How To Outline A College Research Paper Correctly: Basic Tips

The creation of an outline for a research paper is now considered an absolute necessity. The reason for this is that an outline gives the author a veritable map of the writing he has to do. Without an outline, the writer may fall into the trap of a meandering narrative and lose focus in his research. Not so with an outline.

Having firmly established the importance of an outline for a paper, let us look at how an effective outline can be created.

Selecting the type of outline

There are many different types of outlines. However, if you are in a quantitative field, you are probably required to write your paper in the APA style. Although there is no set guide on writing an APA outline in that style’s official handbook, one following its conventions can be created. Let’s suppose your professor has instructed you to create an outline using the APA style.

APA Style outline

Using the conventions of this style, all text in the outline must be double spaced. The font should be size 12 and Times New Roman. For a college paper, you will also need to have a complete Cover page before the outline.

The most highly recommended type of outline is the alpha-numeric one. In this type of outline, the headings are indicated using Roman numerals. For sub headings, capital letters are used with the order following through to Arab numerals leading to lower case letters.

What to write in the Outline

For a college research paper, the outline should be comprehensive and complete before any writing is done. This is because the writer needs to be fully aware of what the work required is going to be. That means that all research is basically done before the paper is written and extensive note taking is done.

The author needs to find a topic and form a thesis statement first of all. Once this is on hand, the outline can be started. In the form of headings/sub headings or full sentences, the author should start building the research outline point by point. Starting from the introduction, the main thesis should be outlined, leading to a literature review following by a map for the methodology section of the paper. A conclusion should then be outlined.

With this comprehensive outline in hand, the author can then start writing the research paper confidently and correctly.