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How to Teach Research Papers - Creating an Outline

Updated on February 28, 2013

Creating an Outline

After one has developed his or her thesis for a research paper, the next step is to create an outline. The outline serves the purpose of providing a structure for the actual research and note taking process. Through the information that has been gathered initially and the sources that have been reviewed, a researcher has an idea of what kind of information is out there and the direction that he or she can take the research paper in.

Using the thesis as a guide, it is up to the researcher to determine what information is going to be important in proving that thesis. At this point, the outline is not going to be super detailed. As mentioned before, it is simply a guide to the research. It can be updated later one, and will be prior to the drafting stage, but at this point, it is all about creating that map for research.

First the student needs to identify the thesis statement at the top of the outline. As with all essay writing, this statement is one that the student needs to continue to return to in order to ensure that the paper is focused.

After the student has written the thesis statement, instruct him or her to then identify the categories that are part of the research. Perhaps it's as simple as chronological events in the life of the subject. In other cases it may be different elements of the subject, broken down. Regardless of the categories, they need to be identified so when one goes to take notes, he or she knows what to look for.

Below is an example of what the outline should look like at this point.

Don't worry if the categories seem vague. They will be at this point. It's just enough to provide direction to the research. Once the outline is complete, then students can move on to note cards.


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      Reegan 3 years ago

      It's a plasruee to find someone who can identify the issues so clearly