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Research Guide

Use this guide to help you with every stage of the writing process

Step 4: Create an Outline

Once you have found relevant resources, you can begin using these sources to begin to construct your argument.  This section will help you develop use the information that you gathered to develop your thesis statement and to construct an outline of your paper.


  • Take notes as you read. Highlight or write down important points as you read your resources.
  • Keep track of your sources.When you include information in your notes, write down where you got it.
  • Plan before you write.Create an outline to organize your ideas before you actually starting writing.
  • Use a templateTry taking notes using a template.

Creating an Outline

Read the sources you have collected and take notes. Make sure to keep track of where you are getting each piece of information.

You can use the template below as a way to keep track of your notes.

Example: Taking Notes

Here is an example of one way to record your Research Notes for each of your sources

Write a thesis statement. Your thesis statement is the main argument of your paper and should be 1-2 sentences long.

You can use resources from The Learning Portal’s section on Thesis Statement for help.

Example: Taking Notes

To address the research question, “Can alternative energy sources help stop global warming?”, the following could be a potential thesis statement:

  • Reducing the consumption of energy is not enough to solve the global warming crisis; developing new technologies and moving toward more renewable energy sources is necessary.

It is a good idea to outline the structure of your paper before you actually start writing. First, write down the main points you will be making in your paper and then determine how you will organize the paper.

Sample Outline Structure:

This is an example of one of the ways that you can structure your paper. Your structure may differ based on the type of paper that you are writing.


  • Attention grabber
  • Thesis Statement
  • Transition


  • Main point 1
    • Examples/Details/Explanations A
    • Examples/Details/Explanations B
    • Examples/Details/Explanations C
  • Main point 2
    • Examples/Details/Explanations A
    • Examples/Details/Explanations B
    • Examples/Details/Explanations C
  • Main Point 3
    • Examples/Details/Explanations A
    • Examples/Details/Explanations B
    • Examples/Details/Explanations C


  • Restate your thesis
  • Summary
  • Conclusion

Example: Creating an Outline

View the Sample Essay Outline in the Writing Module of The Learning Portal.

Concept Mapping

Concept Mapping is a great way of organizing ideas to show relationships between things. You can use it to map out the ideas in your paper.

  1. Begin by writing a main topic at the top of your page, and draw a circle around it.
  2. Break your main topic into components, and write these components below the main topic. Circle each component.
  3. Break these components down into smaller parts, and circle each part. As you get farther down the page, away from your main topic, the components become more specific.
  4. Add linking lines between each component.
  5. Add in words beside each linking line that explains the relationship between two connected bubbles. When you read the bubbles in descending order including the linking words you will usually get sentences relating the entire topic.

Concept mapping

Watch this video to learn how to create a concept map.

Mind Mapping Software