How To Write An Outline: A Step-by-Step Guide

how to write an outline

If you want to write a great paper or essay, the first step is preparing a detailed outline. An outline is an excellent method of planning your research paper before starting to write it down.

However, it is never easy for most students, making some of them simply jump into writing their papers without a clear plan. This is one of the biggest mistakes that students make, but we are here to help you avoid it and prepare top-notch assignments.

This post is a step-by-step guideline on how to do an outline for your paper. We will also provide a sample research paper outline template and expert tips to help you make the paper structure outstanding.

What Is An Outline?

An outline for a research paper presents the actual picture of the primary ideas about a selected topic or subject. It entails preparing quick summary phrases or sentences on the points that are going to be covered in your paper. With the right paper outline, it becomes pretty easy to prepare your paper, ensuring the ideas flow seamlessly from the beginning to the end.

Note that a high quality outline does not just work for research papers, but for all types of writings. So, whether you are working on a speech, novel, book review, essay, or essay, starting it with an outline will be the best idea.

Importance Of Using A Proper Outline Format Gor Your Papers

Getting an answer to the question “what is an outline in writing?” is only the beginning. What is more important is determining why it is necessary. In some schools, the outline is likely to be part of the main requirements from your university lecturer. This way, the teacher will be able to assess whether you are on the right track and recommend changes.

Even if your school teachers do not require students to prepare paper outlines, it is still very important when preparing assignments.

As we have indicated, preparing a research outline can help you to stick to the main points. Take the example of an essay with a topic like “how to address global warming, which can have so many points. In such a case, the outline helps you to narrow down on the core points and prepare high-quality papers.

How To Write A Paper Outline

To write a great outline, you need to comprehensively read about the topic under consideration, pick the main ideas, and arrange them from start to end. Because we have already looked at the definition of outline in writing, let’s dig deeper into the main steps of crafting it.

The process of preparing a research paper outline can be broken down into four stages: Planning the outline, structuring it, organizing the main ideas, and finalizing.

  1. Step One: Planning the Outline
    The very first step is to plan the outline, as in prepare your topic and what you are going to write about. Here are more details:

    • Pick the Right Topic for Your Paper or Essay
      The first step in planning your outline is narrowing down your subject or topic. A research paper outline helps to organize ideas about a specific topic. Therefore, you need to pick the right topic for the paper by identifying an area of interest. Also, the topic should be broad enough so that you get ample materials to write about. If your teacher was specific about the topic, make sure to follow his/her recommendations.
    • Determine the Purpose of the Essay and Identify the Targeted Audience
      As we pointed out already, the purpose of preparing an outline can be for personal use, such as writing an essay, or as a separate assignment. If it is an assignment, the outline should be as detailed as possible because it will be read by your class teacher. However, an outline that will only be used for the paper under consideration can be prepared in a manner that works best for you. For example, you can prepare it in shorthand and expand on the points when preparing the research paper.
    • Assemble All the Materials that Will Be Required
      Before you can start preparing the outline, make sure to have all the materials that will be involved. These include quotes, statistics, paraphrased ideas, and personal experiences. It will be an excellent idea to brainstorm the ideas to ensure that everything that will be required in the paper is included. However, this does not lock out the need to enrich or add more supporting ideas along the way to improve the paper.
    • Identify the Main Points and a Write the Thesis Statement for the Essay
      As you read through the materials to use for the research paper, make sure to identify the core points or ideas that will be discussed. Then, pick the supporting information. If you are writing a standard five-paragraph essay, the main ideas should be three to four, with each followed by supporting information under it.

      In addition to the main points, you need to write down the main thesis of the paper. This is your stand on the paper and it will be evident in the entire write-up. You will also need to restate the thesis in the conclusion when summarizing the paper. Therefore, make sure the thesis is as candid as possible in your outline.

  2. Step Two: Structure the Thesis of Your Paper

    Most outlines use alphanumeric format, with each part being labeled with numbers or letters. So, you can opt to use Roman numerals, Arabic numerals, or capitalized letters, among others. The idea is to remain consistent with the numbering so that it is easy to know the main ideas and the supporting points.

