College outline for research paper

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Keep matters of length in mind. Your outline should run no longer than one-quarter to one-fifth the total estimated size of your final research paper. For a four to five page paper, you only need a single page outline. For a 15 to 20 page paper, your outline will usually run no longer than four pages. Familiarize yourself with a one-level outline.

How to Write a Research Essay: Topic, Outline - EssayPro

A one-level outline only uses major headings and no subheadings. Note that you would not usually use this outline for a research paper, as it is not very specific or detailed. It can still be a good idea to start with this outline level, however, since you can use it to provide yourself with a general direction for your paper and expand upon it as the information flows in. Move onto a two-level outline.


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Two-level outlines are a little more common for research papers. You utilize major headings and one level of subheadings. Each second-level subheading should discuss a primary supporting argument for the main idea it falls under.

Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper: Making an Outline

Progress to a three-level outline. A three-level outline is even more complex, but if done right, it can help you to structure your research paper even more thoroughly. You use Roman numerals, capital letters, and standard numbers for this version. Next to each third-level subsection, you should address the topic of a paragraph that falls under the corresponding second-level section or main idea above it. Use a four-level outline, when necessary.

These outlines are about the most complex you would expect to need for a research paper, and if you choose this structure, you will use Roman numerals, capital letters, standard numbers, and lowercase letters for your levels. The fourth-level subheadings should address supporting statements, citations, or ideas within each paragraph listed in the third-level sections.

Everything You Need to Know When You Write a Research Essay

Use parallelism. Every heading and subheading should maintain a structure that is parallel to the other headings within its level. Parallelism also refers to parts of speech and tense. If a heading starts with a verb, then the other headings must also start with a verb. Moreover, that verb must also be in the same tense usually present tense. Coordinate your information. The information provided by your first major heading should be equal in importance to the information offered in your second major heading. The same can be said of sentences in subheadings, as well.

Your subheadings should elaborate on the points addressed in your major headings. Employ effective subordination. The information in your headings should be general and the subheadings should be more specific. For instance, if you were writing about memorable experiences from your childhood, "Memorable Childhood Experiences" would be the heading and the subheadings might look something like, "Vacation at 8 years old," "Favorite birthday party," and "Family trips to the park. Practice division. Each major heading should be divided into two or more parts.

Research paper outline format

In other words, you should have at least two subheadings for every major heading. There is no limit on subheadings, but once you start forming a dozen or so subheadings under a single heading, you might find your outline looking cluttered and messy. Identify the research problem.

As you prepare to write your outline, you need to specifically identify the research problem you are trying to address. This will guide the entire formation of your outline and your paper. Outlining your first draft by listing each paragraph's topic sentence can be an easy way to ensure that each of your paragraphs is serving a specific purpose in your paper.

You may find opportunities to combine or eliminate potential paragraphs when outlining—first drafts often contain repetitive ideas or sections that stall, rather than advance, the paper's central argument. Additionally, if you are having trouble revising a paper, making an outline of each paragraph and its topic sentence after you have written your paper can be an effective way of identifying a paper's strengths and weaknesses.

The following outline is for a page paper discussing the link between educational attainment and health. Review the other sections of this page for more detailed information about each component of this outline! Major Point 4: People with more financial worries have more stress and worse physical health. Your introduction provides context to your readers to prepare them for your paper's argument or purpose.

An introduction should begin with discussion of your specific topic not a broad background overview and provide just enough context definitions of key terms, for example to prepare your readers for your thesis or purpose statement. A thesis or purpose statement should come at the end of your introduction and state clearly and concisely what the purpose or central argument of your paper is.

The introduction prepares your reader for this statement, and the rest of the paper follows in support of it. After the initial introduction, background on your topic often follows. This paragraph or section might include a literature review surveying the current state of knowledge on your topic or simply a historical overview of relevant information.

Types of Outlines and Samples

The purpose of this section is to justify your own project or paper by pointing out a gap in the current research which your work will address. Major points are the building blocks of your paper.

Major points build on each other, moving the paper forward and toward its conclusion. Each major point should be a clear claim that relates to the central argument of your paper.

How to Write a Research Essay Thesis: The Main Paper’s Element

Minor points are subtopics within your major points. Minor points develop the nuances of your major points but may not be significant enough to warrant extended attention on their own. These may come in the form of statistics, examples from your sources, or supporting ideas. The rest of the body of your paper will be made up of more major and minor points.