Quality research papers are well-structured and comprise of body paragraphs that work in conjunction to demonstrate a main point. What tends to happen with inexperienced writers is they rush into writing their essay before outlining their discussion points. As a result, the finished paper ends up being clunky; the body paragraphs have a lot of information but are not connected in a meaningful way. When you outline your information beforehand, you will have a much easier time determining how best to order your discussion points because you have all the information readily displayed in front of you.
It is also important to outline individual paragraphs. A body paragraph functions similar to a full essay in the sense that it contains a topic sentence, evidence for that topic, and some sort of conclusion or transition. By breaking down a paragraph into its core components you are able to optimize the overall structure of the paragraph. For instance, you are less likely to be repetitive in your writing when you make an outline. Also, you can avoid tangents because the information is already planned out, you are just filling in the paragraph with explanations for your evidence.
Now, what should a paragraph outline look like? First and foremost, you need a topic sentence that is relevant to your main paper topic. Under your topic sentence you will list your supporting facts that topic. Each fact needs to relate back to the topic sentence. An average paragraph will include roughly 3-5 pieces of evidence; for each fact, you will also need an explanation of how it relates back to the main point of your paper. The last component of your outline will be a transition sentence. The purpose of this sentence is to lead your reader into your next discussion point. One good way to look at this is to imagine that your transition sentence is the bridge between two discussion points. Without it, your reader is having to jump between topics and it makes for weak writing.
Good papers are planned out with an outline, but great papers take it a step further by outlining each individual paragraph. Treat each paragraph outline like you would your research paper as whole. Break it down into its major parts: topic sentence, evidence, and transition. Just like a normal outline you will list out each component with bullet points. The reason this is so important is because it gives your paragraphs structure before you even start writing. If you follow this guide, you should find that your papers are more fluid and the ideas you are trying to get across are more impactful.