research paper outlineA research paper plan is rather a necessity than a mere formality. A research paper is usually a big project, which requires careful planning. This is why, creating a logical and detailed outline (basically a plan for an academic project) is an important and rewarding investment of time at the beginning of your investigation.

Research Paper Outline: Main Principles


An outline is a step-by-step plan you should create before you start your investigation. It will help you save plenty of time that otherwise would likely be wasted on collecting irrelevant materials. At the same time, to be truly effective, outlines require appropriate formatting. These are the main principles of effective outlining:

  • parallelism - meaning that you should use identical constructions for the different points of your plan;
  • subordination - meaning that broader issues should be used as headings, and narrower issues should be used as subheadings;
  • logic - meaning that you should not use fewer than 2 subheadings for each heading. If you don't have at least 2 subheadings for a heading, than it means that there should simply be no subheadings at all for it.

Research Paper Outline: Best Examples

Here are some good examples of research paper outlines, so that you can see how the above discussed principles are used in practice:
 
Example 1:

  1. The need to reduce obesity levels in US adolescents.
  2. Main factors affecting obesity rates.
    • Unhealthy eating habits.
    • Lack of physical activity.
    • Psychological eating.
  3. The main underlying causes of unhealthy eating habits.
    • Eating habits in the family.
    • Publicity of unhealthy products.
    • Popularity of TV and video games.
  4. The best solutions to the problem of obesity.
    • Educational campaigns in schools.
    • Promotion of healthy eating habits and sport in the media.
    • Psychological counseling of overweight adolescents.
  5. The need to promote healthy lifestyles.

Comment: As you can see, every part of this outline is a noun phrase (the principle of parallelism). The headings are broader than subheadings (the principle of subordination). The 2nd, 3rd and 4th headings have 3 subheadings each (the principle of logic). Therefore, it is a good example of a decimal research project outline (only numerals are used).
 
Example 2:

Here is another example of an outline for a research paper:

  1. Solving the plastic bag problem.
  2. Looking for the best solutions.
    1. Switching to reusable plastic bags.
    2. Recycling your plastic bags.
    3. Using personal bans on plastic bags.
  3. Imposing measures at general and personal levels.

Comment: It is an example of an alphanumeric outline which uses Roman numerals and capital letters.
Creating effective outlines for your papers can be even easier if you take a look at these informative speech topics. Choose an interesting idea for your project from this list, bear in mind the above-discussed important principles of outlining and invest your time in careful planning!