Drafting an outline has always seemed like a waste of time, but now you have to write a research paper, and suddenly it becomes a great idea. When the semester stretches in front of you, and the deadline for a 15-page paper looms ahead, a research paper outline might be your only lifeline.
Planning the paper before you write has many advantages. Take outlining seriously, and you will:
- Organize tons of information you collect through research into a manageable structure.
- Collect necessary information for citations and the reference list.
- Save time on endless rewriting and editing because your paper will follow a logical structure on the first try.
- Eliminate the fear that stops you from writing when you don’t know where you need to go.
- Motivate you to complete each part of the research quickly and complete the assignment on time.
- Get a better grade than you would without using an outline since you can write in a comfortable pace and your research is logical and streamlined.
If these outlining benefits convinced you of the need for planning, let’s take a closer look at the process of creating an outline for a research paper.
Outline Structure Tips
The rules on how to write an outline for a research paper are very similar to any other plan you have created for an argumentative essay in high school or college. There are three parts to any paper: introduction, body, and conclusion. Let’s discuss how to plan each of them for a research paper in detail.
Research Paper Introduction
A traditional introduction should include three primary ingredients:
- The hook is an attention-grabbing beginning designed to surprise, intrigue or confuse the audience into reading your paper. The hook should evoke strong emotions, so it takes on a form of a provocative question, a quote, a fact, or an anecdote. It can be two or three sentences long, but should not be extremely detailed or personal.
- The research question is the thought-provoking query you come up with after studying primary and secondary sources. It should be interesting and complicated enough to have more than a simple answer. Open-ended questions starting with “How” or “Why” are preferable.
- Thesis statement encompasses the main idea of the research paper and summarizes your primary arguments in one or two sentences. Craft each paragraph to support the central idea, and your paper will earn the teacher’s praise.
Research Paper Body
Writing the main part of the paper requires most work, as it is an extended assignment, and without a detailed plan you can easily stray off course and ramble without making a point. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for the body structure, though there are three essential parts that should make an appearance:
- Background or context information. You can’t expect professors and other readers to have a deep understanding of the problem, so provide enough context for them to grasp the arguments you are going to make. Depending on the problem’s complexity this part can take a single paragraph or more.
- Existing opinions from secondary sources. Before you present your own analysis, acquaint the readers with the arguments of other researchers. There is no need to outline every minor claim, select two or three most significant ones and explain why you chose them. Provide evidence from primary sources to support these claims.
- Your arguments. Since the point of the assignment is to hone your analytical skills, include your own claims in the research outline. They can refute the previous arguments or provide more details, depending on the position you choose. As always, primary source evidence is a must to support your claims.
The detailed structure of the research paper body depends on the subject you are taking. The three parts mentioned above are appropriate for many classes, though Science and Engineering majors might need a separate section for discussing the experimental methods, procedures, and materials.
Overall, the structure of a research paper closely resembles the outline of a scientific article on your subject. So pay close attention to the way authors structure their ideas and results in peer-reviewed articles you read at the prewriting stage. Emulate their outlines, and your professor won’t be able to find fault with the paper’s structure.
Research Paper Conclusion
Writing the summary should be easy once the other parts of the research paper are ready. You need only recount the critical points and tie them once again to the thesis statement. To round up the paper, include a short section with your final thoughts. They can address how the paper’s subject ties into the current global problems or whether additional research is necessary. You can include plans for further experiments, research, or analysis you plan to take on after the assignment is complete.
Don’t Repeat These Outlining Mistakes
While at first glance the outlining process seems similar to any other writing assignment, many students struggle with this prewriting technique. They make mistakes that turn the outline into a useless waste of time. That’s why there are so many learners willing to skip this step and jump straight into writing. Today we’ll share the common mistakes students make and how you can avoid them to make outlining worth your time.
Here are five things you should NEVER try if you want to learn how to do a research paper outline right:
- Forget to follow the assignment’s instructions. Reread the instructions carefully and learn to read between the lines to grasp the meaning of the task. Without this guidance, you can write a perfect paper and still fail the class because you did not understand what the professor expected you to accomplish. If you have doubts about the assignment, ask questions until you are sure you have a 100% understanding of the task.
- Develop an outline with two-word lines. While this works well for the standard five-paragraph essays, research papers are much longer. Therefore, your plan should be more detailed if you want to make it useful. Expand your usual phrases into sentences to include the main idea of each paragraph. You can also add side notes on which evidence you are going to use to support the claims. This will save you lots of time looking through all the books you’ve researched once you start writing.
