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Structure Of A Research Paper Outline

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Research Papers

Social science research papers combine the presentation of both argument and evidence in response to a core question. It is common for such papers to have a literature review that considers the work others have done to address the core subject.

Generic Research Paper Outline Example

There are many ways to structure a research paper. This is just one.

I. Introduction

State the core question; Tell the reader the significance of the question; Provide a brief version of your answer to the question; Provide an overview of the rest of the paper.

II. Theoretical Framework/Literature Review

Provide an overview of the possible explanations for your question. Include consideration of the broader literature that addresses your subject. Address your method for approaching the question.

III. Case Study (or Case Studies)

Apply the theoretical framework to one or more cases. This could involve multiple separate major sections of a research paper.

[IV.] Conclusion

Return to your core question. Summarize your core argument and findings. Discuss the broader implications or prospects for future research.

Policy Papers

One purpose of a policy paper is to make a prescription for future policies. The following is an example of how to structure such a paper.

Generic Policy Paper Outline Example

I. Introduction

State the core question; Tell the reader the significance of the question; Provide a brief version of your answer to the question; Provide an overview of the rest of the paper.

II. Criteria and Goals for the Policy

Provide clear and measurable criteria for assessing the success of a policy choice.

III…  Policy Choices

State specific policy choices. Apply all identified criteria to each policy choice.

[IV.] Conclusion

Return to your core question. Summarize your policy recommendation and findings. Discuss the broader implications or prospects for future research.

Theses and Long Projects

It goes without saying that there is no simple formula on how to optimally structure your work. Different analyses demand different frames of presentation, and the wealth of the structure types available are limited only by how creative a writer can be with his or her analytical and writing style. Still, there are a couple of key tenets that can (and probably should) be considered when addressing this crucial step to producing your research work.

First, you should always remember that when it comes to structure, the central consideration should be answering the question of: What is the best and most effective way of getting my reader to know exactly what is going on, or to buy what I’m trying to say?

Second, give some thought to the kind of analysis you’re doing. A study chasing a trend throughout history would probably do well by divvying chapters up according to time periods, or yaers. An analysis comparing and contrasting a controlled event throughout various geographic locations could benefit from having chapters go by regions. Your organization could also be more atypical than that: chapters can be broken down based on concepts (with countries or time periods being held constant), or divided according to key individuals and organizations.

Third, a chapter should capture and put forward one complete overarching component of your argument, as each section within the chapter covers a smaller potion of that overaching component. It’s more or less a follow-through on the basic idea of arguments, in that each argument can be broken down into smaller pieces which are integral or concretely supportive of the whole. Think about it as somewhat equivalent to the biological levels of organization of living things:

A collection of cells is a tissue. A collection of tissues is an organ. A collection of organs is an organ system. A collection of organ systems is an organism.

The composition of an argument – especially when we think of it in terms of an extended written arugment – very much echo these biological levels of organization. When considering how the table of contents of your thesis is going to look like, perhaps think of it this way.

Examples

The following are some examples of theses organizations, represented by central arguments and table of contents:

“Stemming the Nuclear Tide: Coercive Diplomacy and US Nonproliferation Efforts, 1964-Present.”

By: Nicholas LeSuer Miller, Class of 2009.

Thesis: “By examining the universe of cases since the Chinese test where the U.S. has made an effort to halt a state’s nuclear weapons program, and analyzing these cases within the broader theory of coercive diplomacy, this work seeks to explain why the U.S. has succeeded in certain non-proliferation efforts and failed in others.” (p. 6)

Table of Contents:

    1. Introduction
    2. Pakistan: Looking the Other Way
    3. South Korea: Coercing a Cold War Ally
    4. Israel: Half-Hearted Diplomacy
    5. Taiwan: Persistence Pays Off
    6. South Africa: Too Little Too Late
    7. Libya: Unsolicited Success
    8. India: Nonproliferation Policy Paralysis
    9. North Korea: Failure at Every Turn
    10. Findings and Implications.

This thesis has a very straightforward and clear approach; because this writer’s analysis focuses on country-specific differences regarding a common controlled event/concept (in this case, American non-proliferation efforts), it makes perfect structural and argumentative sense to manage chapters by countries.

The same principle can be applied to temporal comparisons or between concepts and events – essentially anything that has a clear and definitive conceptual quality.

“Organizing African Unity: a Pan-African Project.”

By: Kathryn Hana Cragg, Class of 2008.

