A Comprehensive Guide to Writing a Research Paper Outline

A Comprehensive Guide to Writing a Research Paper Outline

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Students frequently face a challenge of composing a research paper outline. As a standard requirement that you need to accomplish before actually starting to write a research paper, an outline portrays intended structure and purpose of your paper. It demonstrates your knowledge on the subject and provides an insight into the position you plan to take when discussing this topic. It serves both as a writing plan for the author but also as a readers' guide simplifying the process of finding any pertinent information for which they might be looking. Although the usefulness of a research paper outline is indisputable, the actual writing of an outline can be perplexing. We would like to provide some pointers as to how you can do it most efficiently. Academic success in case of their implementation is undoubtedly attainable.

Prerequisites of writing a research paper outline include:

  1. Selecting an adequate topic. Choosing the right topic to write about is essential; although, your instructor will not always leave it to your discretion. Frequently you are tasked with writing on a pre-assigned topic, but if that is not your case, you are free to decide on it yourself. An attention-grabbing controversial topic you feel strongly about would be a solid choice. Furthermore, it should allow you to express your writing finesse and not bring out your shortcomings as a research paper writer. If you find yourself in doubt, you can always consult a professional writing service for suggestions on a topic or even for commissioning a custom-made research paper outline.
  2. Argument statement. Once you have decided upon your topic, figuring out your particular point of view is the next logical step. Your argument should be something you can relate to, something that would allow you to sound persuasive when presenting your claims and supporting evidence. Focus on your research paper purpose, and your thesis statement goal. Restating the obvious or repeating facts well-known to everyone is not going to grab anyone's attention or leave an impression on readers. A good argument statement is discussion-provoking: it motivates people to get involved and express their opinion.
  3. Determining your target audience. If writing for academic purposes, your only reader could be one of your professors. Even so, understanding what a reader expects from a paper you are about to start writing is essential. Try guessing your professor's point of view. Is it the same as yours? Is it polar opposite? In any case, your argument should always be strongly supported by factual evidence if you want to convince your reader of its veracity. Predict any opposing arguments you might be faced with and prepare to disprove them in your paper. Also, the language used (more precisely, how formal it is) depends on your intended audience. Using colloquialisms can be acceptable in informal types of writing, but it is strongly discouraged in academic texts.
  4. Researching the topic. Successful writing of a research paper relies on conducting comprehensive research beforehand. A systematic examination of available resources is required so that you can find abundant evidence to back up your claims. Upon establishing a broad base of supporting evidence for your argument, you will need to foresee all possible counter-arguments and find evidence that refutes them. A thorough investigation of your topic will allow you to view it from all angles and avoid falling into any traps that may lie ahead.
  5. Systematizing references in a paper. Organize any references you found during the research phase according to how they relate to your thesis statement. Put the essential ones on top and give them priority when writing the paper.

Composing a comprehensive outline for your research paper

Once all preparatory work for writing a research paper outline is completed, and an appropriate research topic selected, you are actually ready for composing an outline. This outline represents a basis upon which your entire research paper will depend. It is a foundation for everything you will later put in your research paper. There are three essential elements to an outline: introduction, body, and conclusion. The complexity degree of outlines varies from elementary level containing just a sketch of what you write in the paper, to more elaborate ones detailing all segments of the future paper. A superior quality research paper calls for a meticulously planned and studiously written outline. For you to have an idea of what a simple outline should comprise of, here are its minimal requirements:

  • Introduction: attention-grabbing opening, determining the target group, stating your argument in the form of a thesis statement
  • Body: two-three arguments that support your claims
  • Conclusion: recapitulation of your main arguments, implications of the research, eliciting a response from the audience

Let us now examine each of these segments more in-depth.

  • An introduction is intended to give the readers a taste of what they will come across in the remainder of the text. It should be formulated using powerful sentences with the intention of motivating the audience to keep reading. The captivating, appealing, and educational material is bound to stir up interest. The following elements are essential for a winning introduction:
    • Hook: the attention-grabbing part of the outline, one to five sentences in length, remarkable, and inciting interest; it is what convinces your readers that the paper at hand is worth reading.
    • Determining the target group: before starting to write your paper, you need to be sure for whom you are writing it. After having decided on the target audience, all that is left to do is to persuade them that reading your paper will be exciting, informative, or somehow beneficial for them. Be sure that they can relate to what you are writing.
    • Formulating the thesis statement: at this point, you define the position you are going to take when discussing the topic. Try to explain the validity of your argument. But remember – keep it simple, do not lose your readers' attention with abstract theorizing and ambiguous speculations.
  • The body of the outline is its central element. It contains the bulk of information you are trying to convey. Its length depends on the intended size of the research paper itself. Each paragraph of the body is meant to provide supporting evidence for a single argument. If there are multiple arguments to discuss, then you write the body of the outline accordingly. The ideas should be noted one by one, each followed by substantial evidence to its validity. Never say anything you cannot prove or leave a question hanging in the air opening a possibility to counter your argument with an opposing one. Give relevant references and use the required format of in-text citations.

Foreseeing possible opposing arguments works to your advantage. Leave nothing for the reader to object to your paper. Be aware of your paper's weaknesses and list them as limitations to your study. In that way, your readers will have nothing to object. It will also show your appreciation of the complexity of the topic you are writing about, and depict you as a studious scholar.

Never overlook the importance of your writing style. It should remain consistent throughout the paper. Without repeating yourself unnecessarily, try to keep the general tone constant but use variations in writing techniques to keep your readers interested. Do not expect your paper to be groundbreaking. Your professor has probably read tons of similar ones. Try to stand out though, either by shedding some new light on an old issue or by arguing it from a slightly different perspective. No matter how well acquainted your professor might be with the subject, the paper should be informative so that a layperson could understand, at least to a certain degree, about what you are writing. Explain all the terms and notions you introduce in your paper; do it briefly and if necessary point your reader to a more detailed account thereof that they can find in some of the papers you are referencing:

  • Conclusion recapitulates all the arguments given throughout the paper to create an overview of what has been said and supported by evidence. Write a brief but impression-making summary of your paper with intent to make a lasting impression on your readers. Do not go into lengthy justifications of your ideas as you had already done that in the preceding parts of the paper. Shortly recap and make an effort to incite a reaction in your readers motivating them for action. They do not have to agree with your argument, provoking a response is just as desirable. The point is to make an impression and call for action.

Always keep in mind the aim you are trying to accomplish with your research paper. In academic circumstances the most important thing is to demonstrate your capability to argue a point convincingly, support it with sufficient evidence and write a research paper accordingly. A well-written outline brings you a step closer to this aim. Keep detailed notes during all phases of your research and if stuck do not hesitate to ask for help or consult more literature on the subject.

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