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How to write an outline for a research paper?

Writing a research paper not having an outline must be a daunting task. It is like coaching a football team having no game plan for the upcoming match – the entire thing is likely to end up as a complete disaster. In the context of research paper writing it usually ends with a student receiving a low grade, which is something all young people try to avoid when in school or college. While creating a research paper outline doesn’t necessarily guarantee a high grade, it does help to organize content in a coherent manner (which is very important in regard to writing a good research paper).

How to Develop an Outline?

Outlines for research papers are to be written after you identify the purpose of your research paper, and when you know what content you are going to include into the final work. Unless you reach that stage, don’t even attempt to work on your outline, because most likely you will simply waste your time. First and foremost, you have to identify the purpose of your research paper and create an effective thesis statement. Only then you can move on to drafting your outline.

The basic model for a research paper outline is quite simple: introduction, main body, conclusion. This is how students are to split research papers into sections. Information under each section will obviously vary depending on the main subject of the paper and author’s writing approach. However, there are some principles of creating a good outline that would be helpful in the process of writing any kind of research paper.

Brainstorm. This simple activity should drive the process of developing a good research paper outline. Spend 10-20 minutes writing down all the ideas that you want to include in your paper. You won’t need all of them, but at this stage it is important that you don’t “filter” ideas in the process.

Choose the ideas and organize. When you are done brainstorming, choose things that will help you cover the given topic in the research paper. Then group related ideas together to see what kind of sections (blocks of information) you will have in the paper.

Jot down your main headings. Try to name those groups of ideas by giving them headings. Consider the order as well (determine the best possible way to deliver information). Your first major heading will be your introduction and your last heading will serve as a "Conclusion" section. What you have in the middle will constitute the main body.

Create subheadings. Each of the main headings should have subheadings, which should help you understand how the major headings are to be discussed throughout the paper.

Do Outlines Really Help?

They do. There are no questions about it. Just like a well-prepared game plan helps a coach win the match, a good outline helps students write papers that will receive high grades. Creating an outline before writing a paper always helps to organize one’s ideas, present the material in a logical form, show relationships between ideas in the paper, and develop an effective overview of the entire project. And while outlines for research papers don’t guarantee a good grade, they definitely help students learn how to think logically and plan things ahead. If you have never tried creating an outline for your paper prior to writing one, you should definitely give it a shot. The result will most likely make you a better student.

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