College Research Paper Outline: Writing Tips and Examples
Many students face problems trying to plan a research paper structure. Specifically, many of them feel stressed and confused when they need to create an outline. Are you one of them? Don’t worry. After reading this material you will know why outline will help you to write a great research paper, how to produce a good outline and what should be your steps towards perfect structure of a paper.
Why is Outline Important?
Students often wonder, “Why do I even need to make an outline for a research paper?” That is a fair question and you should know the answer.
What is the outline? It is a framework that presents the main goal, ideas, arguments and conclusions of your paper in a structured way. A good research paper outline will not only let your readers catch your major statements quickly but will also help you. It will reflect the interconnection between ideas, how one thought flows from another, will let you check whether all your main ideas are supported by clear arguments.
In the process of writing, the outline in front of your eyes will also be a reminder for you to include all your ideas and reasoning in your paper. So it seems that a good outline is half the success, isn’t it?
How to Make a Good Outline? 3 Key Success Factors
Outline is not one more requirement from your professor, its aim is to help you to succeed with your research paper. Now we will be talking about things that you need to consider in order to make a good draft that will be a great assistant for you.
Do a Proper Research
Research of your topic should come before outline creation. You will not be able to come up with a good essay structure, if you don’t have a clear picture in your mind of what your research paper covers. Find as many information as possible – as a researcher you must be aware of all theories and practices already existing on your topic. This way you will include all aspects of your topic that you need to cover in your outline and will be able to state the most appropriate arguments and evidence for your main ideas.
Set a Goal of Your Research
How your outline should look like will also depend on your paper goals. It could be comparison and contrast of a phenomenon in different countries, cause and effect analysis of an event or study of relation between different things. Understanding what is the purpose of your essay, who are your readers will give you an understanding of what you need to cover.
Keep It to the Point
As we have already said, you should have a complete understanding of your topic before you start to plan your paper. Don’t overload your outline with some minor thoughts – it won’t give your reader a better understanding of what you are writing about and won’t be helpful for in your writing process. At the same time too short draft with one word for each part of a body will also bring value neither for you nor for your readers.
Step-by-Step Guide for Outlining a Paper
Now, when we know how outline will help you to make a good essay and what you should take into account while creating your structure, we can talk about what is included into a research paper outline and how to do it step by step.
Every outline shall start with an introduction. In this part you are presenting your topic for your readers and are trying to grab their attention. You could use several techniques depending on your key research question that will make your research paper intriguing.
- State the urgency of a problem or a question you analyze in this moment
- Say that the problem is a matter of discussions of academics and professionals
- Doubt a well-known fact
- State that the question of your essay has not been analyzed before
After you have explained why this topic presents interest to your readers, you should make a thesis statement, the most important part of the introduction. Thesis statement explains the entire research paper in one sentence. It seems to be hard as in your main part you convey so many ideas and thoughts on the topic, however ask yourself – what is the most important thing your readers should catch after reading your essay? It should not be a common fact – thesis statement is an assertive claim of your position on the topic, which you – as a researcher – are able to prove by arguments.
Besides, in the introduction you can present already existing researches, theory and practice on your topic and state why and how you are going to work to develop it.
The body is the biggest part of your research paper outline. Here you state all the aspects of your topic that will help you to elaborate it fully and give your readers a complete understanding of the question.
Body usually contains several parts; each of them contributes to support of your main idea. Make sure you put your parts in a logical order, that will facilitate comprehension of your paper. Here you could include the arguments that support your thesis statement and present alternative theories and analyze it, proving that they are misleading.
The final part of your research paper is a conclusion that gives a summary. How to do it?
First, restate your thesis statement in different words to remind your readers what the main research question is. Second, include all parts’ main ideas (not more than 2 sentences for each part) in the conclusion. Then, you could state how this question can be analyzed further (maybe from different perspective/using other methods). One more way to finish your assignment is to state why your research is valuable and how it could be applied in practice.
References and Methods
These parts are also usually included into the outline, here your readers can find information about resources you used to write your research paper, where it is possible to find more information on different aspects of your topic, which methods you used to get your research results and why.
Research paper outline template
Feel free to use the template below for any essay you need to write!
- Way of attracting readers’ attention
- Thesis statement
- Major aspect of the topic
- Major aspect of the topic
- Major aspect of the topic
- Restate thesis statement
- Summarize major aspects of the topic
- Underline relevance of a research
- State how topic could be researched further
Methods used (optional)
Good and Bad Examples of Research Paper Outline
You can look at these two examples to understand how your perfect outline should look like and which mistakes you can avoid while outlining the paper. The example on the left is well-structured, detailed and reflect all the main ideas. Taking a look on the right one, it is unclear how the author is going to do a research, which aspects he will cover, which arguments he will use.
Good luck with your research paper and remember that a good outline is half the success!