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Research Paper Outline – Types, Example, Template

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Research Paper Outline

By creating a well-structured research paper outline, writers can easily organize their thoughts and ideas and ensure that their final paper is clear, concise, and effective. In this article, we will explore the essential components of a research paper outline and provide some tips and tricks for creating a successful one.

Research Paper Outline

Research paper outline is a plan or a structural framework that organizes the main ideas , arguments, and supporting evidence in a logical sequence. It serves as a blueprint or a roadmap for the writer to follow while drafting the actual research paper .

Typically, an outline consists of the following elements:

  • Introduction : This section presents the topic, research question , and thesis statement of the paper. It also provides a brief overview of the literature review and the methodology used.
  • Literature Review: This section provides a comprehensive review of the relevant literature, theories, and concepts related to the research topic. It analyzes the existing research and identifies the research gaps and research questions.
  • Methodology: This section explains the research design, data collection methods, data analysis, and ethical considerations of the study.
  • Results: This section presents the findings of the study, using tables, graphs, and statistics to illustrate the data.
  • Discussion : This section interprets the results of the study, and discusses their implications, significance, and limitations. It also suggests future research directions.
  • Conclusion : This section summarizes the main findings of the study and restates the thesis statement.
  • References: This section lists all the sources cited in the paper using the appropriate citation style.

Research Paper Outline Types

There are several types of outlines that can be used for research papers, including:

Alphanumeric Outline

This is a traditional outline format that uses Roman numerals, capital letters, Arabic numerals, and lowercase letters to organize the main ideas and supporting details of a research paper. It is commonly used for longer, more complex research papers.

I. Introduction

  • A. Background information
  • B. Thesis statement
  • 1 1. Supporting detail
  • 1 2. Supporting detail 2
  • 2 1. Supporting detail

III. Conclusion

  • A. Restate thesis
  • B. Summarize main points

Decimal Outline

This outline format uses numbers to organize the main ideas and supporting details of a research paper. It is similar to the alphanumeric outline, but it uses only numbers and decimals to indicate the hierarchy of the ideas.

  • 1.1 Background information
  • 1.2 Thesis statement
  • 1 2.1.1 Supporting detail
  • 1 2.1.2 Supporting detail
  • 2 2.2.1 Supporting detail
  • 1 2.2.2 Supporting detail
  • 3.1 Restate thesis
  • 3.2 Summarize main points

Full Sentence Outline

This type of outline uses complete sentences to describe the main ideas and supporting details of a research paper. It is useful for those who prefer to see the entire paper outlined in complete sentences.

  • Provide background information on the topic
  • State the thesis statement
  • Explain main idea 1 and provide supporting details
  • Discuss main idea 2 and provide supporting details
  • Restate the thesis statement
  • Summarize the main points of the paper

Topic Outline

This type of outline uses short phrases or words to describe the main ideas and supporting details of a research paper. It is useful for those who prefer to see a more concise overview of the paper.

  • Background information
  • Thesis statement
  • Supporting detail 1
  • Supporting detail 2
  • Restate thesis
  • Summarize main points

Reverse Outline

This is an outline that is created after the paper has been written. It involves going back through the paper and summarizing each paragraph or section in one sentence. This can be useful for identifying gaps in the paper or areas that need further development.

  • Introduction : Provides background information and states the thesis statement.
  • Paragraph 1: Discusses main idea 1 and provides supporting details.
  • Paragraph 2: Discusses main idea 2 and provides supporting details.
  • Paragraph 3: Addresses potential counterarguments.
  • Conclusion : Restates thesis and summarizes main points.

Mind Map Outline

This type of outline involves creating a visual representation of the main ideas and supporting details of a research paper. It can be useful for those who prefer a more creative and visual approach to outlining.

  • Supporting detail 1: Lack of funding for public schools.
  • Supporting detail 2: Decrease in government support for education.
  • Supporting detail 1: Increase in income inequality.
  • Supporting detail 2: Decrease in social mobility.

Research Paper Outline Example

Research Paper Outline Example on Cyber Security:

A. Overview of Cybersecurity

  • B. Importance of Cybersecurity
  • C. Purpose of the paper

II. Cyber Threats

A. Definition of Cyber Threats

  • B. Types of Cyber Threats
  • C. Examples of Cyber Threats

III. Cybersecurity Measures

A. Prevention measures

  • Anti-virus software
  • Encryption B. Detection measures
  • Intrusion Detection System (IDS)
  • Security Information and Event Management (SIEM)
  • Security Operations Center (SOC) C. Response measures
  • Incident Response Plan
  • Business Continuity Plan
  • Disaster Recovery Plan

IV. Cybersecurity in the Business World

A. Overview of Cybersecurity in the Business World

B. Cybersecurity Risk Assessment

C. Best Practices for Cybersecurity in Business

V. Cybersecurity in Government Organizations

A. Overview of Cybersecurity in Government Organizations

C. Best Practices for Cybersecurity in Government Organizations

VI. Cybersecurity Ethics

A. Definition of Cybersecurity Ethics

B. Importance of Cybersecurity Ethics

C. Examples of Cybersecurity Ethics

VII. Future of Cybersecurity

A. Overview of the Future of Cybersecurity

B. Emerging Cybersecurity Threats

C. Advancements in Cybersecurity Technology

VIII. Conclusion

A. Summary of the paper

B. Recommendations for Cybersecurity

  • C. Conclusion.

IX. References

A. List of sources cited in the paper

B. Bibliography of additional resources

Introduction

Cybersecurity refers to the protection of computer systems, networks, and sensitive data from unauthorized access, theft, damage, or any other form of cyber attack. B. Importance of Cybersecurity The increasing reliance on technology and the growing number of cyber threats make cybersecurity an essential aspect of modern society. Cybersecurity breaches can result in financial losses, reputational damage, and legal liabilities. C. Purpose of the paper This paper aims to provide an overview of cybersecurity, cyber threats, cybersecurity measures, cybersecurity in the business and government sectors, cybersecurity ethics, and the future of cybersecurity.

A cyber threat is any malicious act or event that attempts to compromise or disrupt computer systems, networks, or sensitive data. B. Types of Cyber Threats Common types of cyber threats include malware, phishing, social engineering, ransomware, DDoS attacks, and advanced persistent threats (APTs). C. Examples of Cyber Threats Recent cyber threats include the SolarWinds supply chain attack, the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack, and the Microsoft Exchange Server hack.

Prevention measures aim to minimize the risk of cyber attacks by implementing security controls, such as firewalls, anti-virus software, and encryption.

  • Firewalls Firewalls act as a barrier between a computer network and the internet, filtering incoming and outgoing traffic to prevent unauthorized access.
  • Anti-virus software Anti-virus software detects, prevents, and removes malware from computer systems.
  • Encryption Encryption involves the use of mathematical algorithms to transform sensitive data into a code that can only be accessed by authorized individuals. B. Detection measures Detection measures aim to identify and respond to cyber attacks as quickly as possible, such as intrusion detection systems (IDS), security information and event management (SIEM), and security operations centers (SOCs).
  • Intrusion Detection System (IDS) IDS monitors network traffic for signs of unauthorized access, such as unusual patterns or anomalies.
  • Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) SIEM combines security information management and security event management to provide real-time monitoring and analysis of security alerts.
  • Security Operations Center (SOC) SOC is a dedicated team responsible for monitoring, analyzing, and responding to cyber threats. C. Response measures Response measures aim to mitigate the impact of a cyber attack and restore normal operations, such as incident response plans (IRPs), business continuity plans (BCPs), and disaster recovery plans (DRPs).
  • Incident Response Plan IRPs outline the procedures and protocols to follow in the event of a cyber attack, including communication protocols, roles and responsibilities, and recovery processes.
  • Business Continuity Plan BCPs ensure that critical business functions can continue in the event of a cyber attack or other disruption.
  • Disaster Recovery Plan DRPs outline the procedures to recover from a catastrophic event, such as a natural disaster or cyber attack.

Cybersecurity is crucial for businesses of all sizes and industries, as they handle sensitive data, financial transactions, and intellectual property that are attractive targets for cyber criminals.

Risk assessment is a critical step in developing a cybersecurity strategy, which involves identifying potential threats, vulnerabilities, and consequences to determine the level of risk and prioritize security measures.

Best practices for cybersecurity in business include implementing strong passwords and multi-factor authentication, regularly updating software and hardware, training employees on cybersecurity awareness, and regularly backing up data.

