Research Paper Outline. A Guide to How to Write an Outline for a Research Paper
Can you imagine cooking your favourite meal for the first time without having step-by-step instructions? It is easy to get lost! Just like a wanderer who cannot find a way out of the woods, a writer needs to know how to write an outline for a research paper. It will prevent one from facing writer’s block. In this article, we are going to discuss what does an outline look like, what's it concept and goals and view some vivid examples.
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Concept & Goals of a Research Paper Outline
What is an outline and why does it matter? A research paper outline is a plan written by the author to avoid stucking in the middle of the process. Call it an action plan. This part reveals the primary ideas of the study. Once a writer is done with the list of research paper topics to explore, it is necessary to dedicate some time to the outline development.
What is the difference between learning how to write a research paper outline and how to make a table of contents? Well, an outline is not that detailed, and there is no need to put numbers of pages next to each section. An outline allows the amalgamation and review of the study. A writer will not repeat their words; he will stick to the logical flow with the help of an outline.
The assignment’s prompt may not say to write an outline. However, if a project is more than 1000 words in length, a professor utilizes a research paper outline by default. For example, a 5-paragraph essay requires an outline. It will not be possible to develop a 10,000-word coursework or dissertation without having a plan. An outline structure depends on the type of academic assignment and its format.
MLA Research Paper Outline
MLA is the easiest and most frequently met research paper format, so we should start explaining how to write an outline for a research paper on this example. The Modern Language Association proposed this guide a long time ago. It is used to cite works by the students and professionals from the following fields:
- Comparative literary analysis
- Cultural studies
- History & Anthropology
- English Composition
- Foreign language & literature
- Literary criticism
Use MLA outline when working on the papers from these fields. Start with the primary headings (“Intro” and “Method”) using the upper-case Roman numerals. If the paper is long, with many different subsections, the student should use letters and numbers for the various levels of subheadings.
In a draft, arrange the things in the proper order. Do not go into details until starting the final version of the research paper outline. This part defines how the writer will come up with other integral parts (example: Literature Review).
Use a couple of tips from college professors.
- Depending on the tool a writer uses to create documents, he/she should make sure if the different levels of the outline (II, B, 3, c, j) correspond to the headings in the Microsoft Word as most professors accept only DOC & DOCS format.
- MLA changes its writing guide! Before developing an outline for a research paper, read a recently released version of the manual to see if there are any changes to this resaerch paper format.
Mastering APA Research Paper Outline
An APA is a most frequently used format when it comes to writing a research paper, and it is more complicated than MLA. The American Psychological Association has established it. Students and professionals use APA essay format in these fields:
- Social sciences
- Healthcare & nursing
The representatives of other fields apply APA paper format from time to time too. We have prepared a tasty infographic with an APA outline example, which is based on the 6th edition of the manual.
Let’s view that structure in details.
A Detailed Outline
There are several critical elements you should consider in your research paper:
It is the opening section to introduce the major details. The length of the recommended title is 60 characters. On the whole, do not miss this information in the title page:
- Your full name
- Professor’s name
- Peers who took part in the investigation (if any)
- Submission date
A summary is an integral part of the research paper. In college, they call it an abstract. The length of such text should not exceed 250-300 words (1/3 of an A4 page), and a student should include the basic findings, their significance, and a brief conclusion.
Experts recommend painstaking the entire research into the investigation’s background. Try to explain why the chosen problem is necessary to analyze and discuss. Mention the results you expected to obtain during the working process, and state a hypothesis that should enclose the introduction (it would be the thesis). Also, don’t forget to mention the thesis statement or the topic of your research.
List the tools, equipment, & techniques used to carry out a study. This section should make it possible to replicate the investigation step-by-step. The goal of the section is to allow other scientists interested in the same research question to continue the investigation.
In most cases, master paper writers combine results and discussion in one huge section. They are interrelated. Start with sharing the findings of the study. Go on interpreting the meaning of the results for the society and provide a short synopsis of the main components: figures and statistical examinations. While adding any visual elements for understanding (graphs, images, etc.), place the numbers next to each of them to provide details in the last section — Appendix.
In the Conclusion part, it is necessary to include:
- A summary of the results
- Paraphrased thesis statement
- Value of the research paper
- Ways to implement the findings
- Some forecasts
Based on the chosen paper format, develop a full list of references. Each time you cite something, write the source’s details on a separate piece of paper. It will speed up the process at the end.
Things to Remember
- An outline is like an action plan which guides you through the writing process.
- You need to write an outline if your assignment is more than 1000 words in lenght.
- Basically, the outline contains three main sections: the Introduction, the Body and the Conclusion.
- The outline format depends on the type of academic assignment (MLA, APA).
- Before developing a research paper outline, read the latest version of the manual according to the chosen format of the research paper.
Research Paper Outline Example
Also, check free research paper outline template example: Developing an Attention-Grabbing Resume! The example is written according to APA writing style guidelines - the rules of the game maybe be different for other formats.