How To Make An Outline For A Research Paper: 5 Simple Tricks

Too many students don’t bother with creating an outline before starting their research paper project. This is a terrible practice that needs to be eliminated from one’s academic habits (or non-habits). Outlines are extremely helpful in organizing your thoughts in a logical manner. It can take complicated information and create a hierarchical relationship between sub-topics, evidence, and examples and arrange them in a way that your reader can clearly and effectively understand what you are trying to say. Here are five simple tricks for creating an outline for a research paper:

Determine the purpose of your assignment:

The first trick is simply reviewing your assignment prompt and understanding what you are being asked to do. Some instructors will provide detailed instructions, complete with different questions for you to answer in your work. Other instructors, however, may leave choosing a topic up to you. In which case, you have to have an idea for the minimum requirements of your assignment.

Figure out who you are writing for:

This sounds like an easy exercise, but you would be surprised at how many students fail to create a good outline for their research paper because they don’t consider their audience. Most students will be writing for their instructors, however, there are some cases in which one will be writing for the class or a greater audience. Find out who you are writing for and keep this in mind when crafting your outline.

Conduct some preliminary research:

Work on a few topic ideas. They don’t have to be very detailed at this point but they should help you get started with some preliminary research. Do a little reading either at your university library or online. Narrow the focus on some of those ideas and write out a few questions on how you’re going to develop your assignment. These may turn out to be the sub-topics you explore.

Create a draft thesis for guidance:

Once you have finished narrowing your topic you can create a draft thesis for guidance. This should be listed in the introduction portion of your project and should relate with every other section included in the body paragraphs of your work. Each idea you have should easily connect with what your thesis is, even if you only have a draft version.

Brainstorm and organize your thoughts:

Lastly, brainstorm and organize your best thoughts on your topic. Cluster your ideas and group the supporting evidence you have found or hope to find when you start your in-depth research. Your paper should flow easily and logically, so order and re-order your ideas as they form the core of your outline.