The creation of an outline is an invaluable tool in the process of writing a research paper. It will give structure to the fledgling paper and allow you to better imagine what you will need to write. Breaking the paper down into small sections also makes the process of writing far less overwhelming.
After choosing an appropriate topic and writing a thesis statement, you will need to brainstorm to get ideas on how to best support your thesis. The length of your paper will determine the level of detail you should pursue in your supporting content. When you have honed the results of your brainstorming down to a suitable number of subtopics, you can arrange them in the order you feel would be most effective in arguing your thesis statement.