Government organizations face unique cybersecurity challenges, as they handle sensitive information related to national security, defense, and critical infrastructure.

Risk assessment in government organizations involves identifying and assessing potential threats and vulnerabilities, conducting regular audits, and complying with relevant regulations and standards.

Best practices for cybersecurity in government organizations include implementing secure communication protocols, regularly updating and patching software, and conducting regular cybersecurity training and awareness programs for employees.

Cybersecurity ethics refers to the ethical considerations involved in cybersecurity, such as privacy, data protection, and the responsible use of technology.

Cybersecurity ethics are crucial for maintaining trust in technology, protecting privacy and data, and promoting responsible behavior in the digital world.

Examples of cybersecurity ethics include protecting the privacy of user data, ensuring data accuracy and integrity, and implementing fair and unbiased algorithms.

The future of cybersecurity will involve a shift towards more advanced technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and quantum computing.

Emerging cybersecurity threats include AI-powered cyber attacks, the use of deepfakes and synthetic media, and the potential for quantum computing to break current encryption methods.

Advancements in cybersecurity technology include the development of AI and machine learning-based security tools, the use of blockchain for secure data storage and sharing, and the development of post-quantum encryption methods.

This paper has provided an overview of cybersecurity, cyber threats, cybersecurity measures, cybersecurity in the business and government sectors, cybersecurity ethics, and the future of cybersecurity.

To enhance cybersecurity, organizations should prioritize risk assessment and implement a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy that includes prevention, detection, and response measures. Additionally, organizations should prioritize cybersecurity ethics to promote responsible behavior in the digital world.

C. Conclusion

Cybersecurity is an essential aspect of modern society, and organizations must prioritize cybersecurity to protect sensitive data and maintain trust in technology.

for further reading

X. Appendices

A. Glossary of key terms

B. Cybersecurity checklist for organizations

C. Sample cybersecurity policy for businesses

D. Sample cybersecurity incident response plan

E. Cybersecurity training and awareness resources

Note : The content and organization of the paper may vary depending on the specific requirements of the assignment or target audience. This outline serves as a general guide for writing a research paper on cybersecurity. Do not use this in your assingmets.

Research Paper Outline Template

  • Background information and context of the research topic
  • Research problem and questions
  • Purpose and objectives of the research
  • Scope and limitations

II. Literature Review

  • Overview of existing research on the topic
  • Key concepts and theories related to the research problem
  • Identification of gaps in the literature
  • Summary of relevant studies and their findings

III. Methodology

  • Research design and approach
  • Data collection methods and procedures
  • Data analysis techniques
  • Validity and reliability considerations
  • Ethical considerations

IV. Results

  • Presentation of research findings
  • Analysis and interpretation of data
  • Explanation of significant results
  • Discussion of unexpected results

V. Discussion

  • Comparison of research findings with existing literature
  • Implications of results for theory and practice
  • Limitations and future directions for research
  • Conclusion and recommendations

VI. Conclusion

  • Summary of research problem, purpose, and objectives
  • Discussion of significant findings
  • Contribution to the field of study
  • Implications for practice
  • Suggestions for future research

VII. References

  • List of sources cited in the research paper using appropriate citation style.

Note : This is just an template, and depending on the requirements of your assignment or the specific research topic, you may need to modify or adjust the sections or headings accordingly.

Research Paper Outline Writing Guide

Here’s a guide to help you create an effective research paper outline:

  • Choose a topic : Select a topic that is interesting, relevant, and meaningful to you.
  • Conduct research: Gather information on the topic from a variety of sources, such as books, articles, journals, and websites.
  • Organize your ideas: Organize your ideas and information into logical groups and subgroups. This will help you to create a clear and concise outline.
  • Create an outline: Begin your outline with an introduction that includes your thesis statement. Then, organize your ideas into main points and subpoints. Each main point should be supported by evidence and examples.
  • Introduction: The introduction of your research paper should include the thesis statement, background information, and the purpose of the research paper.
  • Body : The body of your research paper should include the main points and subpoints. Each point should be supported by evidence and examples.
  • Conclusion : The conclusion of your research paper should summarize the main points and restate the thesis statement.
  • Reference List: Include a reference list at the end of your research paper. Make sure to properly cite all sources used in the paper.
  • Proofreading : Proofread your research paper to ensure that it is free of errors and grammatical mistakes.
  • Finalizing : Finalize your research paper by reviewing the outline and making any necessary changes.

When to Write Research Paper Outline

It’s a good idea to write a research paper outline before you begin drafting your paper. The outline will help you organize your thoughts and ideas, and it can serve as a roadmap for your writing process.

Here are a few situations when you might want to consider writing an outline:

  • When you’re starting a new research project: If you’re beginning a new research project, an outline can help you get organized from the very beginning. You can use your outline to brainstorm ideas, map out your research goals, and identify potential sources of information.
  • When you’re struggling to organize your thoughts: If you find yourself struggling to organize your thoughts or make sense of your research, an outline can be a helpful tool. It can help you see the big picture of your project and break it down into manageable parts.
  • When you’re working with a tight deadline : If you have a deadline for your research paper, an outline can help you stay on track and ensure that you cover all the necessary points. By mapping out your paper in advance, you can work more efficiently and avoid getting stuck or overwhelmed.

Purpose of Research Paper Outline

The purpose of a research paper outline is to provide a structured and organized plan for the writer to follow while conducting research and writing the paper. An outline is essentially a roadmap that guides the writer through the entire research process, from the initial research and analysis of the topic to the final writing and editing of the paper.

A well-constructed outline can help the writer to:

  • Organize their thoughts and ideas on the topic, and ensure that all relevant information is included.
  • Identify any gaps in their research or argument, and address them before starting to write the paper.
  • Ensure that the paper follows a logical and coherent structure, with clear transitions between different sections.
  • Save time and effort by providing a clear plan for the writer to follow, rather than starting from scratch and having to revise the paper multiple times.

Advantages of Research Paper Outline

Some of the key advantages of a research paper outline include:

  • Helps to organize thoughts and ideas : An outline helps to organize all the different ideas and information that you want to include in your paper. By creating an outline, you can ensure that all the points you want to make are covered and in a logical order.
  • Saves time and effort : An outline saves time and effort because it helps you to focus on the key points of your paper. It also helps you to identify any gaps or areas where more research may be needed.
  • Makes the writing process easier : With an outline, you have a clear roadmap of what you want to write, and this makes the writing process much easier. You can simply follow your outline and fill in the details as you go.
  • Improves the quality of your paper : By having a clear outline, you can ensure that all the important points are covered and in a logical order. This makes your paper more coherent and easier to read, which ultimately improves its overall quality.
  • Facilitates collaboration: If you are working on a research paper with others, an outline can help to facilitate collaboration. By sharing your outline, you can ensure that everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goals.

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How Can You Create a Well Planned Research Paper Outline

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You are staring at the blank document, meaning to start writing your research paper . After months of experiments and procuring results, your PI asked you to write the paper to publish it in a reputed journal. You spoke to your peers and a few seniors and received a few tips on writing a research paper, but you still can’t plan on how to begin!

Writing a research paper is a very common issue among researchers and is often looked upon as a time consuming hurdle. Researchers usually look up to this task as an impending threat, avoiding and procrastinating until they cannot delay it anymore. Seeking advice from internet and seniors they manage to write a paper which goes in for quite a few revisions. Making researchers lose their sense of understanding with respect to their research work and findings. In this article, we would like to discuss how to create a structured research paper outline which will assist a researcher in writing their research paper effectively!

Publication is an important component of research studies in a university for academic promotion and in obtaining funding to support research. However, the primary reason is to provide the data and hypotheses to scientific community to advance the understanding in a specific domain. A scientific paper is a formal record of a research process. It documents research protocols, methods, results, conclusion, and discussion from a research hypothesis .

Table of Contents

What Is a Research Paper Outline?

A research paper outline is a basic format for writing an academic research paper. It follows the IMRAD format (Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion). However, this format varies depending on the type of research manuscript. A research paper outline consists of following sections to simplify the paper for readers. These sections help researchers build an effective paper outline.

1. Title Page

The title page provides important information which helps the editors, reviewers, and readers identify the manuscript and the authors at a glance. It also provides an overview of the field of research the research paper belongs to. The title should strike a balance between precise and detailed. Other generic details include author’s given name, affiliation, keywords that will provide indexing, details of the corresponding author etc. are added to the title page.

