How to Write a Research Paper Part 2: The Outline

How to Write a Research Paper Part 2: The Outline

It is very useful to write out an outline for the next part of writing the research paper. The essay is a long process and can be executed well through organization, time-management, and having goals.  Once all the sources have been read and the research portion is complete, all ideas and notes should be gathered in an outline to map out the research paper. Once an outline is written out, it becomes very easy to write the essay rather than sitting in front of a blank screen.

Outline Format: The format of an outline depends on the person and there are a number of ways to do it.  Microsoft Word has outline templates available for use.  Some people prefer to type out the outline in bullet or numbered format and others may combine actual note-cards and post-its in different piles in accordance to specific parts of the essay.  A bulleted outline seems to be most organized and will be used as an example for this article.  One important aspect to keep in mind is that any information taken from a source should be cited in the outline to prevent forgetting.

Outlining the Introduction: The introduction of a research paper is a difficult part to write but a very important one because it introduces a topic and states a thesis.  In the outline, write down brief sentences that will describe the general idea of the topic.  Facts, quotations, scholarly ideas can be bulleted individually for this portion.  One can even ask a question as a bullet point. The opening sentence of the research paper can also be included in the outline.  The thesis should be created and written in the outline at the end of the introduction section.  For the outline, the thesis can be a rough idea and it will continue to form as the paper gets developed.  However, it will be helpful to write out the thesis to keep in mind throughout the entire project.

Outlining Body Paragraphs: The bulk of the research paper should be devoted to body paragraphs where the thesis is argued extensively using concrete details and commentary.  For the outline, each point the author makes should have a section where a topic sentence is written to introduce the point. This is where highlighted parts from the research such as quotations and ideas should be written down and organized.  For each concrete example, it will be helpful to jot down some commentary and opinions to include for the body.  The author can make as many points necessary to support his or her thesis, but each point needs to be fully addressed and backed by information gathered from the research.   Some time should be taken in the outline to brainstorm ideas, write down vocabulary words that come to mind, transition words, etc.  It is very easy to quickly come up with a good idea and to quickly forget it. Writing down everything in an organized manner is very beneficial.

Outlining the Conclusion: Most people have trouble writing a conclusion. Without writing the essay and knowing what direction it takes, it might be difficult to have concluding thoughts.  A research paper is a focused body of work but it has the ability to evolve.  At this point, nothing is set in stone but some ideas that come up about a conclusion should be jotted down.  Perhaps a nice quote from an esteemed professional that sums up the entire topic or provides a thought-provoking idea should be included in the conclusion section of the outline.

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