Many students are asking for help on a research paper because it is one of the most difficult and time-consuming assignments one can face during years at school or college. However, if you devote some time to creating an outline, it will be much easier to write a readable and thoughtful research paper.
So what is an outline? Basically, it is an organization of the paper with all of its parts: paragraphs and subparagraphs. Your outline should contain titles of all the paragraphs and include such compulsory sections as introduction and conclusion.
An outline of your research paper should reflect all of the sections you are going to include, so when you are working on it, you need to make sure that none of the parts is missed out. When the first draft is ready, read it carefully and check whether it meets your outline.
This preparatory stage is not compulsory but still highly recommended, as it helps to make your paper organized and structured. Even if you need help writing a research proposal or statement, writing an outline is always a great solution!
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What is a Research Paper Outline?
When a research paper is involved, many students start to panic. The reason is simple: a research paper is one of the most challenging assignments because it requires lots of time and devotion. Luckily, our manual on how to outline a research paper will be of great help!
An outline of such a paper is a plan of actions for you not to get lost in the writing process. It reflects key features of your text and in some way looks like a table of contents.
The main aim of an outline is to track your ideas, acting as a sort of a map. Due to such a plan, you can interlink multiple concepts, evaluate various issues, and make conclusions. Students don’t repeat sentences and can generate new ideas much quicker. An outline is still a must even if you are writing a short assignment.
Typical outline format consists of the following elements:
- Title page;
- Table of contents;
- List of references;
A Research Paper Outline
There is no better way to understand how to write a research paper outline than to get familiar with all of its elements.
Every academic work should start with an introduction. The success of your future work may greatly depend on this paragraph because people may not want to continue reading if your introduction is boring.
That is why the first section of your essay research paper or even dissertation must be informative and engaging, although without going into many details. The key points of making a great introduction include:
- Hook. Depending on the size of your work, the hook can be one to five sentences. With their help, you persuade the audience that your research is worth reading. Depending on the general tone of your work, a hook can contain a joke, statistics or quote;
- Defining your audience. To make sure that your paper is successful, you need to find out what topic will be interesting for your reader;
- Thesis statement. Close your introduction with a thesis. It is a sentence or two, where you state the main argument or hypothesis of your work. Make a clear statement about what and why you are going to study. It should be clear and understandable.
Body paragraphs make up the heart of your research. They don’t have any volume restrictions and are only limited to the number of arguments you are willing to discuss. Make sure the size of your research paper doesn’t exceed the required size of your tutor or educational establishment.
All of the facts and evidence you have worked on during the research stage should be placed here. Every idea should be backed with credible information and reliable facts. In addition, each reference should be formatted according to the required formatting style, i.e., mla or apa research paper style.
You can also include counter-arguments and explain why they are wrong or not valid. Opposing other points of view is a great way to show that you have a deep understanding of the topic and have conducted great research. This will help you to build a strong reputation and to prepare for possible discussions.
Always keep in mind the tone of your work, because it should always remain professional and meet the one you have stated in the first paragraphs. Chosen patterns, instruments, and manners should be the same from the first line to the last one.
However, this doesn’t mean that you need to be boring: remain creative and use different language approaches to make your paper bright and catchy.
There is a high chance that your professor knows literally everything on the chosen subject, so you need not only to discuss common facts and concepts but also to find unknown statistics and data that will intrigue and hold the attention of the audience.
Research Paper Outline Format
When you need to choose a format for your outline, it is important to pay attention to the topic and guidelines of your tutor. The most popular type is an outline with numbers or letters because they help in giving topics, ideas, and subdivisions a proper structure. The bigger amount of points in your outline, the more difficult your outline is.
Here are the basic principles of a research paper format:
- Heading should be represented with Roman letters;
- Subtopics should contain uppercase letters;
- Arabic numbers should be used for subtopics;
- Lowercase letters – for subparts.
Most of the students write down full sentences for every part of an outline. It can be the first sentence of the passage that reflects the key ideas of the paragraph. For APA style, it is quite common to use short phrases that inform about the future content of the section.
When working on a research paper, you will face different formatting styles. For example, MLA, APA, Chicago, Harvard, etc. All of them are used in academic writing, and each one has its own peculiarities and rules.
Tutors always pay attention to the proper appliance of formatting rules, so if you fail to meet all of them, it will surely reflect in the final grade.
Two formatting styles, which are used for Social Sciences and Humanities, are MLA and APA. They are very different, starting with how to write the name of the author or how to write sources properly. Knowing such peculiarities will help you to make your paper interesting, professional, and easy to read.
APA Outline Format
APA format of an outline is one of the most popular and common in many educational institutions. This means that you need to memorize the acceptable structure for your apa research or write it down if you want to create a great outline!
Here are the sections, which your outline must consist of:
- Background information;
- Main paragraphs
- List of references;
MLA Research Paper Outline
Luckily, MLA is the simplest format, and students sigh with relief when they are asked to use this style. MLA or Modern Language Association format is used for history, literature and English classes, as well as for some humanities.
When using mla research paper format, you need to write headings (i.e. ‘Methodology’ or ‘Conclusion’) in the upper case Roman numerals. If you are willing to break main sections into smaller ones, you need to use letters (A, B, etc.) or numbers (1,2 and so on).
An outline is the first draft of your work, so you don’t need to include many details. For an MLA format, it is necessary to write down only a correct order of the things you want to discuss not to get lost in the writing process.
Outline aims to determine how the student will work on main sections of a research paper, and not what exactly he will write about.