One strategy for writing a paper is to make an outline in which you break down your paper into sections and subsections.

Before writing an outline, it’s important to have an argument, thesis, or hypothesis around which you build your outline. This main idea may change over the course of writing; however, it’s important to have something around which to focus your outline as you go.

  • If you are writing a lab report or a scientific journal article, you might start by arranging a skeleton of the outline in IMRAD form (Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion). You might add subsections in each section to denote specific pieces of content that you will need to write.
    • For example, in the Introduction section, you might add in subsections detailing: a) historically important research/experiments in this field, b) current scholarship to date, c) a gap in the current scholarship, d) how your work will add to this conversation…
  • After you write your outline, you might need to move things around, do more research, or omit some of the points.
  • Remember, an outline is just an organizational tool and not a set in stone plan. Writing is a process, and often our papers change as we write them. If you don’t find outlining helpful, don’t worry! Keep working on developing your own writing practice.

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