2. Abstract

Abstract is the most important section of the manuscript and will help the researcher create a detailed research paper outline . To be more precise, an abstract is like an advertisement to the researcher’s work and it influences the editor in deciding whether to submit the manuscript to reviewers or not. Writing an abstract is a challenging task. Researchers can write an exemplary abstract by selecting the content carefully and being concise.

3. Introduction

An introduction is a background statement that provides the context and approach of the research. It describes the problem statement with the assistance of the literature study and elaborates the requirement to update the knowledge gap. It sets the research hypothesis and informs the readers about the big research question.

This section is usually named as “Materials and Methods”, “Experiments” or “Patients and Methods” depending upon the type of journal. This purpose provides complete information on methods used for the research. Researchers should mention clear description of materials and their use in the research work. If the methods used in research are already published, give a brief account and refer to the original publication. However, if the method used is modified from the original method, then researcher should mention the modifications done to the original protocol and validate its accuracy, precision, and repeatability.

It is best to report results as tables and figures wherever possible. Also, avoid duplication of text and ensure that the text summarizes the findings. Report the results with appropriate descriptive statistics. Furthermore, report any unexpected events that could affect the research results, and mention complete account of observations and explanations for missing data (if any).

6. Discussion

The discussion should set the research in context, strengthen its importance and support the research hypothesis. Summarize the main results of the study in one or two paragraphs and show how they logically fit in an overall scheme of studies. Compare the results with other investigations in the field of research and explain the differences.

7. Acknowledgments

Acknowledgements identify and thank the contributors to the study, who are not under the criteria of co-authors. It also includes the recognition of funding agency and universities that award scholarships or fellowships to researchers.

8. Declaration of Competing Interests

Finally, declaring the competing interests is essential to abide by ethical norms of unique research publishing. Competing interests arise when the author has more than one role that may lead to a situation where there is a conflict of interest.

Steps to Write a Research Paper Outline

  • Write down all important ideas that occur to you concerning the research paper .
  • Answer questions such as – what is the topic of my paper? Why is the topic important? How to formulate the hypothesis? What are the major findings?
  • Add context and structure. Group all your ideas into sections – Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion/Conclusion.
  • Add relevant questions to each section. It is important to note down the questions. This will help you align your thoughts.
  • Expand the ideas based on the questions created in the paper outline.
  • After creating a detailed outline, discuss it with your mentors and peers.
  • Get enough feedback and decide on the journal you will submit to.
  • The process of real writing begins.

Benefits of Creating a Research Paper Outline

As discussed, the research paper subheadings create an outline of what different aspects of research needs elaboration. This provides subtopics on which the researchers brainstorm and reach a conclusion to write. A research paper outline organizes the researcher’s thoughts and gives a clear picture of how to formulate the research protocols and results. It not only helps the researcher to understand the flow of information but also provides relation between the ideas.

A research paper outline helps researcher achieve a smooth transition between topics and ensures that no research point is forgotten. Furthermore, it allows the reader to easily navigate through the research paper and provides a better understanding of the research. The paper outline allows the readers to find relevant information and quotes from different part of the paper.

Research Paper Outline Template

A research paper outline template can help you understand the concept of creating a well planned research paper before beginning to write and walk through your journey of research publishing.

1. Research Title

A. Background i. Support with evidence ii. Support with existing literature studies

B. Thesis Statement i. Link literature with hypothesis ii. Support with evidence iii. Explain the knowledge gap and how this research will help build the gap 4. Body

A. Methods i. Mention materials and protocols used in research ii. Support with evidence

B. Results i. Support with tables and figures ii. Mention appropriate descriptive statistics

C. Discussion i. Support the research with context ii. Support the research hypothesis iii. Compare the results with other investigations in field of research

D. Conclusion i. Support the discussion and research investigation ii. Support with literature studies

E. Acknowledgements i. Identify and thank the contributors ii. Include the funding agency, if any

F. Declaration of Competing Interests

5. References

Download the Research Paper Outline Template!

Have you tried writing a research paper outline ? How did it work for you? Did it help you achieve your research paper writing goal? Do let us know about your experience in the comments below.

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Getting started with your research paper outline

example of a outline for a research paper

Levels of organization for a research paper outline

First level of organization, second level of organization, third level of organization, fourth level of organization, tips for writing a research paper outline, research paper outline template, my research paper outline is complete: what are the next steps, frequently asked questions about a research paper outline, related articles.

The outline is the skeleton of your research paper. Simply start by writing down your thesis and the main ideas you wish to present. This will likely change as your research progresses; therefore, do not worry about being too specific in the early stages of writing your outline.

A research paper outline typically contains between two and four layers of organization. The first two layers are the most generalized. Each layer thereafter will contain the research you complete and presents more and more detailed information.

The levels are typically represented by a combination of Roman numerals, Arabic numerals, uppercase letters, lowercase letters but may include other symbols. Refer to the guidelines provided by your institution, as formatting is not universal and differs between universities, fields, and subjects. If you are writing the outline for yourself, you may choose any combination you prefer.

This is the most generalized level of information. Begin by numbering the introduction, each idea you will present, and the conclusion. The main ideas contain the bulk of your research paper 's information. Depending on your research, it may be chapters of a book for a literature review , a series of dates for a historical research paper, or the methods and results of a scientific paper.

I. Introduction

II. Main idea

III. Main idea

IV. Main idea

V. Conclusion

The second level consists of topics which support the introduction, main ideas, and the conclusion. Each main idea should have at least two supporting topics listed in the outline.

If your main idea does not have enough support, you should consider presenting another main idea in its place. This is where you should stop outlining if this is your first draft. Continue your research before adding to the next levels of organization.

  • A. Background information
  • B. Hypothesis or thesis
  • A. Supporting topic
  • B. Supporting topic

The third level of organization contains supporting information for the topics previously listed. By now, you should have completed enough research to add support for your ideas.

The Introduction and Main Ideas may contain information you discovered about the author, timeframe, or contents of a book for a literature review; the historical events leading up to the research topic for a historical research paper, or an explanation of the problem a scientific research paper intends to address.

  • 1. Relevant history
  • 2. Relevant history
  • 1. The hypothesis or thesis clearly stated
  • 1. A brief description of supporting information
  • 2. A brief description of supporting information

The fourth level of organization contains the most detailed information such as quotes, references, observations, or specific data needed to support the main idea. It is not typical to have further levels of organization because the information contained here is the most specific.

  • a) Quotes or references to another piece of literature
  • b) Quotes or references to another piece of literature

Tip: The key to creating a useful outline is to be consistent in your headings, organization, and levels of specificity.

  • Be Consistent : ensure every heading has a similar tone. State the topic or write short sentences for each heading but avoid doing both.
  • Organize Information : Higher levels of organization are more generally stated and each supporting level becomes more specific. The introduction and conclusion will never be lower than the first level of organization.
  • Build Support : Each main idea should have two or more supporting topics. If your research does not have enough information to support the main idea you are presenting, you should, in general, complete additional research or revise the outline.

By now, you should know the basic requirements to create an outline for your paper. With a content framework in place, you can now start writing your paper . To help you start right away, you can use one of our templates and adjust it to suit your needs.

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After completing your outline, you should:

  • Title your research paper . This is an iterative process and may change when you delve deeper into the topic.
  • Begin writing your research paper draft . Continue researching to further build your outline and provide more information to support your hypothesis or thesis.
  • Format your draft appropriately . MLA 8 and APA 7 formats have differences between their bibliography page, in-text citations, line spacing, and title.
  • Finalize your citations and bibliography . Use a reference manager like Paperpile to organize and cite your research.
  • Write the abstract, if required . An abstract will briefly state the information contained within the paper, results of the research, and the conclusion.

An outline is used to organize written ideas about a topic into a logical order. Outlines help us organize major topics, subtopics, and supporting details. Researchers benefit greatly from outlines while writing by addressing which topic to cover in what order.

The most basic outline format consists of: an introduction, a minimum of three topic paragraphs, and a conclusion.

You should make an outline before starting to write your research paper. This will help you organize the main ideas and arguments you want to present in your topic.

