Suppose you have never written an essay before and you don’t know how to force yourself to start writing it. Or you just had an eventful week, and clean forgot that you should finish your research paper by tomorrow’s morning. One way or another, you are seeking for the most efficient way to organize your work. A research paper outline is a very thing you are looking for! It is a tried-and-true method of self-management that allows making your writing as fast and easy as possible. So what is an outline for a research paper?

An outline is your first draft for the further work. It demonstrates the main topic of essay and lists subordinated topics that you will develop in the course of writing. While writing an outline, writer orders his findings under subtopics and topics that construct sections such as introduction, body, and conclusion. However, a plan doesn’t give any detailed answers, explanations, and evidence that build up the final text.

The process of writing an outline (or plan) is also called pre-writing. The purpose of the draft is to organize all the information that you need. You have to demonstrate data gaps that arise in the process of writing. The outline can help you order all your ideas visually so that it is much easier to use them. Moreover, it helps organize your thoughts, contributes to the sophisticated style and the logical flow of information. With an outline, your essay will never go off course halfway through the paper.

what is an outline for a research paper

Prepare to write a good outline. Some tips on what you need to get started

Now you see that writing an outline is not a mere waste of time but a useful tool in your repertoire of research methods. However, plans don’t fall into researcher’s lap ready for application. So you must do some prior work to make one. By the time of writing your outline, you should decide upon the topic, type and thesis of the research paper, as well as gather some general information on your question.

Primary things first: let’s clarify how to deal with the topic. The topic is a particular issue of some area of studies which you are dealing with throughout your paper. For instance, for studies area of “education” are possible such specific topics as “Study skills for academic writing,” “Discourse problems in argumentative writing,” or “Difficulties in Academic Writing.” To choose an unusual and researchable topic, you should consider both assignment requirements and your interests. Try to look for the matter at the intersection of your hobbies and your area of study. Do you still hesitate about what is an outline for a research paper?

When it comes to types of the research essays, there are two main options:

  • An argumentative (persuasive) research paper. This type of an article aims to convince the reader on the soundness of one of the two viewpoints. The writer describes problem from two aspects. He analyses pros and cons of each of them and decides which of the points is more preferable. Like any essay, you should base this kind of research on facts and logical arguments.
  • An analytic research paper. This type paper aims at the unique solution of the posed question which you based on in-depth analysis of the issue. While writing, students describe numerous points of view. They also draw a personal conclusion based on the prior examination. Unlike the argumentative paper, analytic research ends with viewpoint developed by writer himself and not by other researchers.

Briefly about thesis statement

The thesis statement is the most critical stage of writing for your paper. It is a sentence that answers the main research question. To do a thesis, the writer needs to decide on the topic and conduct some background research. Next, the writer chooses one of the controversial questions about his topic (topic question) and performs a more detailed analysis. As a result, he or she receives an answer based on facts and evidence. The answer to the topic question serves as a thesis statement of the future essay. Let’s list five steps that you have to make:

  • Decide on topic
  • Conduct background research
  • Choose a topic question
  • Conduct detailed analysis
  • Receive a thesis statement

Ready, steady, write!

By the moment of writing your outline, you will have finished lots of work. Don’t give up; you are almost there!

First of all, you should choose the type of outline. You can apply sentence outline if you want to list some detailed information using full sentences. As distinct from the first type, the topic outline consists of brief phrases or single words that give a general idea of the corresponding paragraph.

Next, you should understand that structure of the outline aligns with the structure of your future paper. As a result, it consists of an introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion; mark each of the sections with Roman numerals (I, II, III). This way you can make the first level of your structure.

An introduction is aimed to present the topic and significance of the issue; remember that opening should get the reader interested and explain the matter. It incorporates general information, research rationale (explanation of the importance of research), and thesis statement. Besides, it may include a review of the used literature, methodology of the study and definition of the main terms. As a result, you can place under introduction section as many points as you please. Mark each of the points with capital letters (A, B, C, D); as you can see, these points build up the second level of the structure.

How to make the body for research paper

A body of the plan is the most complex part of the outline. In this section, you should list supporting points for your thesis statement. Mark each supporting point with Roman numerals (I, II, III). After you have finished with your supporting points, you can get down to your evidence that backs up the major points. Put forward your arguments for each of the supporting points. Mark each of the cases with capital letters (A, B, C, D). If you need to develop evidence further, come down to the third level marked with numbers (1, 2, 3, 4) and the fourth level indicated by lowercase letters (a, b, c, d, etc.).

When you developed all the evidence, start your conclusion. This section does not provide any new information; the purpose of the chapter is to summarize the findings and restate the significance of the research. This part of the paper reminds of introduction written in reverse. You may start it with particular results and lead up to more general information.

Thumbs up, my friend; now you have a beautiful frame that will make an excellent base for your future essay. Keep in mind that you are free to reorganize your outline or deviate from it a bit while writing your final paper. Adjust your outline to your needs and make the most of your pre-writing! Hope you have realized what is an outline for a research paper.