First, you need to choose your topic. Try choosing a focus first, which is often not difficult because you already have to limit it to the subject you are taking, so all you have to do is flip through the chapters of your textbook until something jumps out at you. There are many times when the professor is going to choose the focus for you anyway.
You have to concentrate on your focus and then pick a topic. You should also think about what type of work you are going to produce as you are picking your topic. Is your work going to be literature-based research, first hand research, is your research destined to be persuasive, informative or reflective.
Coming up with the larger purpose of your work is not coming up with a conclusion beforehand. It is coming up with the purpose of your conclusion. For example, if you were writing about fractured logic in social thinking, then your conclusion would show either the strength or weakness of quoting social survey figures, it would not include a pre-decision that it is either weak or strong (or pointless). You are coming up with a direction and a goal without trying to come up with an outcome.
Your thesis statement is supposed to show the goal of your work, and your thesis statement can be the start of your research paper outline. You may add your type of research paper into your outline just after the thesis statement. So the start of your research paper outline may look like this:
If you have been writing and studying a subject, then you are already going to have a few ideas on this subject, so it is time to add these into your research paper outline. You can list them as you like, but do not put in too much information. Research names, even book chapters or quotes may be added, but this is more of an index of the things you are going to research instead of being research notes. You can add notes next to your points, so it may look something like this:
Gather further supporting material that you need not put into your outline, but that you can mention in your outline so that you remember to use them later. Put your notes and outline in an order that helps you. It is easier with some things such as history research papers because you can put things in chronological order, but you do not have to. You may want to put things in a cause and effect order. Just make sure they are in some sort of order.
Most essays have some sort of structure, with the most basic being introduction, thesis, body and conclusion. But, there are lots of categories and sub categories you can add, and you can place some of your outline notes into certain categories. Of all things, make sure your outline is consistent, so thing such as having heavy note writing in the middle should probably be avoided as it looks and reads inconsistently. You can always keep your notes separate and refer to them in your outline.
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