How to Write a Research Paper Outline

Sooner or later, a teacher or professor is going to want you to write an outline for your research paper. This might seem unreasonable piling on by your instructor, but term paper outlines actually help you build a blueprint for your paper, while getting your thoughts organized. So knowing how to write a research paper outline not only helps you get a better grade by satisfying your teacher’s whims, but it also helps you get a better grade, by helping you write a better essays.

Writing a Research Paper

Here’s are some tips for writing a research paper and summarizing it by providing an outline you can follow while writing.

Write a Thesis Statement

A “thesis statement” states the argument you are going to make in your essay. A thesis statement is a concise statement of the argument your are going to make. This statement is not a fact, but requires proof of some sort. The rest of your research paper is meant to be research and evidence presented that supports your argument or thesis.

Remember, a thesis is defined as an “unproved statement” put forward as the premise of an argument. Therefore, a thesis statement states the premise of your entire research paper. Your thesis should be stated in the first paragraph of your research paper, then everything else in the paper should go to proving that thesis. In the outline, it should be summed up in one sentence.

Example Thesis: Grape is the tastiest flavor of bubble gum on the market.

Write Your Outline – Use the Thesis as a Guideline

Next, start your outline. Major points in the outline are going to be numbered with roman numerals (I, II, III, IV, etc). This divides your research into various broad categories. This sets out the various methods you’re going to use to prove or disprove your thesis (disproving your thesis is valid, too).

Another way to look at the roman numeral outline points is they are different ways you’re going to look at the arguments. To prove that grape is the best flavor gum, you might divide the arguments into “Sales Figures”, “Taste Tests” and “Personal Endorsements”.

Proofs – Dissecting Your Research

Next, you’ll want to add alphebetical sub-headings underneath your roman numerals. These is going to be specific research under each of the headings we gave earlier: sales figures, taste tests and personal endorsements.

Under “Sales Figures”, you’ll want to get your hands on the sales data for each of the major companies, to show that the big gum companies sell more grape units than other units. Next, you might want to qualify those sales figures by seeing how much those companies push their grape products, by showing the amount of marketing that features grape ads. This might be harder to get, so you’ll probably have less space devoted to this in your actual term paper, so put it second in rank of importance.

How to Write a Research Paper Outline

How to Write a Research Paper Outline

Next, move on to taste tests. You’ll want to see what consumer polling shows, from taste tests over the years. Then you might want to conduct your own research, asking 10 or 20 different friends or family members which flavor gum is their favorite. Since the national taste tests involve a larger sampling, you’ll give it precedence in your essay.

Finally, you’ll want to look at personal endorsements. Here’s where your arguments get more subjective and spotty, but you can also switch gears and talk about depictions of gum in the culture. Start with celebrity endorsements and other famous people who have ever mentioned their favorite type of gum. Then move from paid endorsements to the placement of bubblegum flavors in the pop culture, to show that grape is mentioned more often in art, and therefore has made a bigger impressions on the culture as a whole.

Now you have your research paper outline. Below, you have a thesis, three methods to prove or disprove you thesis, and data to elaborate on those three methods. Once you pour through all that information, you’ll come to a conclusion about your thesis. Remember that when you write your paper, you’ll want to conclude your research paper with a paragraph or two summarizes your research, then coming to a definite conclusion.

This conclusion would read something like “…proves that grape is the best tasting bubblegum, according to sales figures, taste tests and references in the culture”. Or “…disproves that grape is clearly the best tasting flavor of bubblegum, due to lack of evidence through sales figures, consumer polls and pop culture references.” But that’s for later; right now, you have an research paper outline to hand to your teacher.

Thesis: Grape is the tastiest flavor of bubble gum on the market.

If your professor doesn’t dismiss your patently silly topic out-of-hand, you now can proceed with your research paper. Listen to any suggestions from your instructor as to changing points in your outline, if he or she doesn’t think they are cogent or likely to be provable. Ask for methods to prove any assertions that you’re having trouble proving. Writing your essay will be a lot easier, once you know how to write a research paper outline.

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