Below are 5 easy ideas to follow to create a detailed outline for a research paper. This method revolves around writing your paper through gradual additions to your outline. If you follow these steps, the final product should be a bulleted version of your final paper.

  1. Write an impactful thesis statement. This arguably the most important step to any outline. You will need to write a well-developed thesis statement that will become the focal point throughout the rest of your outline.
  2. Make a bibliography. One mistake a lot of students make is that they want to try and do the research as they go along. By doing that you risk hitting as road block as you are writing. For example, say you decide that you want to talk about a particular topic prior to doing any background research; you discover as you are writing that there is less known about that particular point than you originally thought. Now you have wasted your time because you cannot provide a sufficient amount of information about that discussion point. One way around this is to construct a detailed bibliography before writing your outline. Do the research first, then generate discussion points based on areas of the research are most lucrative.
  3. Develop topic sentences. Now that you have an idea of what discussion points are worth talking about, you can begin writing the topic sentences for your body paragraphs. These will make up the first sentence of each body paragraph. As a general rule, each topic sentence needs to relate back to your thesis statement in a meaningful way; they need to be unique and offer something new to your paper that you have not talked about already in a previous section.
  4. Fill in evidence with appropriate citations. When you are satisfied with your topic sentences you should add evidence supporting all of your claims. This should be included in separate bullets beneath each topic sentence. In sum, your topic sentences should consist of the point you are trying to make in the paragraph, now you need to add evidence supporting those claims. After you mention a piece of evidence you should give the appropriate in-text citation. By doing this in the outline you avoid having to meticulously go through paper to fill them in later.
  5. Fill in the missing pieces. You are almost there; your last step is to add transitions between each of your points as well as brief explanations for the evidence. Transitions are sentences that bridge your paragraphs together and are usually the last sentence of each paragraph. Without solid transitions, your research paper will appear clunky and your reader will have a difficult time jumping between your ideas. Once you have established good transitions between your paragraphs you should go back and fill in the explanations for each piece of evidence. This will be at least a one sentence after each piece of evidence that explains briefly how it relates back to your main topic. If you have done all these steps correctly, you should be able to delete your bullets from your outline and what you are left with is a completed research paper.