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How to write a research paper outline: make sure you're skilled enough

If you are writing a research paper you will need to make sure you’re skilled enough. How can you make sure of this? By not only writing a great outline but following the steps below:

  • Step 1:
  • You want to choose your topic. It is best to find a topic that will challenge you and is interesting to you. Your attitude toward your topic will directly influence the amount of effort you will put into researching it and writing it. Try and limit your topic. Narrow it down a bit, as almost every first topic is too broad a topic to fit into the number of pages required. Ask your teacher to approve the topic before you start writing. If you are uncertain as to what you need to do for the project, read over your assignment details again and ask for help or direction from the teacher. Make sure you pick a topic that you are able to manage. Do not pick something that is too specialized or too technical for you to complete by the deadline. Avoid topics that have a narrow amount of available research materials.

  • Step 2: State the thesis
  • Use those critical thinking skills of yours and write down a single sentence thesis. Pretend as though the thesis is meant to be a declaration for your paper, a single sentence summary that will tell everyone who is listening what your paper is about. The majority of your essay is intended to support the statement or argument you make in your thesis.

  • Step 3: Create an outline
  • When creating an outline, it is important that all of the points you include relate to your major topic. Below is an outline example for a paper on Thomas Jefferson:

  1. INTRODUCTION - (Brief comment that leads to the subject of your paper, followed by the thesis statement on Thomas Jefferson)

  2. BODY - Thomas Jefferson's Early Life, his Marriage, presidency, Later Years

    • - Early life

    • Jefferson's family

      • - Jefferson's father
      • - Jefferson's mother

      Jefferson's marriage

      • - Life of his wife
      • - Influence in his political decisions

    • - Jefferson’s Presidency

    • Major changes

      • - Emancipation Proclamation

    • - Jefferson's Later Years

    • Retirement


    • - Analytical summary
    • - Thesis reworded
    • - Concluding statement