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Research Process Guide: Outline - Draft - Revise

Outline

An important initial step in writing a paper is to outline your ideas and information. Outlines help organize information and identify the logical flow of arguments.

Before you begin an outline, however, you must first identify the purpose of the paper and your audience: what argument(s) are you trying to make and for whom are you writing it?

Next, take some time to brainstorm; list all the ideas you want to include in your paper. Then start grouping ideas together, and play with different arrangements. Once you have identified a workable structure, create the different headings.

(Source: Shannon Fie's FYI research paper assignment.)

See also Purdue Online Writing Center's guide to The Writing Process.

First Draft

Once you have a basic outline, just start writing!  See Purdue Online Writing Center's Invention:Starting the Writing Process page.

Check for plagiarism. According to The Random House Webster's College Dictionary, plagiarism is "the unauthorized use of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one's own."

Use a standard citation format for your bibliography.
Ask the library staff at the reference desk for help and check to see if your instructor requires one of these formats.

AAA - American Anthropological Association
APSA - American Political Science Association
APA - American Psychological Association
ASA - American Sociology Association
Chicago/Turabian
CBE - Council of Biology Editors
MLA - Modern Language Association
SAA - Society for American Archaeology
USGS - U.S. Geological
Survey

Revise

i. Put your project aside for a day or so. Reread it with a fresh eye for organization, content, grammar, etc... You may want to read it out loud. Have someone else read it and offer suggestions.

II. Check for plagiarism. According to The Random House Webster's College Dictionary, plagiarism is "the unauthorized use of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one's own."

III. Consult a style manual, such as The Chicago Manual of Style, for help in revising and formatting your paper.

IV. Finally, proofread carefully. Spell checkers and grammar checkers don't catch all mistakes.

YOU MAY NEED TO REPEAT THESE STEPS SEVERAL TIMES BEFORE YOU HAVE A POLISHED PRODUCT.