  • Consistency: ensure every heading has a similar tone. State the topic or write short sentences for each heading but avoid doing both.
  • Organization : Higher levels of organization are more generally stated and each supporting level becomes more specific. The introduction and conclusion will never be lower than the first level of organization.
  • Support : Each main idea should have two or more supporting topics. If your research does not have enough information to support the main idea you are presenting, you should, in general, complete additional research or revise the outline.

example of a outline for a research paper

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Research Paper Outline/Structure with Examples

Research paper outline examples

A research paper outline also referred to as research paper structure, is an important writing tool that a student or a professional writer can apply in their writing process. It contains the blueprint or skeleton of the research paper, detailing the structure to follow when inserting information to make a research paper.

In essence, a well-crafted outline makes writing your research paper fast, efficient, and seamless. It does so by helping you organize the ideas and thoughts, organize the flow of information and related concepts, and ensure that every part of the research paper is addressed.

In some cases, teachers ask students to prepare research paper outlines to have a perspective of how the final product will be. It is common practice with almost all graduate-level supervisors, especially when you target to publish your research paper in an online journal.

What is a research paper outline?

A research paper outline is a skeleton or blueprint of a research paper, enlisting the potential contents of different parts of the research paper that you are to write. The outline serves to organize the written ideas about a given research topic in a logical order in a manner that helps you to visualize the final research paper.

Outlines help organize the main ideas based on a topic, headings, subheadings, and supporting details. They also help decide what points come first and which ones come last depending on their order of importance and impact on the writing process.

Writing an outline helps visualize your final research paper, which makes it easier to refer to the structure each time you face a challenge with a given part. Besides, with an outline, you can work on any part of the research paper independently without fearing that you will disturb the flow or confuse yourself.

The basic format of a research paper outline entails the introduction, body, and conclusion. You should write a research paper outline before starting to write your research paper. Some instructors can assign it as an independent assignment that culminates into the research paper.

A typical research paper has between two to four layers. The first two layers are the most basic and generalized, while the subsequent levels contain more specific and detailed information about the research topic, as would appear in the research paper.

Tips for Perfecting Your Research Paper Outline

For you to write an effective research paper outline, it is vital that you consider the factors we list below.

  • Ensure that you maintain consistency in formatting your outline . If you choose a specific format, ensure that you maintain it all through. For instance, you cannot mix approaches. Also, ensure that the outline levels are reflected in your outline.
  • Organize the information such that higher levels of your outline are general while the subsequent levels are detailed and well labeled.
  • Include the relevant citations (in-text) and reference list if your professor requires the outline.
  • Every main idea must have two or more supporting subtopics . If you notice there is none, do extra research to gather enough information to support the ideas.
  • Ensure that you properly coordinate the points so that there is a correlation between the subheadings with the subpoints
  • It is beneficial to write from general to specific when writing an outline. Separate the general and specific points. For instance, the subheadings should be general, while the sub-points become more specific as you descend the levels.
  • Ensure that you break down the information into subpoints . Although there is no limit to the number of subsections, you can ensure that there is a good flow of information that can structure a good paragraph once you begin writing.

How to Format a Research Paper Outline

Of course, the MLA, APA, Harvard, or Chicago formatting style exists. However, in terms of formatting an outline, there are three strategies that you might use: using full sentences, using decimals, and using alphanumeric.

When using the decimal for your outline, you will use a numbering system that entails the use of decimal points to note the level of the point. For instance, you will use 1.0, 1.1, 1.1.2, 1.2.1, etc.

In this case, you will be writing your text in short rather than full notes.

Here is an illustration

  • The extent of the problem (statistic)/hook
  • Background of the problem
  • Organization of the research paper

Full-sentence or Three Level Outline format

If you opt to use the full-sentence format for your outline, you will be writing your text in full sentences, sometimes with citations rather than in short points.

  • PTSD is a mental health condition caused by terrifying life events.
  • The paper addresses the history of the issue, cause, extent of the problem, and possible solutions.

Alphanumeric or the Four-level outline format

In the alphanumeric outline format, which is by far the most commonly used outline format in colleges and universities, you will use Roman numerals, capital letters, Arabic numerals, and lowercase letters to organize information depending on their levels for a good flow.

The test is written mainly in short notes instead of full sentences

Here is an illustration:

  • Types of pandemic disease
  • History of the pandemic disease since the 1900s
  • Thesis statement: Our nation’s response to the threat of pandemic disease creates a clear objective to support the two pillars of the National Security Strategy and defeat America’s enemies.
  • Subpoint of subpoint 1
  • Subpoint of subpoint 2
  • Federal Government
  • State and local government actions
  • Conclusion: Can the National Security Plan for pandemic disease support and protect the

citizens of the United States.

Research Paper Outline Examples

Now, to further break down what we have so far discussed, let us look at some examples of outlines for research papers. These can serve as templates for your next research paper outline. You can choose any format that you are comfortable with, depending on the topic and type of research paper you are writing.

Sample 1: Basic Research Paper Outline

Topic: Role of Valium in Opiate Replacement Treatment Approaches:

  • Statistics of the use of opiates and their impacts on society
  • Significance of valium as an opiate replacement treatment
  • Thesis statement
  • History of valium
  • Psychopharmacology of valium
  • Current trends and issues
  • Societal concerns or issues relating to diazepam
  • Significance of the topic to the counseling profession
  • Future implications
  • Recommendations

Sample 2: Scientific Research Paper Outline

  • Proper hook
  • Background statement
  • Statement of the problem
  • Statement of intent
  • Significance of the study
  • Statement of hypothesis or research question
  • Theoretical framework
  • Past research on the topic/ review of related literature
  • The identified gap in the literature
  • Sampling strategy/method
  • Participants
  • Data collection tools
  • Dependent and independent variables
  • Controlled variables
  • Graphs, figures, and tables
  • Numerical and non-numerical data
  • Restate the problem
  • Describe the findings
  • State if your findings support the hypothesis or not
  • Explanation of the research given past studies
  • Problems and sources of error
  • Significance of the findings
  • Analytical summary, including restating the research paper thesis .
  • Reworded thesis
  • limitations
  • Recommendations for future research

Sample 3: Typical Research Paper Outline

Topic: Labor Shortage in Healthcare Industry

  • The extent of labor shortage
  • A snapshot of labor shortage in the USA
  • Causes and consequences of labor shortage
  • How labor shortage should be addressed, and why it is a matter of concern
  • Voluntary turnover of healthcare workers
  • The limited capacity of educational programs
  • Poor working conditions and compensation
  • High burnout, dissatisfaction, and fatigue
  • Better alternatives
  • Brain drains
  • Increased demand for healthcare due to chronic diseases
  • Mortality and morbidity rates
  • Limited patient care
  • Reduced patient safety
  • Improper patient to healthcare workers ratio
  • High levels of dissatisfaction
  • Overcrowded healthcare settings
  • Increased wait times
  • Inefficient healthcare management
  • Better perks, compensation, and working environment
  • Funding and supporting students
  • Attract, recruit, and retain a young workforce
  • Creating gender-balanced workforce
  • Embracing diversity
  • Embracing technology
  • Developing new balanced care models
  • Summary of the causes, effects, and remedies for healthcare workforce shortage.
  • Summary of the implications of the proposed recommendations and who should implement what

Related Reading:

  • Essay outline example and template
  • Research paper topics and ideas

What next after writing a Research Paper Outline?

In most cases, when assigned to submit a research paper outline and then a research paper, you need to keep your references for use when writing your research paper upon approval of your research outline.

Upon approval of the outline, you need to conduct in-depth research, read widely, and begin writing the first draft of your research paper. As you conduct the research, build on the outline and provide evidence, examples, and explanations to bolster your thesis. Check out our research paper writing guide for more details.

Immediately you are done writing the first draft, ensure that you verify that you have tackled all the parts of a research paper. You then need to rest and only edit your research paper when you are sober enough.

When you resume to edit, check for the formatting (MLA, APA, Harvard, or Chicago), check and correct all the errors (grammar, language, and spelling), and ensure that the in-text citations are correct and that a corresponding reference list is provided at the end of your paper.

With everything polished, you now have yourself a final research paper. Ensure that it has an abstract and title page and then submit for grading. Then, you can pat yourself on the back for doing it wonderfully. However, you can buy custom research papers from our website. We will have it written from scratch with a guarantee of 100% originality, high quality, and timely delivery.

example of a outline for a research paper

Gradecrest is a professional writing service that provides original model papers. We offer personalized services along with research materials for assistance purposes only. All the materials from our website should be used with proper references. See our Terms of Use Page for proper details.

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How to create a helpful research paper outline

Last updated

21 December 2023

Reviewed by

You need to structure your research paper in an orderly way that makes it easy for readers to follow your reasoning and supporting data. That's where a research paper outline can help.

