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How to Write a Research Paper Outline: The Complete Step-by-Step Guide

A research paper outline is the skeleton of the work on which the rest of the details will be attached to make your paper complete. It is a guideline that gives your reader the specific order that your work will follow. Once you are done with all the pre-writing activities, you can dive right into the outline. At this point, you have the topic, thesis statement, methodology, and also the study resources. The three broad parts of an outline are the introduction, the body, and the conclusion. The following is the detailed step-by-step guide to writing a good research paper outline:

  1. Introduction

In every academic paper, the introduction plays a very key role. It announces the work that the reader is about to go through. If you get it wrong at this point, the reader might as well lose interest in the rest of the work. A compelling introduction will, therefore, do justice to your paper outline and your entire study. It should be engaging, informative as well as intriguing. The three parts of a super introduction are:

  • The hook

Just as the name suggests, a hook is what gets the reader’s initial attention. It should not be too long but should give the readers the provocation they need to keep reading. Depending on the volume of your entire work, the hook can be from one to five sentences.

  • Audience definition

Let the reader understand why they are your target audience as pertains to your motive of study. This calls for a very relatable introduction to your study so that the reader has no choice but to keep going.

  • Thesis statement

State your argument well and let the reader know clearly what you are after. This statement should be simple and clear but not dull.

  1. Body

This is the main part of the outline. It carries the most weight and has no volume limitation but rather depends on the entire volume of the paper. It should carry all your research evidence. State each idea with its evidence but avoid stating what you cannot prove. It is not just about volume but rather facts. Include proper citations and valid references according to your specific paper format. Remember to maintain the tone and style that you started with at the introduction. Consistency is key.

  1. Conclusion

This where you summarize your arguments so that your reader can digest the main ideas of your study. This part should not be lengthy but should contain the points that matter most in the study. It gives your readers take away thought and all the motivation they need to follow up on the study. Remember to give your take on the main issues and also give a call to action.

Bottom Line

Some people may want to pay little attention to the outline and just focus on the main document. However, without a proper skeleton for your work, you may end up with a substandard paper. Follow the steps here and come up with a winning research paper outline. 

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