Writing An Outline For A Research Paper: Advice From A Professional

Your outline should be a supplemental tool to creating your essay, serving as the bridge between your research on the topic you are covering and your final argumentative essay on that topic. Add citations as they come up in your research, rearrange paragraphs; do not be afraid to create and change the outline as new information is gained.


The most important part of your paper is your thesis statement; create one that argues a certain point, and structure the rest of your paper in a way that supports that argument.

You can write your thesis at the beginning if you have a clear focus for your paper, or you can create a working thesis that changes with the introduction of new research.


Think of your essay structure as a series of shapes: The introduction is a funnel pointing down, where you begin with large, abstract ideas and focus in on your specific thesis. Your paragraphs are supporting blocks, which hold your essay together. Ideally, a well-written paper would have 3-4 main paragraphs. Within the paragraphs, be sure to provide several layers of support for each argument in the form of real world examples and empirical facts from scholarly sources. Your essay ends with the conclusion which is an upward pointing funnel, beginning with your focused thesis and ending with a broad idea or concept.

Below is an example of how you can lay out your outline:

Introduction: Write out a brief paragraph of what you plan to cover in your introduction. Think about how you want to open your paper and introduce your topic. One of the last sentences of your introduction should be your Thesis statement.

I. Topic sentence: this will introduce your first main paragraph/argument which will support your thesis statement. Be sure to include transitions between paragraphs such as: Firstly, To begin, etc.

  • a. Supporting point: Reason why your first main point supports the thesis
  • a.i. Example: insert a quote from a source, or reference a specific example you plan to draw on which gives supporting evidence for your main point.
  • ii. Example 2
  • b. Supporting point: Second reason why your first main point supports the thesis

II. Topic Sentence 2: this will be the second main argument which will support your thesis statement

Conclusion: restate your Thesis and think about ending your essay broadly.

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