Thesis: “This paper examines the history of continental cooperation, focusing on a comparative analysis of the OAU and the AU. It will argue that a particular set of domestic and international factors interplayed to create the OAU in 1963. As a result of historical divisions from the colonial age, the paper contends that the OAU suffered from regional and historic divisions from its inception.” (p. 5)

Table of Contents:

    1. Introduction
    2. Chapter 1 – Explaining African Alignment
      • Introduction
      • Part I – Traditional International Relations Perspectives
      • Part II -African Cooperation: A Unique Experience
      • Part III – New Outlooks on Third World Alignment
      • Conclusion
    3. Chapter 2 – The Beginnings of Cooperation – A Newly Independent Africa
      • Nkrumah’s Beginnings
      • The Conferences of Independent African States
      • The Brazzaville-Casablanca Split
      • Congolese Civil War
      • The Monrovia Block
      • Unity Revisited
    4. Chapter 3 – The Organization of African Unity
      • Conference at Addis Ababa
      • The Charter of OAU
      • Structure of OAU
      • Responsibilities of the OAU
      • Factors in the Formation of the OAU
      • History and Downfall of the OAU
      • Conclusion
    5. Chapter 4 – The Birth of the African Union
      • Introduction
      • OAU Legacy and a Culture of Change
      • South African Foreign Policy: The African Renaissance and NEPAD
      • Obasanjo’s Reform Package and the Creation of the AU
      • Colonel Muammer Gaddafi and Libyan Integration
      • Objective and Principles of the CA
      • Structure of the AU
      • The AU – A Security Community?
    6. Conclusion.

This thesis follows a slightly more complex strategy. The writer began by laying a conceptual foundation with her initial chapter – a solid idea if one is tackling a particularly conceptually messy phenomena (that is, of course, not to say that nuclear non-proliferation efforts are not conceptually messy). The analysis then progressed on a somewhat temporal route, breaking down large sections according to “eras” linearly along the time-line. Notice, however, the fact while the writer divided the sections by time-line, she wrote the subsections by mixing both particular events and theoretical discussions. Once again, go with what best and most effectively presents your argument.

“Rethinking Repression: Exploring the Effectiveness of Counterterrorism in Spain.”

By: Evan James Perkoski.

Thesis: “I argue that legal, nonviolent forms of counterterrorism are the most effectiveat reducing the frequency of terrorist attacks.” (p. 4)  “The goal of this thesis is to provide a quantitative assessment of the relative ability of counterterrorist tactics to reduce the likelihood of terrorist incidents.” (p. 5)

Table of Contents:

    1. Chapter 1: Introduction
      • Central Question
      • Significant of the Study
      • Research Design
      • Why Spain?
      • The First Step: Defining Terrorism
      • Implications of the Study
      • Thesis Layout
    2. Chapter 2: Literature Review and Extant Findings
      • What defines effective counterterrorism?
      • Understanding Counterterrorism
      • The Options: What do Government have to choose from?
      • Repressive Policies
      • Conciliatory Policies
      • Legal Reform and Restriction
      • Indiscriminate vs. Discriminate Actions
      • Additional Policy Concerns: Group Motivations, Structural Factors, Institutional Restrains, and Information Asymmetries.
      • Problems with previous studies of counterterrorism
    3. Chapter 3: Spanish Counterterrorist Policies, 1970-2004.
      • Research Design
      • Introduction to Series Hazard Modeling
      • Results
      • Conclusions
      • Study Limitations and Further Research
    4. Chapter 4: Spanish Counterterrorist Tactics, 1988-1992.
      • Rationale for Choosing 1988-1992
      • Event Data and TABARI
      • Research Design
      • Results
      • Conclusions
      • Study Limitations
    5. Chapter Five: Overall Findings and Conclusions
      • Using Politics to Deter Political Violence
      • Violence: A Viable Option to Fight Terrorism?
      • Restricting Terrorists to Deter Terrorism
      • Effectiveness of Policy Combinations
      • Discriminate vs. Indiscriminate Actions
      • Theoretical Contributions and Policy Implications
      • Conclusion
    6. References

As opposed to the earlier two examples, this thesis specifically raises and examines the effectiveness of a self-conceived (or observed) theory. To this end, the writer looks first at presenting and arguing for all aspects of the theory, which can be seen with the first chapter. It is worth noting that many qualifications goes into his discussion, explaining just about every major choice he makes with respect to his model.

This work also has the added complication of being a predominantly quantitative analysis. As such, it is proper that a good number of sections were dedicated to exposition, analysis, and discussion of the techniques that he used, including even the software involved.

The meat of the research here lies in the third and fourth chapters, which examines policies and tactics respectively. In similar theses, these would be the case study analysis sections, where the theory proposed earlier is applied and interacted with studied events or occurrences.

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An outline is important for all types of research papers. It serves to organize your thoughts and your whole work before writing a research paper. This type of paper is aimed at a scientific research that will prove you to be a student that has scientific aptitudes to solve core issues and is ready convey your ideas using scientific approaches and methods. An outline will be a reminder for you to include all the necessary subtleties in it. It is “a skeleton” of the real research paper that will guide you through the whole process. But how to write a research paper outline?