    Still on the structure of the outline format, you need to make the decision on the type of sentences to use. The most preferred options are short and full sentences:

    • Short sentences: These are recommended when you want to quickly organize the main points for an essay, and the outline is not a separate assignment for marking by your teachers.
    • Full sentences: This provides more details about the paper you are planning to work on. It requires you to have more information about each idea and works excellently when the outline is part of the class assignment.
  3. Step Three: Organize the Main Ideas

    The primary goal of an outline research paper format is to organize the core ideas so that it is easy to write for the student and understandable for the reader. In this stage, you need to cluster the main points together. For example, what ideas should go into the introduction, body, and conclusion? Here is a demonstration of how to arrange them:

    • Group the Main Ideas Together and Supporting Information Under Them
      Check out the ideas that you listed for the paper and sort them out based on their strength. You can eliminate those that look irrelevant or with less weight. Remember to factor in the length of the paper to avoid selecting too few points that will not be enough.

      Once you have selected the main ideas, go into further detail by capturing the supporting details. If you are writing an essay, such as “The Causes of Global Warming,” one of the main ideas might be “the release of greenhouse gasses (GHG) by industries.” Under this point, supporting information might be statistics about industrial emissions, scientific confirmations about industrial GHG, concerns raised by different parties, related quotes, and efforts adopted to stop the problem.

      Repeat this for every major idea. If you have picked quotes and numbers, be sure to capture them because they make the outline and research paper to look professional and earn more marks.

    • Put Together Your Outline
      Now that you have the main ideas and supporting points, it is time to stitch them together. Remember that the main ideas should also include the information for the introduction and conclusion of the paper. If you are using the outline to prepare a research paper or essay, make it flexible. This means new details about the topic you are working on should be easy to incorporate along the way.
  4. Step Four: Review Your Outline

    The last step of preparing a research paper outline is reviewing it to ensure it is done in line with your school requirements. So, carefully review the structure, main points, thesis, and spelling. Even if you are not doing the outline as a separate assignment, reviewing it can help to identify areas that require updating before starting to work on the main paper or essay.

What Does An Outline Look Like?

Below is a good research paper outline example to help you craft a better one for your research paper.

  1. The Topic of Your Essay or Paper
  2. Introduction of the Paper
    • The hook statement
    • The background of the paper
    • The thesis statement of the paper
  3. The first main idea of the essay
    • Supporting information one.
    • Supporting information two.
    • Supporting information three.
    • Supporting information four.
  4. The second main idea of the essay
    • Supporting information one.
    • Supporting information two.
    • Supporting information three.
    • Supporting information four.
  5. The third main idea of the essay
    • Supporting information one.
    • Supporting information two.
    • Supporting information three.
    • Supporting information four.
  6. Conclusion of the Paper
    • Thesis restate and summary of the main points to be used in the paper.

Special Tips For Writing A Great Outline For Your Paper

Here are additional tips on how to write an outline for your research paper that can be a great term papers help when you need it.

  • Research your topic comprehensively to identify the best ideas for your paper.
  • Keep your eyes focused on the final paper that will be prepared using the outline.
  • Keep your mind open with the intention of enriching the outline and the paper if new information about the topic is found.
  • Reading through other research paper outlines can be very helpful in ensuring your format is more detailed.
  • Put a lot of focus on the flow of the main and supporting information from the beginning to the end.
  • No matter the topic under consideration, always follow your lecturer’s recommendations.
  • Make sure to edit the research paper outline before submitting it to your class teacher for marking.

Seek Expert Assistance When Writing Paper Outline

In this post, we have demonstrated how to write an outline, which should precede writing your paper or essay. So, do you find it easy to prepare now? If it is still challenging, know that you are not alone. A lot of students find it pretty complicated to prepare the outlines and their papers. Poor research skills, lack of ample time, and complex topics are some of the main challenges that make preparing good outlines and assignments hard nuts to crack.

The best way out is to work with our paper writing service. We have skilled writers that you can count on to prepare top-notch outlines and offer all the help you will need. They have handled similar tasks before and will easily clear your work on time to guarantee you the best grade. Even if you have multiple engagements and are wondering how to handle the assignments at hand, the expert writers are waiting online to help.

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