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How to Write an Outline for a Research Paper

Aug 13th 2017

Writing the outline for a research paper can be an understandably intimidating challenge. However, it is a regular part of the life of a student and so you should learn to do it in a professional manner that ensures you produce a top quality research paper. Every student has to spend a considerable amount of time to create a well prepared and thought out research paper.

The whole point of the research paper is that it reflects what stance you take on the topic. It should then seek, through the accurate and truthful presentation of facts, to persuade them to see things from your point of view. In this sense, an outline is a kind of master plan that is laid out point by point to help you write your research paper more easily.

The interesting thing about writing an outline for a research paper is that you often can't go right into it. You need to make some preparations prior to the writing of the outline. Think of it as preparing an outline for the outline. The outline for the outline helps you prepare an outline that is high quality and, as a direct consequence of this, you get to prepare high-quality academic work.

So what are the steps you should take before you prepare your outline?

You should select a Topic for your Research Paper

The topic you pick for your research paper is pretty important to how successful the research paper turns out in the end. It doesn't really matter whether you're the one who picks the topic or if it's picked for you by your instructor (though it is always advantageous if you get to pick what you're going to write about), what matters is that the topic fits in well with your weaknesses as well as your strengths. A good topic should be one that you find interesting. It should also be one that interests your readers and forces them to think a little harder, preferably about things they previously took for granted.

Clearly Detail your Argument

Once you've selected a topic, you're going to have to take some time to think about what kind of perspective you want to take on the matter. Which side of the argument do you support? Typically, anything can be turned into a debate topic and will usually have to sides to the argument: a thesis and an antithesis. However, that doesn't mean you can't take a unique perspective on the matter; some kind of synthesis. At any rate, whatever stand you take on the subject, you should have a clear understanding of why that stand matters to you. Moreover, you should understand why that view might be important to your readers. What is the aim of your thesis statement? Can it get people to think? Can it get them talking more about the matter? Can it change the world? How can you build a research paper out of your argument? Once you begin to answer these question, you are on your way to creating a high-quality outline for your research paper.

Define your Audience

Now, it is understandable that in academic situations it is typically your professor or your instructor who will read your research paper. That, however, does not mean that you should disregard the possibility of your research paper being read by a wider audience. What you're doing at this stage is building a skill, and that skill will help you write research papers that appeal to wide audiences in the future. You should, therefore, start to practice now. Even if it's just the professor reading your research paper, you should take them seriously, and not just for the marks. Will they support your argument or will they have a valid counterargument? When you try to define your audience, you will figure out what types of language is easiest for your audience to comprehend. Should you try to be formal or is okay to stick in some jargon here and there? The tone and style of your paper will ultimately depend on the type of audience you're aiming the research paper at.

Conduct your Research

The whole point of a research paper, of course, is the research behind it. You cannot write a decent research paper without investigating each one of your points. You should sift through a tonne of resources to find ample evidence to back up your argument. You will start with general information to give your argument some surface level support, and then you will go a little deeper. You will have to find out about counterarguments to your argument as well as the evidence that backs them up. In the process of doing all of this research, you will develop a deep mastery of the topics and understand the drawbacks of your thesis statement and the argument behind it, allowing you to truly refine it.

Organize your References

References are the sources that provide the evidence for your argument. Each reference will be tied to a specific argument that you point out, representing the research that you have carried out in the process. You should, therefore, prioritize your references in the order of their relevance and importance to your argument.

Writing the actual Outline

Once you're done with the preparation and have a good topic at hand, then you're ready to prepare the outline for your research paper. If your research paper were a house, then the outline would be the foundation from which you would build everything up.

There are three main parts of your outline: the Introduction, the Body, and the Conclusion. If you want a high-quality research paper then you have to make your outline as detailed as possible.

The Introduction typically has three parts: a hook, a part that defines the audience, and a thesis statement. The Body has a set of arguments that support your thesis; the more the merrier here. The Conclusion will have a concise summary of your arguments as well as a call to action.

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