Building an Effective Research Paper Outline – Free Tutorial

Every research paper requires an outline before you start writing the main body. It helps you organize your thoughts and clearly determine the issues that will be touched on. Although it sounds like hard work, following some crucial rules will make it quite easy.

Main Steps of Constructing Your Outline Properly

By creating a quality outline, you can concentrate only on the relevant points of your research and keep this process under control. Some crucial rules to remember while preparing a good research paper outline are listed below:

  1. Formulate a topic of your paper and write a heading.
  2. Your paper heading must express the main idea you plan to cover in this work and it coincides with an outline heading.

  3. Create categories, subcategories, and paragraphs, if needed.
  4. How many levels of categorization you will have depends on the length and complexity of your paper.

  5. Choose the proper outline type.
  6. It can be either sentence outline, where all the headings are written in full sentences, or a topic outline that uses short phrases or even single words for headings. The first one is good when you explore one complex issue in your work, while the other will be helpful when you touch on several different points and compare them.

  7. Organize your outline style according to the main rules.
  8. The first level of headings is usually ordered with Roman numerals, second level categories with capital letters, third level ones with numbers, and fourth level subpoints (if needed at all) with lowercase letters. Mind proper capitalization as well. Topic outline usually implies capitalizing first letter of every word in a heading, while sentence outline means sticking to standard sentence capitalization rules. It is better to consult with your teacher on this point.

Simple Tricks to Keep in Mind on Making a Perfect Outline

Proper outline structure is essential. You should determine in which order to consider all the main points of your research paper and reflect it in the outline. It will help you write your work easily and logically, connect its parts, avoid needless distractions from the main topic, and develop your thoughts gradually from introduction to conclusion.

Each heading should be divided into at least two subcategories. Be careful not to overwhelm your outline with too many unnecessary subpoints.

Headings of the same level must be equal in terms of style and importance of the problems described under them.

The total length of the outline must be no more than one quarter of the whole paper.

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