Making a brief outline for your research paper


When you write a research paper, you will need to follow the step-by-step instructions that your instructor assigns. Many instructors, especially writing and language arts instructors, will assign grades based on the process of writing as well as the quality of the writing. This means that you will need to show your work in the form of outlines, brainstorming, and rough drafts. Even if you dread the idea of showing evidence of writing, you can rest assured that it is actually quite easy to craft a brief outline for your research paper.

Too many students think that they can just “wing it” and write what they think is a good research paper. Nearly every time that a student tried to just write a research paper, the paper turns out to be poorly organized and full of errors. In order to avoid problems with organization, students simply need a brief outline. This is what should be included in it:

  1. Claim: Using the prompt or other requirements, students need to decide on a claim, which will be the guiding idea of their research paper. This should be the first part of the outline.
  2. Support topics: Your claim will need to be supported by smaller topics which will guide the structure of the body paragraphs. The number of paragraphs that you need will be determined by your instructor. Depending on how brief you want your outline to be, you can write short phrases or single words to represent the topics, or you can write the topic sentences for the topics. If you need to show an opposing opinion, be sure to include that requirement. When you write these in an outline form, you can see the organization of your entire paper and make decisions about the placement of each paragraph. It is easier to move them in the outlining stage rather than in the drafting and polishing stages.
  3. Details: Below the individual support topics, you could include some details. It can be helpful to leave space below the different topics in case you have an idea for a detail that you want to record. These details will be the items that you discover while you are researching.
  4. Conclusion: Many students will include a few ideas for their conclusion, like a call to action or a list of questions to get the reader thinking more about the topic.

Posted by December 6th, 2016