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How To Write A Good Term Paper Outline?

Academic writing


By the end of each semester, you will be assigned a bunch of complex tasks, and term papers will surely be among them. This type of assignment, which looks like an expanded essay with research, is given to assess students’ knowledge gained during a semester. Usually, this work can predetermine the final grade for the course greatly. Thus, in order to succeed and get an A, you should carefully consider the basic requirements for this assignment and clearly determine how to compose an outline for a term paper. Also, it is necessary to clarify what is the approximate number of words to be written, how to do research on the topic, etc.

The first thing you should do before starting to work on the assigned task is to write term paper outline. This is the first fundamental step on the way to completing a top-notch writing piece. Sometimes, students skip this point and, therefore, are often headed in a wrong direction.

term paper outline

How to write a term paper outline?

The very first thing that has to be clarified is how to write a college term paper outline. Let us, therefore, consider what should be done first. Before getting down to work, you will have to concentrate on:

  1. Choosing a topic. Needless to say, to make a good plan, you will have to pick a topic first and narrow it down not to get overwhelmed with materials available. There is hardly a student who would enjoy reading an uncountable number of sources on a vague topic and taking notes of them. For example, if you are writing on linguistic theories of language acquisition, you may narrow it down to the scrutiny of Content and Process approaches. On the other hand, if you want to research neurolinguistics, focus on Broca’s and Wernicke’s aphasias.
  2. Setting the aim and purpose of your work. You may, for instance, try to convince a reader of your view on the subject or may just report the recent findings in the area of your investigation. Some aim to reflect an experience connected to the issue in question. Others prefer to compare books, figures, events and so forth.
  3. Gathering research materials. It is essential to take notes while reviewing the relevant materials so that you can cite sources in the course of the assignment completion. You may put these sources down in your outline near the sections you think the material belongs to. Thus, in such a way, you will not leave anything out when doing the work.

Now let us proceed to the question of how to make term paper outline:

  1. Order the material. If you are writing a paper on History, the events should obviously be chronologically arranged. The same thing is with biographies. The list should begin with a person’s early years and finish with death or recent period of life if a person is alive. Everything has to be logical and orderly.
  2. Think of supporting arguments or examples to each thesis. If you express some ideas in your writing piece, you should support them; otherwise, these suggestions are pointless and unreliable.
  3. Make as many sub-points as necessary. That is welcomed when the topic is broad and has many themes for discussion. Nonetheless, mind that if the information is too detailed or has no strict relation to the question, it is preferable to put it in the notes section.
  4. Think how you would conclude the list. There is no point to focus on conclusion much since you are most likely to alter the thesis and the content while completing an assignment.

In addition, you may have to write an annotated term paper outline. This one is pretty much the same as the above-given one. However, this type will exceed one page. Usually, it takes two or two and a half pages. That is due to the necessity to include author’s citation related to the respective section of a plan.

Being asked how an outline should look like, most of the students respond that it is a plan of the paper, which includes the introduction, the body, and the conclusion. This is really so, however, a good plan is somehow more elaborated and exceeds these three main points. You may look through numerous templates available on the Internet to gain greater insight into writing a term paper outline, but in most cases, a teacher or a professor requires a particular format to follow. Thus, first of all, make sure to follow the template given by your tutor and then proceed to the searching and overviewing those available on the Internet.


What are the parts of a term paper outline?

This part implies covering the purpose and the main idea of your paper. Additionally, you have to provide the contextual information on the topic for the readers to have a good grasp on the matter. Note that effective introduction should attract the attention of a reader, so think of a story, current event, or statistics that pertain to the topic. Moreover, if the research that you are carrying out is rather complicated or involves using many terms, add them to your outline too. That will help you to understand the basic concepts of the topic. Do not forget that the introduction should close with the thesis statement, which is 1-2 sentences in length.

This is the largest part of your paper, and therefore, it has to be split into several subtopics. Each subtopic has to be introduced as a separate paragraph with the main idea and at least two arguments, examples, or explanations supporting this idea. Mind that one paragraph should smoothly go over to the next one so that there is an inextricable link between these subtopics. Also, every thought or idea introduced further should not contradict the previously stated one.

You may face some difficulties trying to outline this part, as you have not done a research yet. Thus, simply specify that it should pertain to the thesis statement and arguments. Think of a thought-provoking question in the end. This is a very good idea if you are writing about some social issues in particular. This way every reader can think of his own solution to the problem.

Aside from these points, there are others, which may be included in a plan and a work respectively. Among them are the abstract page, table of contents, results, and referenced materials.

  • It usually takes half of page or so and aims to give a brief summary of the subject in question, particularly the direction of your research. Here, you have to indicate the research method and theoretical approach you used. You will have to mention why you have chosen this topic and how significant or interesting it is.
  • Table of contents. Put it down on your list, so you will not forget to include it in the final work.
  • This part generally comes before the conclusion. As soon as you are to do research, this section is designed to describe the results of your investigation. Here you are to explain whether the obtained results are the ones you expected and if not, how they influenced the overall work completion.
  • Referenced materials. Aside from reference list, you might need to add notes and appendices. The purpose of notes, which are divided into footnotes and endnotes, is to add important or interesting yet not directly relevant information on the matter. Appendices, on the other hand, provide more detailed information on the topic, which would distract a reader’s attention if mentioned in the body of the text.

As we have already mentioned, these points are optional, and their inclusion will depend on your tutor’s requests. However, they will surely make the work more elaborated and help to back up your ideas.

As far as can be seen from the lists provided above, there are many points that you should not miss. Therefore, it is so vital to know how to make an outline for a term paper since it will serve as a framework or draft to rely on.

Mind that it is not necessary to put too much information on your plan. You will most likely have to rewrite it again and again in the course of writing, since new issues may arise. Thus, to avoid boondoggling, try to make each point of the plan not more than 1 sentence in length.

Get a term paper outline template for free!

How should a regular outline look like? There are many free samples on various subjects, which you may review on the web. Here, we are also going to provide you with the term paper outline example so that you have a better understanding of how it should be formatted.

term paper outline about nelson mandela

Title: Biography and political achievements of Nelson Mandela.

Thesis statement: Nelson Mandela is the inimitable figure without whom Apartheid would still be alive in South Africa.

I. Introduction

1. Background of N. Mandela

  • Birthplace
  • Family
  • Education

II. Body

  1. Thesis about N. Mandela as a revolutionist (1943 – 1962)
  1. Thesis about years of imprisonment (1962 – 1990)
  1. Thesis about the fight for Apartheid ending period (1990 – 1994)
  1. Thesis about presidency years of Mandela and his political programs (1994 – 1999)

III. Conclusion

This is the brief, superficial sample outline for a term paper on Nelson Mandela’s political activity. You can look through the above-given one to get a rough idea of how an outline should be structured and what are the basic components of it. Sure, there can be more or less detailed outlines. The main thing here is that they should be functional and give you a better understanding of how to structure the draft and ultimately the paper itself.

Learn how to write a term paper outline with Pro-Papers!

If you do not know how to carry out the assigned work correctly, you can always visit our blog at Pro-Papers and find a few useful recommendations. On the other hand, if you want someone to complete it for you, our writers, who are real pros in the spheres of their expertise, will be glad to help you. Do not hesitate to contact us 24/7 regarding any questions on paper completion. We are always at your disposal!


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