Writing a research paper outline will help you arrange your ideas logically and allow your final paper to flow. It will make the entire process more manageable and help you work out which details to include and which are better left out.

  • What is a research paper outline?

Write your research paper outline before starting your first draft. The outline provides a map of how you will structure your ideas throughout the paper. A research paper outline will help you to be more efficient when ordering the sections of your thesis, rather than trying to make structural changes after finishing an entire first draft.

An outline consists of the main topics and subtopics of your paper, listed in a logical order. The main topics will become the sections of your research paper, and the subtopics reveal the content you want to include or discuss under the main topics.

Under each subtopic, you can also jot down items you don't want to forget to include in your research paper, such as:

Topic ideas

Paragraph ideas

Direct quotes

Once you start listing these under your main topics, you can focus your thoughts as you plan and write the research paper using the evidence and data you collected and any additional information.

  • Why use an outline?

If your research paper does not have a clear, logical order, readers may not understand the ideas you're trying to share, or they may lose interest and not bother to read the whole paper. An outline helps you structure your research paper so readers can easily connect the content, ideas, and theories you're trying to prove or maintain.

  • Are there different kinds of research paper outlines?

Different kinds of research paper outlines might seem similar but have different purposes. You can select an outline type that provides a clear road map and thoroughly explores each point. 

Other types will help structure content logically or with a segmented flow and progression of ideas that align closely with the theme of your research.

  • The 3 types of outlines

The three outline formats available to research paper writers are:

Alphanumeric or topic outlines

Sentence or full-sentence outlines

Decimal outlines

Let’s look at the differences between each type and see how one may be more beneficial than another, depending on the nature of your research.

This type of research paper outline allows you to segment main headings and subheadings with an alphanumeric arrangement.

The alphanumeric characters of Roman numerals, capital letters, numbers, and lowercase letters define the hierarchy of main topic headings, subtopic headings, and third- and fourth-tier subtopic headings. (e.g., I, A, 1, a)

This method uses minimal words to describe the main and subtopic headings. You'll mostly use this type of research paper outline to focus on the organization of the content while allowing you to review it for unrelated or irrelevant information.

Full-sentence outlines

You will format this type of research paper outline as an alphanumeric outline, using the same alphanumeric characters. However, it contains complete sentences rather than a few words for each main and subtopic heading.

This formatting method allows the writer to focus on looking for inaccuracies and inconsistencies in each point before starting the first draft.

Instead of using alphanumeric characters to define main headings, subheadings, and third- and fourth-tier subheadings, the decimal outline uses a decimal numbering system.

This system shows a logical progression of the content by using 1.0 for the main section heading (and 2.0, 3.0, etc., for subsequent sections), 1.1 for the subheading, 1.1.1 for a third-tier subheading, and 1.1.1.1 for the fourth-tier subheading.

The headings and subheadings will be just a few words, as in the alphanumerical research paper outline. Decimal outlines allow the writer to focus on the content's overall coherence, increasing your writing efficiency and reducing the time it takes to write your research paper.

  • How to write a research paper outline

Before you begin your research paper outline, you need to determine your topic and gather your information. Let’s look at these steps first, then dive into how to write your outline.

1. Determine your topic

You'll need to establish a topic or the main point you intend to write about.

For example, you may want to research and write about whether influencers are the most beneficial way to promote products in your industry. This topic is the main point around which your essay will revolve.

2. Gather information

You'll need evidence, data, statistics, and facts to prove or disprove that influencers are the best method of promoting products in your industry.

You'll insert any of these things you collect to substantiate your findings into the outline to support your topic.

3. Determine the type of essay you'll be writing

There are many types of essays or research papers you can write. The kinds of essays include:

Argumentative: Builds logic and support for an argument

Cause and effect: Explains relationships between specific conditions and their results

Analytical: Presents a claim on what is being analyzed

Interpretive: Informative and persuasive explanations on how something is perceived

Experimental: Reports on experimental results and the reasoning behind the results

Review: Offers an understanding and analysis of primary sources on a given topic

Definition: Defines what a term or concept means

Persuasive: Uses logic and reason to show that one idea is more justified than another

Narrative: Tells a story of personal experience from the author’s point of view

Expository: Shows an objective view of a subject by exploring various angles

Descriptive: Describes objects, people, places, experiences, emotions, situations, etc.

Once you understand the essay format you are writing, you'll know how to structure your outline. 

4. Include basic sections

You'll begin to structure your outline using basic sections. Your main topic headings for these sections may include an introduction, multiple body paragraph sections, and a conclusion.

Once you establish the sections, you can insert the subtopics under each main topic heading.

5. Organize your outline

For example, if you're writing an argumentative essay taking the position that brand influencers (e.g., social media stars on Instagram or TikTok) are the best way to promote products in your industry, you will argue for that particular position.

You'll organize your argumentative essay outline with a main topic section supporting the position. The subtopics will include the reasoning behind your arguments, and the third-tier subtopics will contain the supporting evidence and data you gathered during your research.

You'll add another main topic section to counter and respond to any opposing arguments. Once you've organized and included all the information in this way, this will provide the structure to start your argumentative essay draft.

6. Consider compare-and-contrast essays

A compare-and-contrast essay is a form of essay that analyzes the differences between two opposing theories or subjects. If you have multiple subjects that are the same or different in just one aspect, you can write a point-by-point outline exploring each subject in terms of this characteristic.

The main topic headings will list that one characteristic, and the subtopic headings will list the subjects or items that are the same or different in relation to this characteristic.

Conversely, if you have multiple items to compare, but they have many characteristics that are similar or different, you can write a block method outline. The main topic headings will contain the items to be compared, while the subtopic headings will contain the aspects in which they are similar or different.

7. Consider advanced organizers for longer essays

An advanced organizer is a sentence that introduces new topics by connecting already-known information to new information. It can also prepare the reader for what they may expect to learn from the entire essay, or each section or paragraph.

Incorporating advanced organizers makes it easier for the reader to process and understand the information you are trying to convey. If you choose to use advanced organizers, depending on how often you want to use them throughout your paper, you can add them to your outline at the end of the introduction, the beginning of a section, or the beginning of each paragraph. 

  • Do outlines need periods (full stops)?

If you're constructing alphanumerical or decimal topic outlines, they do not need periods because the entries are usually not complete sentences. However, outlines containing full sentences will need to be punctuated as any sentence is, including using periods.

  • An example research paper outline

Here is an example of an alphanumerical outline that argues brand influencers are the best method of promoting products in a particular industry:

I.  Introduction

    A.  Background information about the issue and the position being argued.

    B.  Thesis statement: Influencers are the best way to promote products in this industry.

II.  Reasons that support the thesis statement

    A.  Reason or argument #1

           1.  Supporting evidence

           2.  Supporting evidence

    B.  Reason or argument #2

    C.  Reason or argument #3

          1.  Supporting evidence

          2.  Supporting evidence

III. Counterarguments and responses

       A.  Arguments from the other point of view

       B.  Rebuttals against those arguments

IV.  Conclusion

  • How long is a thesis outline?

There is no set length for a research paper outline or thesis outline. Your outline can be as long as it needs to be to organize your thoughts constructively.

You can start with a short outline containing an introduction, background, methodology, data and analysis, and conclusion. Or you can break these sections into more specific segments according to the content you want to share.

Why make writing a research paper more complicated than it needs to be? Knowing the elements of an outline and how to insert them into a cohesive structure will make your final paper understandable and interesting to the reader.

Understanding how to outline a research paper will make the writing process more efficient and less time-consuming.

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How to Write a Research Paper Outline with Examples

example of a outline for a research paper

You sometimes have to submit an essay outline or a research proposal checklist for a research project before you do most of the actual research to show that you have understood the assignment, defined a good research question or hypothesis, and contemplated the structure of your research paper. You can find various templates and examples for such outlines, which usually begin with “put your thesis statement/research question at the top” and then ask you to decide whether to add your supporting ideas/points in “alphanumeric,” “decimal,” or “full-sentence” style. 

That is certainly one useful (if not overly formalized) way of using outlining to prepare to draft an academic text. But here we want to talk about how to make an outline after you have done a research project or thesis work and are not quite sure how to put everything together into a written thesis to hand in or a research paper manuscript to submit to a journal.

What is a research paper outline?

