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Best Tips on How to Write a Research Paper Outline

Hand-to-mouth students are prone to underestimating the importance of writing a research paper outline. It’s a grave mistake, but they still do it time after time and keep on wondering why lecturers gave them C instead of B.

Truth is, paper without an outline never gets an A. Believe it or not, this rule of thumb works for any research paper of any length, any subject area, and any complexity.

What is a research paper outline and why it’s so important? In fact, the outline is a schematic representation of your research paper, highlighting its main landmarks, cornerstones and key sections. Outline, which can be also called a writing plan, adds the notion of consistency to your writing, keeping all your notes, quotes, ideas, thoughts and speculations in one piece. Think of your outline as a step-by-step writing roadmap, which notes up your current progress and shows where to move on next.

Winning college research paper outline structure

Students usually wonder how to write a research paper outline in a quality manner. If your professor gave you full freedom in terms of picking the outline format, here’s the one to stick to. As a rule, a college research paper outline looks like a complex bullet-list with points and sub-points marked off by Roman numerals (first level points), English alphabet (second level sub-points) and numerals (third level sub-points). Going down to the level four of sub-points is not recommended.

Each argument research paper outline has to be presented in the form of a short five-word sentence conveying the main meaning of the paragraph. Since one complete idea with an argument, evidence and quotes have to fit into one paragraph, the outline is the finest way to track and manage content of the entire paper. Plus, should your supervisor want to check out the current status of your paper, fetching her outline will be the best way to do it. Here’s how the simple outline example will look like:

  • First level point
    1. second level sub-point
      1. third level sub-point
      2. third level sub-point
      3. third level sub-point
    2. second level sub-point
      1. third level sub-point
      2. third level sub-point
      3. third level sub-point
  • First level point
      1. second level sub-point
        1. third level sub-point
        2. third level sub-point
        3. third level sub-point
      2. second level sub-point
        1. third level sub-point
        2. third level sub-point
        3. third level sub-point
  • First level point
          1. second level sub-point
            1. third level sub-point
            2. third level sub-point
            3. third level sub-point
          2. second level sub-point
            1. third level sub-point
            2. third level sub-point
            3. third level sub-point

One final piece of advice

Writing a research paper outline is highly advised even if you’re writing an essay or the plan isn’t required in the task specifications. Do it for you, the very person who’s interested in writing a persuasive paper fast. And it is here where the outline is the thing that gives a solid competitive edge.