Creating an outline is an important step in writing your research paper: perhaps the most important step. But how exactly do you go about writing one? What comes first and what do you need to bear in mind? Here is a simple reference guide for those students who don’t know where to start or how to continue.
You’ll need to know exactly what sort of literature is out there on the subject you are tackling, and what issues those authors have faced and have created. The best way to do this is, of course, but reading around as much as possible. If you don’t know exactly where to start, ask your tutor or teacher for tips and advice: they will know the most famous books and articles and authors that you need to start with. From there, you can look at bibliographies of the publications you read and follow any interesting references from there. This is definitely the first step to take and, arguably, the most important.
In your outline, you are going to have to show which questions you are going to be asking and answering in your research paper. In order to do this, as you are reading you need to be asking as many questions as possible. The most interesting and relevant of these, then, need to be recorded and added to your outline. Make sure that the questions you ask are ones that have not been answered by anyone else in any of the literature you have read so that you are assured originality and uniqueness in your work. This will make your research paper much more interesting and give it a solid place in amongst the rest of the publications currently out there.
The point of ‘research’ paper is that you actually have to do some research, of course! This can often take the form of experiments, but can also involve creating questionnaires, for example. In your outline, you need to specify exactly what you are going to be doing in order to get your evidence for the questions you are asking. Be specific and talk about the problems involved in any particular method you are planning on using (because there are always drawbacks to any method), but defend your ideas, too, by talking about the benefits of your methods.