Creating a research project outline entails more than just listing bullet points (although you can use bullet points and lists in your outline). It includes how to organize everything you have done and thought about and want to say about your work into a clear structure you can use as the basis for your research paper. 

There are two different methods of creating an outline: let’s call these “abstract style” and “paper style.” These names reflect how briefly you summarize your work at this initial point, or show how extensive and complicated the methods and designs you used and the data you collected are. The type of outline you use also depends on how clear the story you want to tell is and how much organizing and structuring of information you still need to do before you can draft your actual paper. 

research paper outline, scaffolding image

Table of Contents:

  • Abstract-Style Outline Format
  • Paper-Style Outline Format

Additional Tips for Outlining a Research Paper in English

Abstract-style research paper outline format.

A research paper outline in abstract style consists, like the abstract of a research paper , of short answers to the essential questions that anyone trying to understand your work would ask.

  • Why did you decide to do what you did?
  • What exactly did you do?
  • How did you do it?
  • What did you find?
  • What does it mean?
  • What should you/we/someone else do now?

These questions form the structure of not only a typical research paper abstract but also a typical article manuscript. They will eventually be omitted and replaced by the usual headers, such as Introduction/Background, Aim, Methods, Results, Discussion, Conclusions, etc. Answering these key questions for yourself first (with keywords or short sentences) and then sticking to the same structure and information when drafting your article will ensure that your story is consistent and that there are no logical gaps or contradictions between the different sections of a research paper . 

If you draft this abstract outline carefully, you can use it as the basis for every other part of your paper. You reduce it even more, down to the absolute essential elements, to create your manuscript title ; you choose your keywords on the basis of the summary presented here; and you expand it into the introduction , methods , results , and discussion sections of your paper without contradicting yourself or losing the logical thread. 

Research Paper Outline Example (Abstract style)

Let’s say you did a research project on the effect of university online classes on attendance rates and create a simple outline example using these six questions:

1. Why did you decide to do what you did?

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many university courses around the world have been moved online, at least temporarily. Since students have been saving time on commuting, I wondered if attendance rates have increased overall.

2. What exactly did you do?

I compared attendance scores for courses that were taught both before (offline) and during (online) the COVID-19 pandemic at my university.

3. How did you do it?

I selected five popular subjects (business, law, medicine, psychology, art & design) and one general course per subject; then I contacted the professors in charge and asked them to provide me with anonymized attendance scores.

4. What did you find?

Attendance did not significantly change for medicine and law, but slightly dropped for the other three subjects. I found no difference between male and female students.  

5. What does it mean?

Even though students saved time on traveling between their homes and the campus during the COVID-19 pandemic, they did not attend classes more consistently; in some subjects, they missed more classes than before.

6. What should you/we/someone else do now?

Since I do not have any other information about the students, I can only speculate on potential explanations. Next, I will put together a questionnaire to assess how students have been coping with online classes and how the experiences from this time can benefit university teaching and learning in general.

Note that you could have made the same outline using just keywords instead of full sentences. You could also have added more methodological details or the results of your statistical analysis. However, when you can break everything down to the absolute essentials like this, you will have a good foundation upon which to develop a full paper. 

However, maybe your study just seems too complicated. So you look at these questions and then at your notes and data and have no idea how to come up with such simple answers. Or maybe things went in a completely different direction since you started writing your paper, so now you are no longer sure what the main point of your experiments was and what the main conclusion should be. If that is how you feel right now, then outlining your paper in “paper style” might be the right method for you.

Paper-Style Research Paper Outline Format 

The purpose of a paper-style outline is the same as that of an abstract-style outline: You want to organize your initial thoughts and plans, the methods and tools you used, all the experiments you conducted, the data you collected and analyzed, as well as your results, into a clear structure so that you can identify the main storyline for your paper and the main conclusions that you want the reader to take from it. 

First, take as much space as you need and simply jot down everything in your study you planned to do, everything you did, and everything you thought about based on your notes, lab book, and earlier literature you read or used. Such an outline can contain all your initial ideas, the timeline of all your pilots and all your experiments, the reasons why you changed direction or designed new experiments halfway through your study, all the analyses you ever did, all the feedback and criticism you already got from supervisors and seniors or during conference presentations, and all the ideas you have for future work. If this is your thesis or your first publication, then your first outline might look quite messy – and that is exactly why you need to structure your paper before trying to write everything up. 

So you have finally remembered all you have done in your study and have written everything down. The next step is to realize that you cannot throw all of this at the reader and expect them to put it together. You will have to create a story that is clear and consistent, contains all the essential information (and leaves out any that is not), and leads the reader the same way the abstract outline does, from why over what and how to what you found and what it all means . 

This does not mean you should suppress results that did not come out as intended or try to make your study look smoother. But the reader does not really need to know all the details about why you changed your research question after your initial literature search or some failed pilots. Instead of writing down the simple questions we used for the abstract outline, to organize your still messy notes, write down the main sections of the manuscript you are trying to put together. Additionally, include what kinds of information needs to go where in your paper’s structure.

1. Introduction Section:  

What field is your research part of?

What other papers did you read before deciding on your topic?

Who is your target audience and how much information do your readers need to understand where you are coming from? 

Can you summarize what you did in two sentences?

Did you have a clear hypothesis? If not, what were the potential outcomes of your work?

2. Methods Section: 

List all the methods, questionnaires, and tests you used.

Are your methods all standard in the field or do you need to explain them?

List everything chronologically or according to topics, whatever makes more sense. Read more about writing the Methods section if you need help with this important decision.

3. Results Section: 

Use the same timeline or topics you introduced in the method section.

Make sure you answer all the questions you raised in the introduction.

Use tables, graphs, and other visualizations to guide the reader.

Don’t present results of tests/analyses that you did not mention in the methods.

4. Discussion/Conclusion Section: 

Summarize quickly what you did and found but don’t repeat your results.

Explain whether your findings were to be expected, are new and surprising, are in line with the existing literature, or are contradicting some earlier work. 

Do you think your findings can be generalized? Can they be useful for people in certain professions or other fields?  

Does your study have limitations? What would you do differently next time? 

What future research do you think should be done based on your findings?

5. Conclusion Statement/Paragraph: 

This is your take-home message for the reader. Make sure that your conclusion is directly related to your initial research question.

Now you can simply reorganize your notes (if you use computer software) or fill in the different sections and cross out information on your original list. When you have used all your jotted notes, go through your new outline and check what is still missing. Now check once more that your conclusion is related to your initial research question. If that is the case, you are good to go. You can now either break your outline down further and shorten it into an abstract, or you can expand the different outline sections into a full article.

If you are a non-native speaker of English, then you might take notes in your mother language or maybe in different languages, read literature in your mother language, and generally not think in English while doing your research. If your goal is to write your thesis or paper in English, however, then our advice is to only use your mother language when listing keywords at the very beginning of the outlining process (if at all). As soon as you write down full sentences that you want to go into your paper eventually, you can save yourself a lot of work, avoid mistakes later in the process, and train your brain (which will help you immensely the next time you write an academic text), if you stick to English.

Another thing to keep in mind is that starting to write in full sentences too early in the process means that you might need to omit some passages (maybe even entire paragraphs) when you later decide to change the structure or storyline of your paper. Depending on how much you enjoy (or hate) writing in English and how much effort it costs you, having to throw away a perfectly fine paragraph that you invested a lot of time in can be incredibly frustrating. Our advice is therefore to not spend too much time on writing and to not get too attached to exact wording before you have a solid outline that you then only need to fill in and expand into a full paper.

Once you have finished drafting your paper, consider using professional proofreading and English editing service to revise your paper and prepare it for submission to journals. Wordvice offers a paper editing service , manuscript editing service , dissertation editing service , and thesis editing service to polish and edit your research work and correct any errors in style or formatting.

And while you draft your article, make use of Wordvice AI, a free AI essay editor that identifies and fixes errors in punctuation, spelling, and grammar in any academic document. 

Research Paper Guide

Research Paper Outline

Nova A.

Guide to Creating Effective Research Paper Outline

Published on: Dec 1, 2017

Last updated on: Jan 11, 2024

Research Paper Outline

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Have you ever felt overwhelmed by research, not knowing how to start or structure your thoughts effectively?

You're not alone in facing this problem. The challenge of disorganized research is something many students deal with. But don't worry! 

In this blog, we'll not only tell you how to create your research paper outline, but we’ve included some downloadable templates as well.

We'll provide a practical step-by-step solution for organizing your research material so you end with a well-structured research paper. By the end of the blog, you'll understand why outlines matter and how to create compelling research papers.

