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How to Write a Research Paper Outline: The Complete Step-by-Step Guide

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The broader your topic is, the more difficult it is to discuss the full details. This is why you should establish early on the scope and limitations of your paper which will provide the foundation for your research paper outline. Basically, your outline will constitute three main sections: But to make sure your paper is complete, consult your instructor for specific parts they wants to be included in your research paper. Sample outlines for research papers will follow. The introduction should contain your thesis statement or the topic of your research as well as the purpose of your study.

You may include here the reason why you chose that particular topic or simply the significance of your research paper's topic. You may also state what type of approach it is that you'll be using in your paper for the entire discussion of your topic. Generally, your Introduction should orient your readers to the major points the rest of the paper will be covering, and how. The body of your paper is where you will be presenting all your arguments to support your thesis statement.

Start with a strong argument, followed by a stronger one, and end with the strongest argument as your final point. The conclusion is where you form a summary of all your arguments so you can arrive at your final position. Explain and reiterate why you've ended up with the said conclusion. As mentioned earlier, here are some sample outlines for research papers:.

Shakespeare Adapted from AResearchGuide. Check out our quiz-page with tests about:. Research Paper Outline Examples. Retrieved Sep 14, from Explorable. The text in this article is licensed under the Creative Commons-License Attribution 4. You can use it freely with some kind of link , and we're also okay with people reprinting in publications like books, blogs, newsletters, course-material, papers, wikipedia and presentations with clear attribution.

Learn how to construct, style and format an Academic paper and take your skills to the next level. Sample Outlines Sample Literature Outline. Sample Compare and Contrast Outline. Choose between a topic outline and sentence outline. With a topic outline, the headings and subpoints are all given in single words or short phrases.

With a sentence outline, all of the headings and subpoints are provided in complete sentences. Topic outlines are usually used when your research deals with many different issues that can be arranged in different ways.

Sentence outlines are usually used if your research focuses on complex issues. Some instructors will insist that you must not combine these two forms. Many others, however, offer one exception to this guideline by allowing the main section headings to be short phrases while the remaining subpoints are written as full sentences.

Most outlines use an alpha-numerical structure. This structure uses a series of letters and numbers to identify and arrange section levels. In sentence outlines, headings and subpoints are almost always written with correct sentence capitalization rules.

This is not always the case with topic outlines, though. One school of thought indicates that first level headings should be written in all capital letters while all remaining headings use standard sentence capitalization rules. Another school of thought suggests that the first level headings should only have the first letter of each word capitalized, rather than the entire word. The remaining headings, again, use standard sentence capitalization rules.

Keep matters of length in mind. Your outline should run no longer than one-quarter to one-fifth the total estimated size of your final research paper.

For a four to five page paper, you only need a single page outline. For a 15 to 20 page paper, your outline will usually run no longer than four pages.

Familiarize yourself with a one-level outline. A one-level outline only uses major headings and no subheadings.

Note that you would not usually use this outline for a research paper, as it is not very specific or detailed. It can still be a good idea to start with this outline level, however, since you can use it to provide yourself with a general direction for your paper and expand upon it as the information flows in.

Move onto a two-level outline. Two-level outlines are a little more common for research papers. You utilize major headings and one level of subheadings.

In other words, your Roman numeral and capital letter sections are both present. Each second-level subheading should discuss a primary supporting argument for the main idea it falls under.

Progress to a three-level outline. A three-level outline is even more complex, but if done right, it can help you to structure your research paper even more thoroughly. You use Roman numerals, capital letters, and standard numbers for this version. Next to each third-level subsection, you should address the topic of a paragraph that falls under the corresponding second-level section or main idea above it. Use a four-level outline, when necessary. These outlines are about the most complex you would expect to need for a research paper, and if you choose this structure, you will use Roman numerals, capital letters, standard numbers, and lowercase letters for your levels.

The fourth-level subheadings should address supporting statements, citations, or ideas within each paragraph listed in the third-level sections.

Every heading and subheading should maintain a structure that is parallel to the other headings within its level. Parallelism also refers to parts of speech and tense.

If a heading starts with a verb, then the other headings must also start with a verb. Moreover, that verb must also be in the same tense usually present tense. The information provided by your first major heading should be equal in importance to the information offered in your second major heading.

The same can be said of sentences in subheadings, as well. Your major headings should identify major tasks or ideas. Your subheadings should elaborate on the points addressed in your major headings. The information in your headings should be general and the subheadings should be more specific. For instance, if you were writing about memorable experiences from your childhood, "Memorable Childhood Experiences" would be the heading and the subheadings might look something like, "Vacation at 8 years old," "Favorite birthday party," and "Family trips to the park.

Each major heading should be divided into two or more parts. In other words, you should have at least two subheadings for every major heading. There is no limit on subheadings, but once you start forming a dozen or so subheadings under a single heading, you might find your outline looking cluttered and messy.

Identify the research problem. As you prepare to write your outline, you need to specifically identify the research problem you are trying to address.

This will guide the entire formation of your outline and your paper.

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Basically, your outline will constitute three main sections: the Introduction, the Body and the Conclusion. But to make sure your paper is complete, consult your instructor for specific parts they wants to be included in your research paper. Sample outlines for research papers will follow.

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Tutorial to the research paper outline. It helps you through the steps of writing a research paper. Good writing is essential for any article or term paper.

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A research paper outline is a helpful point-by-point plan, which makes your research paper writing easier. However, before proceeding to an outline you will have to take some pre-writing steps. They will be helpful in composing the best quality outline and, as a result, a great academic work. The outline structure is approximately the same whether you write a research outline on dreams or some topic distant from this one, like a research outline for PhD application. The structure is identical to the structure of the research paper itself.

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A research paper outline that starts off with the broad material will be narrowed down in order to get a strong research paper example. Research paper outline needs keywords Before you begin flushing out your research paper outline template, consider the keywords that will .