- Create paragraphs that do not support the thesis. Once you develop an excellent thesis statement, DO NOT save it to a separate file and forget about it until putting the finishing touches on the paper. This way you might find that your body does not match the thesis. And you will have to rework one or the other. Keep the thesis statement at the top of each page or paragraph to remember the main idea each passage should support. Your paper will be more logical and cohesive if you use this simple trick.
- Rely on memory when it comes to citations. It’s something you should never do, even if you are writing a short essay. Citations and reference lists can steal hours of your time, especially if you forget which books originated particular quotes and ideas. Instead of relying on memory, write or copy the useful passages into a separate file and add relevant publishing information. This way you will never lose pertinent data for proper referencing and avoid unintended plagiarism.
- Squeeze several claims into a single passage. It is tempting to squeeze as many arguments into a single paper as you can to demonstrate your knowledge of the subject. However, when it comes to research papers, the quality of your claims reduces with the growing number of them. Choose only the most reliable and convincing arguments with plenty of evidence. Concentrate each paragraph on one point and make it count, provide enough support and analysis if you are worried about the word count.
Now you know how to do an outline for a research paper without making mistakes that might cost you precious time. Revisit this checklist before you start outlining or use our infographic to review the common mistakes at a glance.
Extra Outlining Tips They Don’t Teach in College
With all the theoretical knowledge in mind, it is still difficult to come up with a research outline when you have never done this before. Let us share practical tips the writers of our case study writing service use to achieve excellent results:
- Choose the most exciting and familiar among the available topics of the research paper. If you have prior knowledge of the issue, however cursory, it will help you devise a plan before you dive into research. This way you can also narrow down the choice of books and journals you will have to read to collect evidence.
- Use different levels of sub-headers as the points of your outline. You don’t need to format it correctly unless the professor expects you to turn it in. Save one document with the original version of the outline and copy information from sources directly under relevant sub-headers to use later into another file.
- Use a document outline feature of your preferred word processor to always have a clear idea of the paper’s structure and your progress. A visible outline will also allow you to evaluate the logical flow and the cohesion of the research paper before you submit it.
- Do not go back to outlining and research after you start writing. Once you are in the flow, continue getting your ideas on paper and add small notes or comments to yourself to look up the missing data after the writing session.
- Use reverse outlining if you want to learn how to write a student case study correctly. A reverse outline is a process of summarizing critical points of each paragraph into short sentences up to 10 words long. Once you complete the paper, compare your initial plan with the reverse outline. If you see significant discrepancies, consider revising and editing the text. This technique allows you to evaluate the flow of the paper and the strength of the arguments you make.
If nothing else helps, and you still have no idea how to write a case analysis, hiring a professional academic writer might be the best option for you. Our experts have years of experience dealing with scientific research, tight deadlines, and tough requirements. Contact us to learn more about the research paper writing service. Whether you need a little nudge in the right direction or a reliable guide to get you through the writing process, we have your back.
Research Paper Outline Examples
With your head spinning after a healthy dose of both theoretical and practical advice and still no reasonable plan in sight, let us provide a paper outline example or two for you to model.
The first one if for an IT-related Business research paper on system requirements specification.
- Only 10% of startups become successful, and poor communication between the founder and the development team is one of the common causes of failure.
- Proper documentation, including a detailed system requirements specification, can help improve the chance of success.
- What is a system requirement specification?
- Different types of requirements: functional and nonfunctional.
- Traditional requirements elicitation methods: interviews, focus groups.
- Non-conventional requirements elicitation methods: brainstorming, mind mapping.
- The benefits of mind mapping for non-technical startup founders.
- The disadvantages of mind mapping for requirements elicitation.
- Hybrid requirements elicitation method proposal.
- System requirement specification is instrumental for successful software development.
- Unconventional requirements elicitation methods might prove best for first-time startups and non-technical founders.
When the Best Tips Don’t Help
Crafting an outline is only the first step on the long road of writing a research paper. Armed with our advice, you can complete this stage without significant mistakes and go on to complete the assignment. However, sometimes you let procrastination get the better of you. If you have a few days left before the deadline and three other papers to write, don’t hesitate to contact us. Our professional academic writers can research, plan and write a paper on any topic and subject in under 6 hours. Their results are even more brilliant than you realize since every paper is written from scratch and is 100% original. Our papers will never get you in trouble, and you can expect the highest grades for the money you pay.
Hiring a professional to write your research paper is way more logical and productive than pulling all-nighters hoping to complete the work on time without help. Don’t put the task away, contact us now, and we’ll start writing your research paper in a couple of minutes.