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How to Write an Effective Research Paper Outline: Vital Advice

Creating an outline is an integral part of writing a paper. An outline provides guidance for the writing process and gives the writer a way to organize their thoughts. By creating a good outline, the writer can reduce the time they spend writing. They can also use the outline to improve the quality of their paper.

  • Begin at the Beginning
  • Before a writer can construct the argument, they must know what they plan on writing about. Creating a thesis is the first step in writing a paper. The thesis is normally one or two sentences that argue for a particular viewpoint. It must have a narrow enough focus for the argument to fit within the student's page requirement. Likewise, the focus must be broad enough for the student to fill a set number of pages.

  • The Introduction and Conclusion
  • While the introduction is the starting point, the conclusion will give a student a clear idea of what they are working toward. Although it is not a requirement, many students will actually write out their introduction and conclusion before they create an outline. This gives them a chance to clarify their ideas and makes sure that they really know what the paper will be about.

  • Focus on the Writing: Step-by-Step
  • Between the introduction and conclusion, the student will have the body of the essay. Throughout this section, the argument will gradually build until it completely proves the thesis. This portion of the paper could take a few paragraphs or several pages to complete. Below each paragraph number, the student should write down the topic of the paragraph and any supporting evidence.

  • Organized Notes
  • To make the writing process easier, students should list the quotes or data that they will use to support each paragraph. These notes will allow the student to easily find what they need in their research. In addition to speeding up the writing process, this technique ensures that the student does not use the same quote twice in their paper.

  • Research Matters
  • Before creating an outline, the student had to research their topic. They can make the outlining process simpler by organizing their research as they finish it. Each source and page number should be written beneath each quote. These quotes can be organized by their topic or by their source. In general, it will be easier to keep each piece of information on a different note card. For longer papers, students can even create a rudimentary filing system to keep their notes in order.

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