Most research papers fall into one of three categories: analytical, expository, or argumentative. If you’re presenting an analysis of information, then your paper is analytical. If you’re writing to explain information, then your paper is expository. If you’re arguing a conclusion, then it’s argumentative or persuasive. Your thesis statement should match the type of paper you’re writing.
The thesis statement is a sentence that summarizes the main point of your essay and previews your supporting points. The thesis statement is important because it guides your readers from the beginning of your essay by telling them the main idea and supporting points of your essay.
Most research papers begin with a thesis statement at the end of an introductory paragraph. Even if it’s not a requirement, it’s a good idea to write a thesis statement as you begin to organize your research. Writing the thesis statement first is helpful because every argument or point you make in your paper should support this central idea you’re putting forward.
Like a bibliography, the way that you create your outline may depend on your assignment. If your teacher asked you to turn in an outline, be sure to make an outline that follows the example, guidelines, or requirements you have been given. If you aren’t required to write an outline, it can still be a helpful tool as you build your research paper.
If you have two main points in your thesis, three or five main sections might not work for your research paper. If the assignment asks you to introduce a topic, explain different opinions on the topic, and then choose and explain your opinion, then your paper probably needs three main sections, one for each of those objectives.