How to develop a good outline for your research paper

Outlining can seem very boring and unnecessary. Many students just want to jump right in and get the research paper done without the extra work of having to make an outline. But really, an outline saves you time and in fact it makes less work for yourself, too! Taking the first hour or so of your working time to make an outline will be well worth your while.

Writing an outline has certain steps you should follow. In order to make best use of your time and get as good an outline as possible, here’s what you need to do.

  • Read your instructions very carefully. This is a simple yet too often ignored step. Just skimming the instructions from your teacher, or assuming he said it all in class and not reading it is a big mistake. Make sure you know exactly what he wants
  • Now you should take a piece of paper or new document on your computer and make some sections: “introduction”, “body”, “conclusion”
  • In each section, write what you need to include in it. For example, your teacher probably wants your thesis statement in the introduction, and your arguments in the body.
  • Write a brief summary of each part and each section as if you’re explaining it to a friend

That is the backbone of a great outline. Sound simple? That’s because it is.

Tweaking and Perfecting Your Outline

Now just because you’ve gotten this far doesn’t mean you’re done. That is a very good start, and you can’t continue without it, but there’s more you can do. This is where you should conduct the bulk of your research. Yes, research is a part of the outlining process. Go to your libraries, search online, talk to professionals, do interviews, etc. and keep it all organized. After that, you need to determine which section of your outline each piece of research will go in. For example, a really funny or profound quote you found might work for the very first or last line of your paper.

Okay, you have the sections and summaries. Now you have the research put in. What’s next? All you need to do now is to write your research paper. Yes, that’s right; you just finished your awesome outline. Congratulations. All you need to do is fill in the blanks, expand on the summaries, and join your sources together into a cohesive paper.

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