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How to Write an Outline for a Research Paper

One of the initial steps of writing a research paper is to create an outline. An outline helps you organize your ideas and keep your paper on track. The idea behind an outline is to jot down the main ideas that you will be discussing in a sequential order so that it makes sense. This can help you write your thesis sentence and also make sure that you have enough information to write a solid paper on your topic.

When you create an outline, it is important to separate the main ideas from the supporting details. The best way to do this is format your outline so that all main ideas are classified under the same numbering or lettering system. One of the most common systems is the use of Roman Numerals to identify the main paragraphs.

Supporting details are usually identified using capital letters. And further break down is identified using lower case letters.

Here is an example of an outline structure:

  1. Introduction

    A. Background information

    a. Background facts

    b. Definitions

    B. Thesis sentence

  2. Body paragraph one

    A. Fact one

    B. Fact two

  3. Body paragraph two
  4. Body paragraph three
  5. Conclusion

This is a general guideline as to how you can set up your outline. It has all of the main paragraph points identified by roman numerals. You can also see that the supporting details are labeled with capital letters and are indented. This is to help them stand out. You know that when there is an indentation that you are talking about a sub section and would be included in the same paragraph.

You want to ensure that each body paragraph has around the same amount of evidence. So if you find that your outline is giving a lot of information for one paragraph and not the others, you should concentrate your efforts on finding more facts for the less covered subjects. Also you can ensure that all of the points directly prove your thesis statement. It is easier to tell when you use an outline because you can simply run down the line and see that the idea is not a tangent.

You can then use this outline to continue to add more and more information. You can fill it out into great ideas and use it as a guide to write your paper. You would really only need to add a few transitions and some explanations and you have a paper.

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