every day. It also makes the process of writing a research paper more logical. You know what to write, how to write, and in what order to accomplish certain tasks.

If you have to write a research paper, you may write about something you don’t know really well. If you are allowed to choose the topic to research, you can use such an opportunity to discover facts and ideas of which you were previously unaware. In addition to addressing your personal interest, your topic should be interesting to others, as well. It must be relevant to your course studies and the subject your instructor wants you to explore. Once you’ve chosen the topic, start researching. Whatever source of information you are using, do not simply read it. Make notes on ideas or information that might be useful in your paper. Don’t worry about the structure of your paper at this stage, as the main objective for now is to gather as much information as possible and to cite your sources as you go. Always remember to have a system for recording the bibliography information, including page numbers for information you gleaned, especially if you are quoting. You should also paraphrase and summarize as much as possible. The next step is analyzing what you have gathered. Choose the relevant information and eliminate the rest. Be certain not to contradict yourself. Also, offer personal insight into what you find and use in your paper.

A typical outline for any academic paper consists of an introduction, major points to be discussed in the main body, and a conclusion. Of course, every section can contain several subsections, dependent on the subject-matter of your work and the manner you use to explore or discuss it. An introduction should contain some background information about your topic, such as historical data, the context in which the topic is to be discussed, and the importance and the goal of your paper. Next is the main body of your paper. You have already written down some main points while researching. The number of main points you are going to discuss indicates the number of subsections or paragraphs in your main body. There may be a number of viewpoints on a problem, different approaches or aspects of it, as well as several historical events you are going to discuss. The important point you have to keep in mind is that the topic is easier to discuss if it is divided into several major parts. Be certain to support each main point with evidence. This can be factual information, as well as statistics, personal experiences, and examples. Cite authoritative scholars to support that the ideas expressed by you are appropriate in the given context. Finally, summarize all the main points in your conclusion.

Sometimes your thoughts may be a bit chaotic, regardless of the type of paper you are writing. You have one idea, and then you get distracted by another one. It can all end up as a mess, both in your head and on paper. An outline helps you to organize your ideas and research, to set your priorities, and to work on your research paper as effectively as possible.

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