By preliminarily splitting your paper into all its constituent parts you will be far more organized and will not worry that you forgot something. In addition, looking at your outline, you will be calmer because after splitting your work into several parts. It will not seem so overwhelming and perplexing. You can approach each part during different days and plan your preparations consecutively which will help you to meet even tight deadlines!

Research Paper Outline Structure Tips

The outline structure is approximately the same whether you write a research outline on dreams or some topic distant from this one, like a research outline for PhD application. The structure is identical to the structure of the research paper itself. To be more versed in the details of the structure look through examples for elementary students. The outline for a Literary Essay will also help you.  Anyway, the main parts are as follows:

  1. Introduction 
  2. Body 
  3. Conclusion

Seems not that hard, right?! But the fact is that each of the points encompasses a wide range of information for you to arrange in your research outline about animals, for example.

The Introduction part is one of the most important ones. Because it presents the reader with the topic of your paper and it is like a hook that attracts the reader's interest. Here you are supposed to mention the top essential components like the thesis statement, the explanation of the topic (some major points, general information), explanation of the core terms related to your study.

The Body part is the amplest one and consists of several paragraphs or subparts. Here you bring the arguments to support your statement. The methodology is what follows the introduction section. It gives the insight into the way you carried out the research and should include the investigation type and the questionnaire you have fulfilled. Never forget about the aims of the investigation that should be also stated in the introduction.

Make sure to include the literature overview. Here mention the literature you used as a backup to your hypothesis and theories. This part will show how you can operate the terms, theory and existing evidence. Your main theme and the chosen literature should be adjacent. Demonstrate how your input develops and distends the existing works.

Data and analysis usually go after methods and literature. Here present your results and other variables that you have got in the process of the survey. Use tables or graphs if necessary to be more precise and structured. Interpret your results. Keep in mind to tell the audience whether your outcomes bring a difference to the whole topic. Outline the drawbacks of the research and its advantages. 

The final part is the Conclusion that usually does not present the audience with the new information but gives the cursory glance at the whole work by summarizing main points in it. Do not forget to mention the thesis statement again. Formulate the prospect for future research as well. 

Final Advice And Useful Info

Topics of the research paper are different. You can end up writing your paper about molecular physics or about bullying. Sometimes they give you to write on social issues like a research outline on homelessness. Everything depends on the college discipline.

All in all, your research outline should look like a bullet list of headings and subheadings; it should be very brief but informative consisting all the necessary elements. While completing your paper cross out those parts that you have already used and elaborated.

Here are a couple of examples:

Thesis: Does the Internet have a positive or negative impact on the children’s education and social skills that they obtain?

Introductory Clause

  1. Brief introduction of issue
  2. Used methodology
  3. Thesis statement
  4. review of used sources and related literature
  5. Explanation of the study’s relevance and significance

Main Body

a. Detailed information about the problem’s background

  1. The history of the Internet and its role in the lives of modern people
  2. The first mentioning of issues caused by the influence of the Web
  3. The general explanation of reasons and causes that can explain either negative or positive effect of the Internet on the children’s development and education

b. Positive influence of the Internet on the quality of education and obtained social skills

  1. Online books, materials and numerous sources that help students, providing them with an opportunity for quality self-education
  2. Developed social networking and wider opportunities for education that helps develop and improve child’s social skills
  3. Examples of positive influence (or scientifically proven facts)

c. Negative influence of the Internet on the quality education and obtained social skills

  1. Distractions, games, availability of violent materials and other things that cause negative influence
  2. Examples of negative influence (or scientifically proven facts)

Final Clause

a. Conclusion

  1. Short analysis of all facts provided in the paper
  2. Rephrased thesis statement

b. Final words regarding the problem (recommendations regarding how a particular paper and its ideas can be used in practice or in further studies).

Thesis: Abortion: main causes and effects

Introductory Clause

  1. Brief introduction of issue
  2. Main medical terms and their definitions
  3. The theoretical basis for the paper
  4. Used methodology
  5. Thesis statement
  6. The review of related literature
  7. Explanation of the study’s relevance and significance.

Main Body

a. Detailed information about the problem’s background

  1. The history of abortion and the main causes that force modern women take this step (explain different possible reasons like religion, financial situation, career issues, etc.)
  2. Explain the position of the religion and government regarding this problem
  3. General information about the possible consequences of abortion supported with valid facts, scientific articles and studies, examples, etc.

b. Possible alternatives to abortions, their pros and cons

c. Advantages and disadvantages of abortion

  1. Explain all advantages of abortion and support them with facts and examples
  2. Explain all disadvantages of abortion (both physical and mental) and support them with facts and examples

Final Clause

a. Conclusion

  1. Short analysis of all facts provided in the paper
  2. Rephrased thesis statement

b. Final words regarding the problem (recommendations regarding how a particular paper and its ideas can be used in practice or in further studies).

 

Wish you an academic success with our guide to the research paper writing!