How Do You Create An Outline For A Research Paper

SUMMARY:

  • Construct an argument that answers the writing prompt by arranging your notes linearly.
  • Unless your teacher wants a 5 paragraph essay (an introductory paragraph, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion paragraph), don’t feel constrained by that model.

LINKS:

Now that you’ve grouped your notes, thought about your transitions, and developed a high-powered thesis, its time to build the scaffold upon which you’ll structure your paper: the outline.

Some teachers prefer a standard 3 body paragraph format. Three is a nice number aesthetically, but there is nothing particularly magical about having three body paragraphs. Unless your teacher states that you must have a certain number of body paragraphs, don’t feel constrained by this 3 paragraph format. The number of body paragraphs you have should be determined by your research and how you grouped your notes, not by an arbitrary number. Have one main claim expressed in each paragraph.

Tip: Keep in mind that the outline needs to be flexible. Don’t feel constrained by your outline once it’s created. If you get a surge of inspiration part way through writing your paper and decide to take your paper in a new direction, go ahead and change your outline.

There are several different ways to format an outline, but the MLA method (below) is a solid way to do it. Note how easily all the previous work you’ve done (grouping your notes and thinking about transitions) slides into the outline format:

Links to sample outlines:

 

Why and How to Create a Useful Outline

Summary:

This resource describes why outlines are useful, what types of outlines exist, suggestions for developing effective outlines, and how outlines can be used as an invention strategy for writing.

Contributors: Elyssa Tardiff, Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2018-01-24 02:21:43

Why create an outline? There are many reasons, but in general, it may be helpful to create an outline when you want to show the hierarchical relationship or logical ordering of information. For research papers, an outline may help you keep track of large amounts of information. For creative writing, an outline may help organize the various plot threads and help keep track of character traits. Many people find that organizing an oral report or presentation in outline form helps them speak more effectively in front of a crowd. Below are the primary reasons for creating an outline.

  • Aids in the process of writing
  • Helps you organize your ideas
  • Presents your material in a logical form
  • Shows the relationships among ideas in your writing
  • Constructs an ordered overview of your writing
  • Defines boundaries and groups

How do I create an outline?

  • Determine the purpose of your paper.
  • Determine the audience you are writing for.
  • Develop the thesis of your paper.

Then:

  • Brainstorm: List all the ideas that you want to include in your paper.
  • Organize: Group related ideas together.
  • Order: Arrange material in subsections from general to specific or from abstract to concrete.
  • Label: Create main and sub headings.

Remember: creating an outline before writing your paper will make organizing your thoughts a lot easier. Whether you follow the suggested guidelines is up to you, but making any kind of outline (even just some jotting down some main ideas) will be beneficial to your writing process.

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