Research Paper Outline — Guide for Writing with Examples
Any academic assignment requires a thoughtful preparation that may consist of several stages. You need to go through different books, gather the evidence to make the statements reasonable, conduct an investigation, etc. Such writings as essays or reports can be less challenging. There are only several paragraphs — sounds easy, right? If a student is competent in a subject matter, it won't take long for them to organize the paper and deal with it. But what if we think about more serious assignments such as thesis, dissertation, or even the well-known research paper? That is not just about expressing your thoughts and ideas. Here, the word count is greater, the parts are more scientific and precise, and the overall structure is more complicated.
While dealing with a research paper, you need to:
- be attentive to the elements of a study (every feature matters);
- organize your thoughts and maintain the required structure;
- make sure every aspect of the investigation is described coherently.
It can be a challenge to keep everything in mind, especially if your research takes several weeks or even months. But, everything is easy with a research paper outline. That is a road map with the help of which you can organize your notes, consider every step of the investigation, describe its findings as it is required.
How Does an Outline Work?
It is exactly what helps you divide the project into logical parts. An outline shows the development of your main idea from its beginning to the conclusions you made by analyzing the results of the study. When you have decided on the thesis statement and gathered enough information to support your thoughts, it's time to highlight the main aspects/stages of your investigation and create an outline.
There are two main purposes for it.
- Your professor will see how well the subject matter is formulated and tell whether you have chosen the appropriate strategy and methods to answer the research question.
- By following the outline, you won't get lost among the stages of your study and will manage the writing process easily. Thus, you avoid any redundancy and make your work precise and reasonable.
When you follow the academic path, an outline is your airbag — with it, you can prevent any writing issues.
The Essence of an Outline
An outline can be of two kinds — for you and for the professor (one that you will submit).
In the first case, you can save some time and omit such aspects as choosing the fonts, spacing, word count, proper formulating, and other requirements. Here, your own understanding of the study and what information you want to convey is important. This outline rather helps you write an assignment than shows the level of your competence and skills to a professor. For example, when creating an outline for yourself, you can use theses, various abbreviations, features of organization, a brief description of supporting information, etc. Even short meaningless (for others) phrases will work. Later, all those writings will help to remember what you wanted to include in this or that paragraph. Simply put, you write down everything that comes to your mind and divide it into sections required. But, it is only a draft that only you can understand fully.
With an actual outline that you are going to submit, things are different. First of all, it has more academic and formal nature. Also, here, we can distinguish two types of research paper outlines, and below, you can find detailed information on each of them.
Name the Major Ideas
One of the variants is an outline that provides an insight into a certain part of the research. Thus, you will have a list where each main and supporting topic answers the question, "What is this paragraph about?"
For example, here is an outline for a research paper with the topic "Deviant Behavior in Teens."
- Title Page
- Table of contents
- Chapter 1. Features of family relationships in deviant adolescents.
- The main directions of the deviant behavior studies.
- Family situation of the deviant adolescents' raising.
- General characteristics of adolescence.
- Chapter 2. An empirical study of the relationships between deviant adolescents.
- Organization and research methodology.
- Features of the parent-child interaction in adolescents with a tendency to deviant behavior.
- List of references
In this case, you need to name each part of your research and make sure the development of your ideas is logical and coherent. With such an outline, a professor can see the stages of your investigation. Take into account the fact that such an element as Reference list is required here.
Describe the Research
The second type is represented by listing the elements that provide an overview of your research. Your outline will include the main and minor points of the study, but without describing it in depth. That is like a business card for your own paper. It is used by your professor to see the essence of the investigation and, if something catches their attention, read more about it in a corresponding part of the assignment. Here is a generalized outline example.
Your major heading should be clear and well-focused. Don't make it too broad, or it will be hard to concentrate on the information you need and find an answer to the research question.
- The purpose
Prove the relevance of your research and name its major point.
Provide the topic's background. Here, you can mention the previous studies and tell how your work can contribute to a certain academic field.
Describe the way of conducting the research — why do you think those methods and strategies are appropriate? Indicate the participants (if any) and environment of the investigation.
This part may be divided into several paragraphs describing a certain aspect of the research process. What was done and how?
- Analysis and discussion
Now, analyze the findings. Have you solved a central argument? What is the possible influence on the overall issue you've studied? Can your findings be used for further research in this field? Offer possible implementations of your research.
Sum everything up. Here, you can objectively assess whether the research leads to the expected results, how can it be improved, and what factors should be taken into account.
If there are quotes or references to another piece of literature, don't forget to indicate them here. That will show that your work is well-grounded and isn't plagiarized.
Of course, there can be differences in the outlines. To meet the requirements, we recommend you always consult the supervisor and submit different sections for revision when they are ready.
Tips for a Research Paper Outline
An effective research paper outline is needed to develop a good structure for your paper. But, even for that, you need a base — a considerable amount of materials to study. Your competence in a subject matter is a guarantee for an outline of high levels of sophistication. It allows you to collect enough information, support your ideas, prove the statements, and structure the assignment logically. So, before preparing an outline, make sure you did the following things.
- Conduct a profound literature review. Study the theory available and analyze previous studies on your topic. That way, you can see what aspects deserve more attention and what issues are highlighted the most.
- Have enough reliable facts and examples. Each part of a plan and your statements should be supported by evidence from relevant sources.
- Know the length requirements. If your research needs to be short and precise, you won't be able to come up with an outline that has plenty of major headings.
An outline is your report — it shows your progress and helps you stay afloat while writing. And, if you are going to build up successful research, it is your solid foundation.