- Academic Research and Writing Tips / Tutorial

Creating an Outline as a Roadmap for Research Papers

An instructor assigns creating an outline as one of the first parts of your research paper? Perhaps you wonder why the instructor wants an outline. An outline makes writing a research paper easier as it guides you through each of the writing processes of a research paper. An outline for a custom written research paper is like a roadmap.

Research Outline

The first part of a roadmap is the introduction. Two important parts begin with the introduction. First, the first part of this is the hook. What is a hook? Why is it important? A hook is an attention-grabber that grabs the interest of the reader. A hook can be a statistic, an interesting fact, a first person experience or antedote, a famous quotation, a definition, a simile, metaphor, or a question. Choose one that will fit with the research paper and grab the interests of your readers.

The hook should be appropriate for the research paper and add to it. Here are some examples of a hook:

"One out of five students is bullied at school."
"Dance like no one is watching. Sing like no one is listening. Love like you've never been hurt and live like it's heaven on Earth." Mark Twain.

The second part of the outline is the thesis statement. A thesis statement is a complete statement showing what the research paper will discuss. It should explain in detail what the research paper will be about. The thesis statement should narrow the topic down to precise areas. It will have one main idea that gives the reader a point of view from the author.

I. "One out of five children in American schools are obese due to media attraction, fast food restaurants, and the fast pace of American lives."

An outline will have at least three specific points that the thesis has pointed toward. Looking at the above thesis statement notice that it has three main points: obesity due to media attraction, obesity due to fast food restaurants, and obesity due to the fast pace of American lives. These three main points can be used to make the body of the outline:

II. Obesity is due to media attraction.

III. Obesity due to fast food restaurants.

IV. Obesity due to the fast pace of American lives.

Sub-points can be added to each of these to expand the research paper. For instance, look at number

II. Obesity is due to media attraction.

a. Obesity due to television.
b. Obesity due to pop stars.

These main points and sub-main points should give statistics, facts, and explanations as to why the student believes this is true. Statements should not be made without supporting quotations from experts. Supporting material can come from journal articles, the World Wide Web, books, magazine articles, etc. Never make a bold statement with out support from an expert. For instance, obesity due to media attraction could have these statistics as the support for the statement:

"Approximately 80 percent of the American population watches eight hours of television per day" (Media use in America).
"Children are more likely to become obese the more they watch television."

These two statistics support the fact that obesity becomes a problem for children as they watch television and ask their parents for food that is high in calories.

The last section of the outline is the conclusion. Many students fail to put effort into this section of the research paper, but the conclusion ties in every thing that has been stated. The conclusion should briefly sum up the important points of the research paper and then give a take-away value. A take-away value is a statement or question that leaves the reader thinking about the research paper.

An outline is a roadmap that keeps the writer organized throughout the writing process.