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College Research Paper Layout

Writing a research paper outline is a rather challenging but usual part of student’s life. Every student has to spend a lot of time in order to create a successful well thought out research paper. A research paper has to reflect your position on the topic and persuade the readers in its accuracy and truthfulness. A research paper outline is a helpful point-by-point plan, which makes your research paper writing easier. However, before proceeding to an outline you will have to take some pre-writing steps. They will be helpful in composing the best quality outline and, as a result, a great academic work.

Before writing an research paper outline:

  • Select an appropriate topic. Selecting a topic is a crucial factor for a successful research paper. Whether you select a topic yourself or not, it should work to your strengths and not weaknesses. An appropriate topic should be interesting to you and appeal to or provoke readers. As to choosing the best essay topics for your research paper, we have professional writers, who offer personalized help or even essay writing service if you need it.
  • State your argument. After selecting a topic, take some time to figure out what kind of argument you want to support. You need to understand why it is important to you and why it might be important to others. Ask yourself – what is the aim of my thesis statement? Can it provoke a meaningful discussion that might change the world? How can I build a research paper on this argument? As soon as you have answers for these questions, you are almost ready to create a good outline for a successful research paper.
  • Define the audience. Of course, most of the time only your professor will read a research paper you have created. However, you need to understand readers of your paper. Will the professor support your argument or will he have a counterargument? When defining your audience, you will comprehend what type of language is better to use: will the use of jargon be appropriate or is it better to stick with formal language? The overall style and tone of your research paper depend on the audience it is aimed at.
  • Conduct a research. There is no research paper without proper and thorough research. You will have to investigate a lot of resources in order to find effective evidence to support your argument. Firstly, you will have to find general information to support your thesis statement, then you will have to dig deeper. You will have to be aware of any counter arguments and evidence supporting them. This way you will master the topic and comprehend the pitfalls of your thesis statement better.
  • Organize references. References are the evidence of each of your arguments and the research you have conducted. You should prioritize them according to the importance and relevance to your thesis statement.

Writing a good research paper outline

When you are finished with pre-writing activities, created a good research paper topic, you are more than ready to make an effective research paper outline. An outline is a basement of your research paper from which you build up the whole paper. Each outline consists of three main parts the Introduction, the Body, and the Conclusion. For a successful and high-quality research paper, however, the more detailed outline you use the better. The simplest diagram of an outline looks like this:

Introduction

  • Hook
  • Define the audience.
  • Thesis statement.

Body

  • An argument to support the thesis.
  • An argument to support the thesis.
  • An argument to support the thesis.

Conclusion

  • Summary of arguments.
  • Call to action.

A research paper outline: step-by-step guide

Introduction

The introduction is an important part of every academic work. It determines whether a reader is going to continue with your paper or just give it a rest. An introduction should be intriguing, engaging, and informative, although without giving away too much. There are three main points that make an impressive Introduction:

  • Hook. Depending on the overall volume of your research paper, a hook can be from one to five sentences long. This the part that persuades readers to read the paper. A hook should be interesting and provoking – you need your readers to want to read your research paper.
  • Define the audience. In your pre-writing activities, you had to define the audience for yourself – you had to understand who would be interested in reading your paper. Here, however, you need to explain to your reader why she or he is your target audience. The Introduction and the whole text, for that matter, should be relatable.
  • Thesis statement. Here you state your argument. You make a clear point about what you are going to discuss and why is it important. Your thesis statement should be clear and simple but never dull. You want the readers to read your paper especially after the research you have conducted and materials you have gone through.

Body

The Body is the main part of the research paper outline you are writing. It has no volume limitation, as it is the biggest and main section of the paper. The quantity of paragraphs for this part depends on overall requested volume of the research paper: the more arguments you have to support the bigger Body section there should be.

All the evidence you have found during the research should go here. You state each idea and provide efficient evidence. Do not state something you have no ways of proving! Each statement you give has to be backed up with the proof. Do not forget about valid references and proper citation according to the required paper format.

You can mention counterarguments to your ideas and provide evidence why they are not correct. Opposing facts prove your deep knowledge on the topic and that you have really conducted a thorough research. This will show your commitment to the challenging tasks and create quite an impressive academic reputation.

Do not forget about the style and the tone of your research paper, which you have stated in the introduction. The paper should be consistent from the beginning to the very end. The manner, pattern, and techniques should be the same throughout the paper. However, remember to be creative and use various language techniques to make your paper interesting to read. Take into consideration that there is a high chance that your professor knows everything about the subject. Nonetheless, your paper needs to be addressed to the reader unfamiliar with the topic and the thesis statement of your choice. This again will show your deep knowledge on the matter. Be sure to explain everything clearly without sounding too dull in the process. 

Conclusion

The conclusive part of the research paper has to summarize the arguments so the readers digest the main idea and remember it for a long time. The conclusion should not be long but should contain all the important parts to make the whole paper sink into readers’ memory.

  • Summary of arguments. In this short section, you again state your strongest arguments. There is no need to provide a deep explanation of your ideas or evidence to each of them. Nonetheless, you will have to give a general overview of the arguments you used in the research paper.
  • Call to action. This is the very end of your research paper and it should provoke your readers. Whether it is a call to a discussion or to an action, you need to choose what your final message to readers should be.

Remember that the main purpose of the research paper is to show your abilities to work by yourself and demonstrate the range of your knowledge on various topics. Creating a good outline is essential in a further composing of your research paper. Make sure to take notes when conducting a research, do not be afraid to ask for assistance and read additional resources. 

If your instructor has specific requirements for the format of your research paper, check them before preparing your final draft. When you submit your paper, be sure to keep a secure copy.

