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Researching and Writing a Paper: An Outline for Writing!

This guide is about how to start, research, write, and format, a paper.

Creating an outline for writing your paper will help you to present your ideas and make sure that your paper will be organized, focused, and supported by your references. Many writers find it easier to write from an outline instead of starting from a blank page because the blank spaces in an outline that need filled in are a lot smaller than the vast blank space of an empty Word document. Keep these three elements in mind so you will be understood clearly:

  1. What is it that you want to say? You cannot be organized if you are not clear about what you need to write about and your own ideas. This is why the Thesis Sentence is so important, it summarizes what you are saying in the paper.
  2. How are you going to say what you need to say in a manner that others will understand? (Writing a paper is like telling a story – what information does the reader need to know first, what does the reader need to know next, and so on.)
  3. When you write an academic paper you are writing for someone who knows a little bit less about the topic than you do – even if the only person you expect will read your paper is your teacher. If you are writing for someone who knows a little bit less than you do your writing will be clearer and more understandable than if you were trying to write for someone who knows everything that you know.

How do I write an outline?

How do I write an outline?

  • Identify your topic statement or thesis statement.
  • Decide what points (facts, ideas, problems, events, solutions, etc.) you need to discuss in your paper. Make a list of them.
  • Put your points in a logical order so that each point connects back to your main point, to the point before it, and to the point after it. (Transitional sentences help with this, and making your points in a logical order helps you write your transitional sentences. A 'logical order' can also be thought of as 'what does my reader need to know first, what do they need to know next, and so on.)
  • Write possible transitions between paragraphs (what does the point you were just writing about have to do with the point you will write about next? What do both points have to do with your thesis sentence/main point?).

Remember that your outline is a rough idea of how your paper will develop; it does not have to be very formal or exact.

Below is a detailed sample outline about the Climate Change Crisis, probably more detailed than you likely need to make for your paper. If you were using this 'sample-outline' to write a paper maybe you might combine a few of the entries, and then you might write one or two or three sentences for each entry in the outline, for maybe a total of between 50 and 100 sentences. Or, if you were writing a book – and you might some day! – each entry in the outline might be a chapter of the book. Everyone organizes differently, so it is important to do what works best for you.


I. Introduction

A. Briefly introduce the topic of climate change and its significance

B. Present the thesis statement: “Man-made climate change is a big and complicated problem that we cannot ignore.”


II. Importance of the Climate Change Crisis

A. Global impact on ecosystems and biodiversity

1. Discuss the loss of biodiversity and its consequences

2. Explain the disruption of ecosystems and potential collapse of ecological systems

B. Threats to human well-being and public health

1. Describe the health risks associated with extreme weather events and changing disease patterns

2. Highlight the potential impacts on food security, water availability, and displacement of communities

C. Economic implications

1. Discuss the financial costs of climate change-related disasters

2. Address the risks to various industries, such as agriculture, tourism, and insurance

3. Explain the potential for economic instability and global inequality


III. Causes of the Climate Change Crisis

A. Greenhouse gas emissions

1. Describe the role of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O)

2. Discuss the sources of greenhouse gas emissions, including fossil fuels, deforestation, and agriculture

B. Fossil fuel combustion and industrial activities

1. Explain the contribution of burning fossil fuels to climate change

2. Discuss the role of industrial processes, such as cement production and chemical manufacturing

C. Deforestation and land-use change

1. Highlight the impact of deforestation on carbon sequestration and the release of CO2

2. Discuss the conversion of forests to agriculture, urbanization, and infrastructure development

D. Agricultural practices and livestock farming

1. Explain the role of agricultural activities in greenhouse gas emissions

2. Discuss the impact of livestock farming, including methane emissions and deforestation for grazing

E. Other factors influencing climate change

1. Address the influence of population growth and urbanization

2. Mention other contributors, such as waste management, industrial waste, and non-sustainable consumption patterns


IV. Consequences of Inaction

A. Continued global temperature rise

1. Discuss the potential impacts of temperature increases beyond the Paris Agreement targets

2. Explain the feedback mechanisms that could accelerate warming

B. Amplified extreme weather events

1. Discuss the intensification of hurricanes, heatwaves, droughts, and floods

2. Highlight the impact on vulnerable communities and infrastructure

C. Loss of biodiversity and ecosystem collapse

1. Explain the potential for species extinction and ecological imbalances

2. Discuss the consequences for ecosystem services and human well-being

D. Social and geopolitical implications

1. Discuss the potential for conflicts over resources, mass migration, and social unrest

2. Address the disproportionate impact on developing countries and marginalized communities


V. Conclusion

A. Recap the importance of the climate change crisis

B. Summarize the causes, emphasizing the need for comprehensive action

C. Call for urgent global cooperation as well as national, corporate, and individual, responsibility in mitigating climate change

D. Suggest potential solutions and the importance of transitioning to a sustainable and low-carbon future


Quotes and paraphrases listed in the outline must include APA (or MLA) in-text citations. At the same time, make sure you put the correct bibliographic citation in your Bibliography/Works Cited page. (And if you decide to not use a quote or paraphrase that you prepared be sure to remove the unused source from your bibliography.)

Organizational Tips

Organizational Tips

  • Make sure that both your teacher's goal and your goal for your paper is clear in your mind. What do you need to accomplish with this piece of writing? (Your assignment will usually tell you what you need to accomplish with the paper, your thesis sentence is a clear description of how you will accomplish that goal.)
  • Write down the thesis and your ideas in an outline format (see above).
  • Everything that appears in the paper has to connect with your thesis or main idea. The reader should always be able to follow the story you are telling (the argument and facts you are presenting). This can sometimes be hard to do if you have been working on the paper by yourself – asking someone else to read your paper for understanding and clarity is always good!
  • When you are almost done read the entire paper out loud – this will make it easier to notice missing words and unclear sentences. Then, once you have fixed any problems you noticed read your paper again, looking at each paragraph (even each sentence) and ask yourself how it supports your thesis sentence, or how it supports an important point that supports your thesis sentence.