How To Write An Outline For A Research Paper

Writing a research paper involves several steps. From brainstorming and outlining to drafting and editing, it might seem that the process of writing a research paper is never ending. However, if you can get the outlining done in an effective way, you will spend less time writing so you can spend more time editing the paper. Students tend to ignore outlining lessons because they do not think that outlining is useful, so here is a quick lesson in crafting a useful research paper outline:

Know the sections of your paper. Depending on the type of research paper you write, you will need to have specific sections. Those sections will become the main headlining sections for your outline. The sections usually include an introduction, some form of body paragraphs, a conclusion, and a list of sources. Some research papers will have sections about literature reviews, studies conducted, or counterarguments.

Create subsections in the headlining sections. Most of the sections you create will have several paragraphs. Each paragraph will have a special job to do, so the paragraphs themselves become subsections. The ideas you put in your outline should be indented five spaces from the headlining sections. Everything in the subsections should refer back to the main headlines.

Do not write complete sentences. Too many students think that an outline requires complete sentences. This is a complete fallacy. Outlines should be written with short phrases or even single words. The outline is simply a way to help guide you through the paper. It is not the paper itself. When students write complete sentences in their outlines, it limits their creativity when writing the actual paper. If you include one complete sentence, it is the thesis, but that does not have to be a complete sentence either.

Use checks and balances. The outline should not only serve as the map of your paper, but as a way to check and balance your ideas. Be sure that what you write logically flows and supports the thesis.

Allow for flexibility. While an outline acts as your guide for your paper, you should know that you can make changes to the outline and the paper. While it is important to stick to the headlining sections of the paper, you can make changes as you see the paper unfold. If you find that your original ideas strayed too far from the thesis, there is nothing wrong with altering your original plan to keep the paper logically connected.