Research Outline

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A well written outline serves as a framework for your final research paper. If your outline is detailed and well organized, your research paper is almost certain to be a success. Without a good outline to work from, quality may suffer.
It’s also important to remember that in many cases, the outline you create is graded along with your notes and final draft. Keep this in mind, and make a dedicated effort to write an outline that is both cleare and useful.

Topic selection is the first step in creating your research outline. As you work through this process, you should begin assembling your essay. Here are some steps to follow as you consider how topic selection will influence your outline.

Finding a Topic That Best Represents You
  • 1

    Once You Have Some Topic Ideas Create a Very Rough Outline. Create a list of possible research topics. Then, before doing anything else, do some very low level research and create a small outline for each topic. If you struggle to come up with a hypothesis and points to explore, the topic may not be sufficient.

  • 2

    Ensure That You Can Find Enough Sources on Your Topic to Cover All of  Your Points. Your essay will be the framework you use to argue your thesis and present the facts that you find through your research or experimentation. If you cannot find enough reliable, verifiable, original source material, it’s going to be difficult to create a good outline let alone a full research paper.

  • 3

    Use Sequencing to Ensure That Your Topic is Covered Well. As you are considering different topics, it’s a good idea to also consider how you can use your outline to effectively present your arguments. One way to do this is to think about how sequencing can be used to make your arguments stronger.

  • 4

    Choose a Topic on Which You Can Write Easily. Your comfort and familiarity with your research topic will have a huge impact on writing your outline. Even better, it will have an impact on the ease of turning your outline into a fully-realized research paper.

  • 5

    Make Sure You Can Form a Solid Thesis Statement. This is extremely important. If after doing some initial research and taking notes, you cannot write a cogent thesis statement, something is wrong. You may need to look into other topics.

Points to Think About
  • 1

    If you color code your notes, it can make writing your outline easier.

  • 2

    It’s much easier to change the structure of an outline than to change the structure of a draft.

  • 3

    You can add annotations about sources you use in  your outline in order to make citations easier down the road.

  • 4

    If you struggle with linear thinking, you might start with a mindmapping tool instead.

  • 5

    Keep a one to one relationship between the line items in your outline and your main ideas.

Do and Don`t
Do
  • Invest a lot of time in your outline. You will be glad you have it when you begin your first draft.
  • Use plenty of subpoints to ensure you cover your bases.
  • Keep your outline updated, even as you work on your drafts.
  • Use grammar and spell check if your outline will be graded.
  • Use Evernote or another tool to share your outline if you are working on a group research project.
  • Start a strong introduction and conclusion in your outline.
Don't
  • Treat your outline as an afterthought.
  • Ignore your outline when you start your first draft.
  • Write an outline that is too vague.
  • Forget to identify a main idea for each section.
  • Fail to leave room for more points if your word count falls short.
Mistakes to Avoid
  • Attempting to write without doing enough research - You should have strong notes before starting your outline.
  • Failing to include your thesis statement in your outline - This is very important.
  • Neglecting to ask for help on your essay until it is too close to your due date - Your student writing center can provide you with the assistance that you need.
  • Not including your outline in your final research paper packet - It all needs to be turned in.
  • Failing to use spell check - Even your outline should meet basic quality standards.
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