The time has come to organize your research into a cohesive outline for an academic research paper. Develop an outline for your paper to keep you focused as you write your paper. Put each section of your proposed research paper in black and white. Incorporate your research notes into the outline. Refer to your outline as you write each section of your paper, minimizing the stress often associated with writing a major paper.
Write a brief thesis statement to guide your outline and your paper. Pen a sentence for a philosophy paper, for example, that reads, "Thomas Aquinas relied upon Aristotelian philosophy for his 'Summa Theologia.'" Organize your outline to reflect your support of and arguments against your thesis.
Organize your outline using Roman numerals to divide each group of ideas. Assign Roman numeral I to the introduction. Write a short note with three main points you intend to cover in the body of the paper. Finish with the conclusion.
Divide the main content of your paper into sections reflecting the points that will appear in the final draft of your introduction. Assign each section ascending Roman numerals, beginning with Roman numeral II. For example, write about Thomas Aquinas's "Summa Theologia" in the first section of the paper. Follow that section with an examination of Aristotle's philosophy as it relates to Thomistic theology. Make a third section about evidence of Aristotle in the "Summa."
Divide each main section into subsections, which will include your research notes. Divide Section II, for example, into subsections A, B and C. Divide sections A, B and C into 1, 2 and 3. For further divisions, use lowercase letters under 1, 2 and 3. Use lowercase Roman numerals (e.g., i, ii, iii) beneath lowercase letters. Indent each group of divisions under each section. Write a portion of your outline, which might read:
II. Thomas Aquinas
(Indent) A. Education
(Indent beneath section A) 1. Dominicans
(Indent beneath section 1) a. Imprisonment
(Indent the same as section 1) 2. Aristotle's "Metaphysics"
Enter notes in the outline that point to your research. Check off each piece of research as you add a brief reference to it in your outline. Use the notes to refer back to your research as you write your paper.
Check to verify that your outline is complete. The website A Research Guide for Students recommends checking your thesis statement for clarity and checking your outline for logical sequence.