Download Research Paper Outline Template | PDF

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Outlining your paper before you write it is an important step because it will let you organize your thoughts. This will help guide your thought process and organize evidence and arguments, but it will also help keep you from including redundant points and unnecessary information.

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How to Write

Any paper outline should contain an introduction, body, conclusion, and possibly references or a title page. Dividing the body with subheadings and dividing subheadings if needed will certainly benefit you as well by streamlining the process.

For your introduction, you want to introduce your paper in a compelling way. You can do this with a relevant quote, an engaging narrative, or another method. Then transition to a more important element: your thesis. This statement will present the primary argument of your paper in concise, authoritative language. Make sure your thesis is specific as well, or else it could confuse the reader. You can also include the major points you will make in the body.

Then you will transition into the first argument that supports your thesis. Like your thesis, each major point needs to be clear, and they must relate to your thesis. For example, if the thesis is that the play King Lear demonstrates how a myopic selfishness can cloud one’s judgment, some of your major points could be key instances where a character acted from shortsighted self-interest that ultimately harmed that character (and perhaps others). Under each main point, you would write sub-points that included evidence that supported each point.

To write the paper, you would then explain how the evidence would support each main point, and relate each main point to the thesis. This is a basic model; some main points could be separate arguments entirely, rather than similar assertions.

Finally, the conclusion should essentially restate the thesis, although in a revamped way, and very briefly mention supporting points without merely restating all of them. To make your ending more powerful, you could fold the thesis into a greater context. Staying with the King Lear example, you could state what you believe the thesis says about human life in general, human relations, or some related topic.

Example

Here is an example of a research paper outline:

I. Introduction

The intro should grab the reader’s attention and move swiftly into the thesis statement, which will condense your overarching argument into a concise, authoritative claim.

II. Body

1. First Point

a. (support for your first point with evidence, research, statistics, etc.)

i.
ii.
iii.

b.
c.

2. Second Point

a. (support for your second point)
b.
c.

3. Third Point

a. (support for your third point)
b.
c.

III. Conclusion

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