The most common formatting is presented in the sections below:

Margins

Except for the running head (see below), leave margins of one inch at the top and bottom and on both sides of the text. If you plan to submit a printout on paper larger than 8½ by 11 inches, do not print the text in an area greater than 6½ by 9 inches.

Text Formatting

Always choose an easily readable typeface (e.g., Times New Roman) in which the regular type style contrasts clearly with the italic, and set it to a standard size (e.g., 12 points). Do not justify the lines of text at the right margin; turn off any automatic hyphenation feature in your writing program. Double-space the entire research paper, including quotations, notes, and the list of works cited. Indent the first line of a paragraph half an inch from the left margin. Indent set-off quotations half an inch as well (for examples, see 76–80 in the MLA Handbook). Leave one space after a period or other concluding punctuation mark, unless your instructor prefers two spaces.

Heading and Title

Beginning one inch from the top of the first page and flush with the left margin, type your name, your instructor’s name, the course number, and the date on separate lines, double-spacing the lines. On a new, double-spaced line, center the title (fig. 1). Do not italicize or underline your title, put it in quotation marks or boldface, or type it in all capital letters. Follow the rules for capitalization in the MLA Handbook (67–68), and italicize only the words that you would italicize in the text.

Do not use a period after your title or after any heading in the paper (e.g., Works Cited). Begin your text on a new, double-spaced line after the title, indenting the first line of the paragraph half an inch from the left margin.

A research paper does not normally need a title page, but if the paper is a group project, create a title page and list all the authors on it instead of in the header on page 1 of your essay. If your teacher requires a title page in lieu of or in addition to the header, format it according to the instructions you are given.

Running Head with Page Numbers

Number all pages consecutively throughout the research paper in the upper right-hand corner, half an inch from the top and flush with the right margin. Type your last name, followed by a space, before the page number (fig. 2). Do not use the abbreviation p. before the page number or add a period, a hyphen, or any other mark or symbol. Your writing program will probably allow you to create a running head of this kind that appears automatically on every page. Some teachers prefer that no running head appear on the first page. Follow your teacher’s preference.

Placement of the List of Works Cited

The list of works cited appears at the end of the paper, after any endnotes. Begin the list on a new page. The list contains the same running head as the main text. The page numbering in the running head continues uninterrupted throughout. For example, if the text of your research paper (including any endnotes) ends on page 10, the works-cited list begins on page 11. Center the title, Works Cited, an inch from the top of the page (fig. 3). (If the list contains only one entry, make the heading Work Cited.) Double-space between the title and the first entry. Begin each entry flush with the left margin; if an entry runs more than one line, indent the subsequent line or lines half an inch from the left margin. This format is sometimes called hanging indention, and you can set your writing program to create it automatically for a group of paragraphs. Hanging indention makes alphabetical lists easier to use. Double-space the entire list. Continue it on as many pages as necessary.

Tables and Illustrations

Place tables and illustrations as close as possible to the parts of the text to which they relate. A table is usually labeled Table, given an arabic numeral, and titled. Type both label and title flush left on separate lines above the table, and capitalize them as titles (do not use all capital letters). Give the source of the table and any notes immediately below the table in a caption. To avoid confusion between notes to the text and notes to the table, designate notes to the table with lowercase letters rather than with numerals. Double-space throughout; use dividing lines as needed (fig. 4).

Any other type of illustrative visual material—for example, a photograph, map, line drawing, graph, or chart—should be labeled Figure (usually abbreviated Fig.), assigned an arabic numeral, and given a caption: “Fig. 1. Mary Cassatt, Mother and Child, Wichita Art Museum.” A label and caption ordinarily appear directly below the illustration and have the same one-inch margins as the text of the paper (fig. 5). If the caption of a table or illustration provides complete information about the source and the source is not cited in the text, no entry for the source in the works-cited list is necessary.

Musical illustrations are labeled Example (usually abbreviated Ex.), assigned an arabic numeral, and given a caption: “Ex. 1. Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky, Symphony no. 6 in B, opus 74 (Pathétique), finale.” A label and caption ordinarily appear directly below the example and have the same one-inch margins as the text of the paper (fig. 6).

Paper and Printing

If you print your paper, use only white, 8½-by-11-inch paper of good quality. If you lack 8½-by-11-inch paper, choose the closest size available. Use a high-quality printer. Some instructors prefer papers printed on a single side because they’re easier to read, but others allow printing on both sides as a means of conserving paper; follow your instructor’s preference.

Corrections and Insertions on Printouts

Proofread and correct your research paper carefully before submitting it. If you are checking a printout and find a mistake, reopen the document, make the appropriate revisions, and reprint the corrected page or pages. Be sure to save the changed file. Spelling checkers and usage checkers are helpful when used with caution. They do not find all errors and sometimes label correct material as erroneous. If your instructor permits corrections on the printout, write them neatly and legibly in ink directly above the lines involved, using carets (⁁) to indicate where they go. Do not use the margins or write a change below the line it affects. If corrections on any page are numerous or substantial, revise your document and reprint the page.

Binding a Printed Paper

Pages of a printed research paper may get misplaced or lost if they are left unattached or merely folded down at a corner. Although a plastic folder or some other kind of binder may seem an attractive finishing touch, most instructors find such devices a nuisance in reading and commenting on students’ work. Many prefer that a paper be secured with a simple paper or binder clip, which can be easily removed and restored. Others prefer the use of staples.

Electronic Submission

There are at present no commonly accepted standards for the electronic submission of research papers. If you are asked to submit your paper electronically, obtain from your teacher guidelines for formatting, mode of submission (e.g., by e-mail, on a Web site), and so forth and follow them closely.

Designed to be printed out and used in the classroom. From the MLA Handbook, 8th ed., published by the Modern Language Association.

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