Research paper outline -10 steps to writing an outline for a research paper

Otherwise known as a term paper, a research paper outline does not have any specific format.

There is an existing difference between writing a research paper and other literary inclined works. The first is that the usefulness of a research paper brings staunch intimidation and a daunting aura, unlike others that can be freely produced under light conditions with no demands for intensive research, accuracy and precision.

Before writing a research paper there’s a need for a subject area and an objective topic, one that can be defined.

A research paper should contain a thesis statement or hypothesis which explains to the reader the overall position or point of your argument and how you plan to advance your argument and persuade the reader.

10 steps to writing an outline for a research paper

Select a topic

Picking a topic is of much importance, one that can’t be overstressed.

Without a definite pointer, it would be difficult to develop a thesis, gather resources, formulate an outline or even complete a draft.

In some cases, your autonomy over such a decision may be reduced thus making the need to latch on to a provided subject viable.

There’s a difference between a subject and a topic, a subject or subjects are typically broad and general. Some examples of subjects are  Shakespeare’s plays, arts, and Cycling.  While a topic is related to the subject but covers a specific area. Topics would ask a question, show a cause and an effect, and further with comparisons.


Cycling: what effect does Cycling have on the human body as an exercise?.

Topics deal with specific areas, asking specific questions, the answers to these questions are the bedrock of a thesis.

In a case where no topic is given, how then does one bring out a topic from a broad subject?

There is no singular approach that guarantees such but rather there is a variety of ways to effect the transitioning from a broad spectrum to a simple topic. It should first emanate from interest, likes, and preferences.

Here are some ideas that specifically influence the selection of topics.

Course Notes, Cards, previous write-ups, Newspaper:

Sometimes the spark you require is somewhere in the past, Popular opinions, facts, and notions still don’t cover the use of a time machine but a newspaper can take you back as far as 1991, similar to notes and previous write-ups there is the possibility that you might find interest in one or two things there.


A technique used to solve problems and encourage creativity in which members of a group share their ideas about a subject. Brainstorming can be done by a solo captain not necessarily including an entourage of polymaths.

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Most of it encourages meticulous attempts to cypher and pen down potential questions that the subject brings to mind.

Utilize bonds, Rely on friends:

Sometimes it becomes individually difficult to propagate a topic, there’s only by faith a propensity that the newly cultivated topic would be of interest to persons aside from you.

The bond you share with others can come to play. Enlist the help of your friends in selecting a topic, get them to listen to your ideas, and engage it with constructive criticism one blind to prejudice. Make use of whatever idea they can provide if need be, and involve a third party.

Use the library:

Some library contains a series of specially selected topics of interest. Much of what is required here is to browse and collect what can serve as a pointer and help for a topic.

One essential thing to hold on to while delving into a topic is to make sure whatever conclusion you draw as a topic is arguable. Put in mind that your ability to argue for your thesis is what makes your research paper a research paper.

Narrowing topics; maintaining focus:

Reaching this point is only a result of a topic creation- breaking down a subject into a simple comprehensible topic.

But it shouldn’t end there; a topic should be narrower than a subject’s failure. To achieve this would result in Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity or Aristotle’s vague characterizations of senses.

Here are some questions worth mincing over while narrowing topics:

Length of the work:

How long is the paper?

The longer the paper, the broader the topic: The breadth of the topic must parallel the paper’s length. There’d surely be a problem if making an abysmal analysis on an A5 paper; all adequately expressed points won’t serve any good if it doesn’t reflect on the paper.

Time-how much time do you have?

The more time available for elapsing emphasizes a sophisticated expectancy. The more time you have, the more deep and intelligible sculpt your research topic is to be.

Topics should be scaled on resources and their availability, if your work is seldom written about and the library’s collection is devoid of resources in that area, you might be in a pickle. Opt for topics that put you at arms reach with resources, this would promote ease and adequate management of time.

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Type of resources needed

Requirements and resources at times help in topics. If it’s compulsive to utilize published journal articles in your final paper then it should occur to you that a new face to publicity or prominence shouldn’t be the main object of your work, such as the major NBA debutant whose appearance was first seen yesterday.

Such won’t leave you with many materials to work with, owing to the little documentation made by other journal articles. howbeit if it’s an incentive to make use of newspaper publications or news archives for your project, then it’d be that they’re many disposal materials for your project.

Developing The Thesis Statement Of The Research Paper

The backbone of the research paper as it is mildly addressed is what makes a research paper a research paper. A thesis in line with the comprehension of Merriam Webster’s is “a proposition to be proved”.

It’s weighty that this statement accurately reflects the purpose and direction of the paper. A paper lacking a fully developed thesis statement would be fully equipped to dispense unclarity with little or no meaning and purpose.

Should there be a reason for confusion, endeavour to meditate on the area that feels uneasy to grasp, this is needful and would make the remaining content easy to digest, let’s proceed.

How to write a thesis statement?

A thesis is mostly a single sentence.

The thesis makes a claim about your topic: it’s not a mere statement of fact, you should put in mind that a thesis is what holds your claims regarding your topic.

A well-developed thesis statement “asks to have more said about it. It should have a paradigm.

Example of topics turned into statements;

Urban recycling programs have a positive effect on a community by reducing the costs associated with waste management.

Children who watch too much television are less likely to have well-developed social skills.- Encyclopedia Britannica Ultimate reference.

The first statement might not reflect on your final paper owing to the fact that it won’t be used. Why so?

During the course of your research expedition where more resources are gathered, it’s possible that a realization would be brokered one that brings to light the narrowness or broadness of the statement. Upon that, it may also be realized that the possibility of appropriating reasoning with it might be implausibly thin.

This doesn’t mean that it can’t be written on. It just simulates you to probe further so as to get concrete cases to support you for or against the statement before keeping it as a topic.

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Gathering Resources

This is where the research comes in. This is more of a process than an event. There is no guarantee that all you’d require would be uncovered on a single trip to the community library or a brief glance at the local newspaper. As your research is being conducted you’d be exposed to more parts of the topic you weren’t originally oriented on.

First-hand materials or better known as primary resources such as maps, stats, graphs, interviews, charts, etc. Possess no interpretation or subject analysis they are raw data, empirical intelligence, and transcripts.

Secondary sources are writings about primary sources, or pieces of information gotten from them, such as opinions, revisions, and summaries.

Creating an outline

Following the creation of a thesis statement, there should be a need to organize your thoughts lucidly so that the rest of your paper represents the main point of your argument.

An outline is a skeletal structure or framework for your paper. The use of this alongside the already sourced work is to construct a convincing argument and make it practical.

There are infinite ways to go about with an outline the most doable by reason of the constant use is to begin by writing your thesis statement at the top of a page and to focus your outline around the statement.

To prove the thesis statement valid or not, you’ll need to break it down to smaller topics that’ll promote arguments. To determine the topics of such, write down a few reasons promoting your beliefs. make use of notes taken during your resourcing.

For each of your sub-topics, formulate a few other supporting statements, these statements should come from your research notes and would be the center focus of each paragraph.

Proofread, edit and revise.

This happens to be one of the most important stages and however, you take this portion would determine the output of your research paper.

  • Ask a second party for reviews:
  • Employ the aid of a person to help proofread your paper for possible grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and junk content.
  • Read out loud.

Even though it’s not passed as an oral presentation, it should still be read aloud. By doing so, the problems with the final work would easily be detected.

Use spelling and grammar checkers. Has this given you understanding?


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