So, keep reading to learn more!

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What is a Research Paper Outline?

A research paper outline serves as a systematic framework for your paper. It's a structured strategy that assists in the organization of your thoughts and ideas before the writing process begins. 

The outline structures out the main sections, subtopics, and supporting details in your research paper. In essence, it offers a well-structured and coherent roadmap for the entirety of your paper, maintaining academic rigor and clarity.

Different Research Paper Outline Formats

When it comes to creating a research paper outline, you've got options. Let's explore a few different formats that you can choose from:

Numeric Outline

A numeric outline is a structured organizational format for planning a research paper. 

It uses a numerical system to represent the hierarchy of ideas, with each main section or point numbered and subpoints or details indicated by decimal numbers. Numeric outlines are useful for presenting information in a clear and logical sequence.

Here’s a sample research paper outline template for this format:

Alphanumeric Outline

An alphanumeric outline is a hierarchical structure used to outline a research paper, combining numbers and letters to signify the different levels of information. 

Main sections are designated with capital letters (A, B, C), which include major points, while subpoints are indicated by numbers and lowercase letters (1, 2, a, b). Alphanumeric outlines help writers organize complex topics and subtopics effectively.

Here’s a sample sample research paper outline for this format:

Full Sentence Outline

A full-sentence outline is a method of planning a research paper in which each point in the outline is presented as a complete sentence or phrase. 

It provides a detailed overview of the content and structure of the paper. Full-sentence outlines are particularly helpful for writers who prefer thorough planning and want to capture the essence of each section or point.

Here’s a research paper outline format for full sentences:

Steps to Create a Research Paper Outline

Creating a research paper outline doesn't have to be complicated. Follow these simple steps to get started:

Step 1: Choose Your Research Topic

Begin by selecting a research topic that is both interesting to you and relevant to your assignment or academic objectives. Your chosen topic will serve as the foundation for your entire research paper.

Step 2: Identify Your Main Sections

Determine the main sections or chapters your research paper will include. These are the broad thematic areas that will structure your paper, and they provide a high-level overview of the topics you plan to cover. Here are the main sections a typical research paper involves:

  • Title Page: This is the first page and includes the paper's title, author's name, institutional affiliation, and often the running head.
  • Abstract : A concise summary of the paper, usually around 150-250 words, providing an overview of the research, its key findings, and implications.
  • Introduction: Sets the stage for your research, offering background information and a thesis statement , which is a central argument or hypothesis.
  • Literature Review : A comprehensive analysis of existing research and literature on your topic, demonstrating your understanding of the subject.
  • Methodology: Explain the research methods, data collection techniques, and analytical tools used in your study.
  • Findings: Presents the research results in a structured manner, often including data, tables, or charts.
  • Discussion: Interpretation of the findings and their implications, offering insights into the research's significance.
  • Conclusion: Summarizes the main points, reiterates the thesis, and discusses potential future research directions.
  • References: A list of all sources cited in your paper, following a specific citation style (e.g., APA, MLA).

Step 3: Break It Down into Subtopics

Under each main section, further divide your content into smaller subtopics. Subtopics are like the building blocks of your paper; they represent the key points or ideas you intend to explore within each main section.

Step 4: Add Supporting Details

For each subtopic, include supporting details, facts, examples, or arguments that bolster your point. These supporting details form the substance of your paper and provide evidence for your claims or arguments.

Step 5: Organize Your Points

Organize your main sections, subtopics, and supporting details in a logical order that flows smoothly from one point to the next. This step ensures that your research paper maintains coherence and readability.

Step 6: Use Numbers or Letters

To enhance clarity within your outline, use numbering, a lettering system, or Roman numerals. Use numerical sequencing for main sections (e.g., "1.," "2.," "3.") and a combination of numbers and letters for subtopics (e.g., "1.1," "1.2," "2.1").

Step 7: Stay Flexible

Recognize that your outline is not set in stone. As you conduct research and begin writing, your ideas may evolve, and you may discover the need to adjust your outline accordingly. Embrace this flexibility to adapt to new insights and information.

By following these steps, you'll create a well-structured research paper outline that serves as a roadmap for your writing journey. It keeps your research organized and makes writing easier, resulting in a more effective paper.

Research Paper Outline Example

A research paper outline could be created in several different ways. Here is a sample research paper outline for a quick review:

Here are some more examples for different formats and subjects:

APA Research Paper Outline PDF

College Research Paper Outline

Argumentative Research Paper Outline

Sample Research Paper Outline

History Research Paper Outline

Research Paper Outline MLA

Research Paper Outline with Annotated Bibliography

Need to consult more examples? Have a look at these top-quality research paper examples and get inspiration!

In conclusion, with the help of these example templates and our step-by-step guide on creating an outline, you're now well-prepared to create an effective one. 

If you're in a hurry and want to skip the outlining process, our essay writing service is here to help!

You can get our team of expert essay writers to assist you at any stage of your research or to deliver a well-formatted, accurate research paper. 

So, just say, write my research paper , and we’ll deliver an original, top-quality paper to you!

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How to Do Research: A Step-By-Step Guide: 4b. Outline the Paper

  • Get Started
  • 1a. Select a Topic
  • 1b. Develop Research Questions
  • 1c. Identify Keywords
  • 1d. Find Background Information
  • 1e. Refine a Topic
  • 2a. Search Strategies
  • 2d. Articles
  • 2e. Videos & Images
  • 2f. Databases
  • 2g. Websites
  • 2h. Grey Literature
  • 2i. Open Access Materials
  • 3a. Evaluate Sources
  • 3b. Primary vs. Secondary
  • 3c. Types of Periodicals
  • 4a. Take Notes
  • 4b. Outline the Paper
  • 4c. Incorporate Source Material
  • 5a. Avoid Plagiarism
  • 5b. Zotero & MyBib
  • 5c. MLA Formatting
  • 5d. MLA Citation Examples
  • 5e. APA Formatting
  • 5f. APA Citation Examples
  • 5g. Annotated Bibliographies

Why Outline?

For research papers, a formal outline can help you keep track of large amounts of information.

Sample Outline

Thesis: Federal regulations need to foster laws that will help protect wetlands, restore those that have been destroyed, and take measures to improve the damange from overdevelopment.

I. Nature's ecosystem

   A. Loss of wetlands nationally

   B. Loss of wetlands in Illinois

      1. More flooding and poorer water quality

      2. Lost ability to prevent floods, clean water and store water

II. Dramatic floods

   A, Cost in dollars and lives

      1. 13 deaths between 1988 and 1998

      2. Cost of $39 million per year

   B. Great Midwestern Flood of 1993

      1. Lost wetlands in IL

      2. Devastation in some states

   C. Flood Prevention

      1. Plants and Soils

      2. Floodplain overflow

III. Wetland laws

   A. Inadequately informed legislators

      1. Watersheds

      2. Interconnections in natural water systems

   B. Water purification

IV. Need to save wetlands

   A. New federal definition

   B. Re-education about interconnectedness

      1. Ecology at every grade level

      2. Education for politicians and developers

      3. Choices in schools and people's lives

Example taken from The Bedford Guide for College Writers (9th ed).

How to Create an Outline

To create an outline:

  • Place your thesis statement at the beginning.
  • List the major points that support your thesis. Label them in Roman numerals (I, II, III, etc.).
  • List supporting ideas or arguments for each major point. Label them in capital letters (A, B, C, etc.).
  • If applicable, continue to sub-divide each supporting idea until your outline is fully developed. Label them 1, 2, 3, etc., and then a, b, c, etc.

NOTE: EasyBib has a function that will help you create a clear and effective outline.

How to Structure an Outline

  • << Previous: 4a. Take Notes
  • Next: 4c. Incorporate Source Material >>
  • Last Updated: Feb 21, 2024 11:01 AM
  • URL: https://libguides.elmira.edu/research

The Writing Process logo

The Writing Process

Making expository writing less stressful, more efficient, and more enlightening, search form, you are here.

  • Step 2: Plan and organize

Sample Detailed Outline

example of a outline for a research paper

"Organize. Organize. Organize." —U.S. Vice President and Nobel Peace Prize-winner Al Gore

Below is an example of a detailed outline. (It is for a research paper, but the principles and structure apply to any paper.) Notice the hierarchical use of the roman numeral system . Such a hierarchy is key to organizing your thinking and your argument and keeping track of the relationships between your ideas.

