How to write an outline for a research paper: examples

Writing the outline is a critical component to finishing your paper. It is what keeps your thoughts organized and your arguments flowing.

Techniques for Note Taking

As you start researching for your paper, it is important that you take effective notes. Effective notes will enable you to follow your outline and find supporting evidence for every argument you want to present. While writing down notes on a solitary piece of paper will work, it is far from an ideal method of note taking because the points you make then remain fixed, mashed together on a single sheet of paper with points for the introduction and body combined. There are thankfully, some alternatives to note taking that give you better flexibility during the writing stage.

Use index cards

Index cards are the perfect way to take notes while you are researching for your next paper. You can write down each individual quote, paraphrase, or idea you have on one side of a separate card, with the citation information on the back. The small cards that are three inches by five inches are best suited for this. Once you have collected all of your notes on these cards, you can play around with them, literally, reshuffling them until you find the best possible order. This order will constitute your outline. You can of course transcribe the note cards into a single page outline once you have found an order that works well for you.

An alternative to using a single color is to buy some index cards in two different colors. You can use one color for a main point in your outline, and the other color for the supporting evidence. You might want white cards for main points and a brightly colored card for supporting evidence. You can then rearrange the colored cards until they offer a supporting plan for your main arguments. If you find that during this process not all of the cards fit, then rework them, move them to another argument, or get rid of them. You might find there are certain gaps that need filled, which will help drive your last bought of research.

You can also purchase multiple colors and use one color for direct quotes, one for statistics, and one for paraphrasing. The possibilities are endless and you can enjoy a multitude of planning with these cards.

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