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Research Paper Outline

All About Writing a Structured Research Paper Outline!

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 John Millar   July 19, 2022  Student Guide

Research Paper Outline

"Should I arrange ideas into a hierarchy first or create effective headings and subheadings? When should I state the essential facts? And what will my readers learn first?”.

A minute of silence and another crumbled paper ball lands on the dustbin.

The research submission deadline is nearing, and you are still in the confusing stage. But did anyone tell you that outlining is the first step in writing a research paper? Not really!

So, stop mucking around stressing over the 'Hows and Whys' and kickstart the research paper writing process.

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A research paper outline is an invaluable tool in writing a research paper. It will provide the much-needed format for the fledging research paper. And this will help you to imagine better what you will need to write. Moreover, breaking the paper into small sections also makes the process of writing far less overwhelming.

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How to Write a Research Paper Outline?

You can follow these steps to start your research paper outline:

  1. Conduct thorough research on the topic that you have chosen
  2. Write all the ideas you want to discuss throughout the thesis
  3. Assemble related ideas into sub-groups
  4. Arrange the ideas into a hierarchy
  5. Create compelling and relatable headings and sub-headings
  6. Format the outline in either alphanumeric, decimal, or full-sentence format

Language in the Research Paper Outline

To outline a research paper properly, you must pay close attention to the language. This is especially vital if it is one you will show to your professor or be assessed on.

There are four primary considerations: Coordination, Division, Parallelism, and Subordination.

  • Coordination: Your chosen subheadings should hold the same significance as others. There should be no difference in importance between first sub-points, secondary sub-points, third sub-points, etc.
  • Division: Dividing the research paper outline will require you to break data into sub-points. Your headings should be divided into three or more subsections. There is no restriction to how many subsections you can include under every heading. But also bear in mind that the data will be structured into a paragraph during the writing stage. Therefore, you should not go overboard with the number of sub-points.
  • Parallelism: Be consistent with the grammatical format when writing your research paper. Parallelism, aka parallel structure, is the repetition of a particular grammatical form within a sentence. The recurrence can also occur between every point. This means that if the first point is a verb, the sub-point should also be a verb.
  • Subordination: You cannot afford to mix the general points with the specific facts. Therefore, you need to subordinate the issues. Subordination refers to the separation of the available points from the specific points. Your main headings should be quite general, and each level of sub-point should become more specific.

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And now coming to the main part of this blog – the formation of a research paper outline.

1. The Introduction

The introduction is a vital part of every academic work. It is the determining factor that tells whether a reader will continue with the paper or close the file. Therefore, an introduction should be engaging, informative, and intriguing, although without giving away much.

There are three significant points that make an impressive introduction:

  • Writing a hook: You can keep the hook’s length between one to five sentences depending on the overall volume of the research paper. The hook is the part that persuades readers to stay ‘hooked’ to the research paper. A hook should be interesting and provoking because you want to give a solid reason to your readers to read the paper. 
  • Defining the audience: You had to describe the audience for yourself in your pre-writing activities. Nevertheless, you must explain why they are your target audience to your reader. The entire text, for that matter, should be relatable. 
  • Thesis statement: Here, you state your list of arguments. You make a point about what you will discuss and why it is important. The statements should be simple but not dull. You want the audience to read your paper, especially after your research and the materials you have gone through.

2. The Body

The body is the heartiest part of a research paper; it includes many fact-rich subsections and will let you build upon your thesis statement by providing facts to support your paper. Besides elaborating on the opening section, this section also provides insight into the methods, including investigative answers to the questions pondered.

All the evidence you have gathered should go in this part. You state every idea and provide the required evidence. However, refrain from stating something you have no way of proving! Bear in mind that every sentence you state must be backed with substantial proof. Do not forget proper citation and valid references according to the needed paper format.

You may consider using a literature review in the body of your research paper. And if you believe so, document the literary sources used to support your hypothesis and theories. The topic of your writing and the chosen literature should be adjacent.

Must Read: Paragraph Structure

3. The Conclusion

The concluding part of the research paper has to summarise the arguments so the audience can understand the main idea behind writing the paper. Therefore, the conclusion should not be long but should contain all the vital parts that make the whole paper sink into the audience's memory.

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The conclusion must contain the following two parts:

  • Summary: In this considerably short section, you must state your strongest arguments. However, you need not provide a profound explanation of your shreds of evidence to each one of them. Instead, give a general overview of the arguments you used in the research paper.
  • A call to action: This is the very end of your research paper, and here you get a chance to provoke your readers. Discuss the final message to readers in this section. This is a one-liner, and you must choose the sentence after putting a lot of thought into it.

Parting words,

Your research paper must reflect your abilities to work independently and show the range of knowledge you already have and the one you have gathered. But this cannot happen without creating a good outline. So, keep taking notes and formulate a research paper outline to have a blueprint of the research paper.

Must Read: Personal Statement for Graduate School

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