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How do I prepare a research paper outline?In a formal or informal sketch outline, list...

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hnewberry | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted June 22, 2011 at 5:24 AM via web

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How do I prepare a research paper outline?

In a formal or informal sketch outline, list the major assertions and sub-topics of your paper. This outline should form the basic structure for your research paper, but you may find that you change or modify the paper or outline in your actual writing and revision.

2) The outline should, minimally, contain the following elements:

a) A creative, unique title for your paper.

b) A statement of your thesis at the top.

c) Parallel topics and sub-topics.

d) Complete sentences, unless phrases are clear.

e) At least two sub-categories for each paragraph topic listed.

f) A conventional system of numbers and letters (I.A.1.a., etc

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Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted June 22, 2011 at 7:18 AM (Answer #1)

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Let me preface this outline help with the comment from my very first college-level research paper:  "Thank God SOMEONE knows how to write in proper form!"  This comment speaks volumes, doesn't it?  It says that 1) college professors WANT students to write in the correct form & 2) most students DON'T do that.  A shame, to be sure.

I'll admit, it's hard to give you any specific information without knowing exactly what you are writing about.  I don't even know if your paper is a typical five-paragraph essay? ... or something larger?  Because you specifically use the term "research paper," I'll assume you mean something larger.

Enotes has a limit of the number of characters/words in an answer, so I obviously had to give you the abridged version.  Here, each capital letter is a separate paragraph, ... and when I refer to "Support #1" or the like, it always means the following:  one or more sentences that gives an example and/or a quote from the work in question with accurate explanation.  Thus, in its very simplest form, ... here is an outline-description of how to write a research paper:

A. Introduction

  1. Begin with a pithy statement, something to generate interest about your general topic.
  2. Lead (with three or four sentences) from this statement of interest into, ...
  3. Your thesis statement: what you attempt to prove in your paper (this should be the last sentence of your introduction).  For example:  "Jane Austen's heroines are always daring, intelligent, and self-reliant."
  4. (Some professors want a sentence following your thesis that deals in specifics, so they know what to expect.  For example:  "This can be proven by examining Jane, Elizabeth, and Fanny in regards to spunk, intelligence, and self-reliance.")

B. Opposition Paragraph

  1. Begin by stating the opposite to your thesis.  For example, "Some misinformed academics argue that Austen's heroines are, in fact, quite weak-minded."
  2. Support #1  (a. example / b. quote / c. explanation)
  3. Support #2  (a. example / b. quote / c. explanation)
  4. Support #3  (a. example / b. quote / c. explanation)
  5. Refute these supports by citing context as well as the multitude of examples you will give in the rest of your paper.

C-E. Proving the First Part of Your Thesis

  1. Topic Sentence:  this should incorporate part of your thesis statement, one small part that you will prove in three paragraphs, each with a different focus and three different supports.  For example:  "First, Jane Austen's heroine Jane Eyre is daring to the point of being 'spunky.'"  Next Paragraph:  Elizabeth Bennet.  Next Paragraph:  Fanny Price.
  2. Support #1  (a. example / b. quote / c. explanation)
  3. Support #2  (a. example / b. quote / c. explanation)
  4. Support #3  (a. example / b. quote / c. explanation)
  5. Concluding sentence summing up your supports.

F-H Proving the Second Part of Your Thesis (my example:  intelligence, one heroine per paragraph)  See 1-5 above.

I-K Proving the Third Part of Your Thesis (my example: self-reliance, one heroine per paragraph)  See 1-5 above.

L.  Conclusion

  1. Reword your thesis statement.
  2. Generally discuss your best supports.
  3. End with a new idea and/or a "clincher sentence" that will have your professor talking with other professors about your paper!

Depending on how long your professor requires your research paper to be, you could go on and on with further sets of three-paragraph supports (in my example, I could go on and on in regards to other Austen heroines and/or other qualities they possess).

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