Introduction

quote from movie like Independence Day to get readers’ attention SOURCE: IMDB.com

world preparing to welcome with festivities and open arms the aliens coming to Earth from Andromeda galaxy

Thesis (complete sentence!): Although the aliens seem friendly and say they come in peace, Earth’s number one priority should be to build a defense shield before they arrive.

On March 15, 2016, we discovered not alone in universe: irregular but repeating signal discovered from nearby Andromeda. SOURCE: NYTimes , 3/16/16

Different scientists have decoded the message differently

Commonly accepted interpretation friendly:

“Greetings, people of Earth. We have detected and watched your reports (e.g., The Big Bang Theory ) documenting typical life on Earth. We are currently on our way to Earth to begin our friendship and will arrive in Earth year 2020. Prepare yourselves for a glorious future [unclear signals].” (SOURCE: Michaels, “Aliens Are Our Friends,” People )

still parts of the message undecoded (SOURCE?

all scientists agree: Aliens arriving in 2020 (Source: Fredericks, Wall Street Journal )

Argument: there are signs that message is a warning and that aliens are planning to attack

Prof. Alan Guthman, Harvard Center for Astrophysics, makes case (SOURCE: Guthman, “We Do Not Come in Peace”)

With only one message to work with, we have little clue of tone of message

If we interpret three different patterns in signal differently, tone much different: “Attention, Earthlings. We have observed your unusual lives. We are coming to Earth to…[unclear]. Prepare yourselves for life under our control.”

With all the videos we broadcast into space, an alien race would assume that we are hostile and act accordingly

Logic: Even if these aliens are friendly, it is better to be safe than sorry and protect ourselves

FIND: Estimates of the number of intelligent races in the nearby universe and the probability that at least one of them is hostile and technologically advanced

Argument: Estimates show that workable shield surrounding Earth can be constructed by 2020

If nations of Earth collaborate, we can build shield that will block incoming ships and weapons fire (SOURCE. Teller, “Shielding the Earth,” Physics Rev. Letters )

Will cost huge amounts of $$, but:

if spread out among many countries, affordable FIND. Estimates of costs

We can’t afford NOT to build it

Argument: Building shield will both stimulate global economy and result in very useful new technologies

FIND! Evidence on how previous projects—moon landing, the International Space Station, emergency stimulus packages—created

jobs –find stats!

new products & companies

FIND! I don’t have concrete evidence for this, but I remember hearing how the moon landing and international space station resulted in the creation of new, useful technologies

Counterargument: If we build shield and they detect it, it could signal that we are hostile and provoke the aliens to attack

Missile defense shields on Earth have often provoked international tensions. SOURCE: M. Pritchard, “If You Build It, They Will Attack.” ( Boston Globe )

FIND source that shows that

such tensions do not necessarily lead to attack and

any intelligent race will understand need for others to be prepared to defend themselves.

Counterargument: We are probably not able to build shield that would work against such a technologically advanced race

non-sequitor. fact that it may not work does not mean that it won’t and that we should not try to protect ourselves.

Conclusion.

We have no way of knowing the intensions of a group we have never met on the basis of one message.

The only sensible approach is to try to defend ourselves, especially when there will be benefits for trying such as jobs and new technologies.

  • As I learned in Las Vegas, “Never risk what you cannot afford to lose.” Can we afford to risk our children’s lives?

Click here to create a detailed outline from your freewrite/brainstorm using GoogleDocs.

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A Step-by-Step Guide to Crafting a Winning Research Paper Outline

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Creating a research paper outline is an essential step for organizing your ideas and research before you start writing. It can help you structure your arguments, spot gaps in your research, and ensure you include all important information. Speaking of which, this step-by-step guide is your opportunity to learn creating a good research paper outline , just like a professional paper writing service provider would do. So, without further ado, let’s get started.

Table of Contents

Crafting a Comprehensive Research Paper Outline – A Step-by-Step Guide

Crafting a Comprehensive Research Paper Outline A Step by Step Guide

Putting together a research paper can be intimidating, but it can get easier if you make a good outline. Here are a few simple steps to help you outline a thorough research paper.

Step 1: Pick a Topic and Conduct Research

The first thing you should do is pick a relevant, interesting topic with plenty of research material available. Do your research, take down notes, and document your sources so you can cite them in your bibliography later. 

1.1 Brainstorming and Narrowing Down the Topic

Think about a field that you’re passionate about or interested in, and brainstorm some related ideas. Once you have a few ideas, narrow down the list to the most interesting and relevant ones. How about  social media research paper topics ? 

For Example: Thinking about social media and mental health could give you a few ideas for topics like “How does social media affect depression?” or “What does social media do to our body image and self-esteem?”. Do some research and decide which one sparks your interest more. 

1.2 Preliminary Research

Once you have a topic in mind, do some digging to ensure you can find enough evidence for backing up your research. Check out some articles, studies, and books related to your topic.

Example:  Start your research by searching academic databases like Google Scholar or PubMed for peer-reviewed articles about your topic. You can also look for books and reports from reliable sources like the World Health Organization.

1.3 Refining Your Research Question

Based on your preliminary research, make your research question more precise and on-point. Doing this will help you figure out the main ideas and arguments you need to include in your paper.

For Example: What effect does using social media have on body image and self-esteem in teenage girls in the US? 

1.4 Gathering and Evaluating Sources

Once you have a refined research question, you must find and assess sources related to your topic. Using reliable and trustworthy sources to back up your points is essential.

For Example:  Look for sources like articles, books, and reports that focus on social media use among teenage girls. Check that these sources are relevant, trustworthy, and reliable.

1.5 Taking Detailed Notes and Keeping Track of Sources

Organize your research by taking detailed notes on the points each source makes so you know what to include in your paper. Keeping track of your sources is important too. You can try out a citation management tool like Zotero or Mendeley.

For Example:  Write down the main points of each article or report, along with the author, title, year and publisher details. That way, you’ll have a record of the key ideas and where they came from.

Step 2: Identify Key Ideas and Create a Thesis Statement

Once you’ve gathered info on your topic, the next step is determining the main points and arguments you want to put forward in your research paper. From this, create a clear and concise  thesis statement  summarizing your paper’s main point.

For Example:  If you are researching the impact of social media on mental health, you might have found that social media has both positive and negative effects. Your thesis statement could be: “While social media can have positive effects on mental health, its negative impact on mental health is a growing concern that needs to be addressed.” This statement conveys your main argument and sets the tone for the rest of the paper.

Step 3: Organize Your Ideas

Think about your thesis statement, and then group similar ideas to create an argument. Structure your ideas in a way that flows logically, and create subtopics that back up your main point. Put everything together in an orderly way.

For Example : You could break down the impact of social media on mental health into two groups: the good and bad. For each one, provide evidence and reasons to back it up.

Step 4: Create an Outline Structure

With your ideas organized, create a structure for your outline. Start with an introduction  that provides background information and states your thesis statement. Then, create a separate section for each subtopic, including supporting evidence and arguments. Finally, conclude with a summary of your findings.

Step 5: Review and Revise Your Outline

Look over your outline and ensure it’s thorough, well-structured, and helps prove your thesis. Tweak anything that needs to be changed to strengthen your argument and ensure your paper is straightforward and powerful.

Example:  You can review your outline and ensure it flows logically, includes enough supporting evidence, and addresses potential counterarguments.

Example of a Research Paper Outline 

Suppose you want to write a research paper on the effects of social media on our mental health. Here’s what your outline must look like: 

I) Introduction

  • Background information on social media and its prevalence in society
  • Research question: What is the impact of social media on mental health?
  • Thesis statement: While social media can have positive effects on mental health, its negative impact on mental health is a growing concern that needs to be addressed.

II) Literature Review

  • Overview of previous research on social media and mental health
  • Discussion of key findings, such as social media’s negative impact on self-esteem and its correlation with depression and anxiety
  • Identifying gaps in the literature, such as the need for more research on the relationship between social media use and specific mental health disorders.

III) Methods

  • Description of research design, such as a survey or experiment
  • Explanation of data collection methods, such as online surveys or interviews
  • Discussion of data analysis techniques, such as statistical analysis or content analysis.

IV) Results

  • Presentation of key findings, such as the percentage of respondents who reported negative mental health outcomes related to social media use
  • Analysis of results, such as the correlation between social media use and negative mental health outcomes
  • Discussion of results in relation to the research question, such as how the findings support or refute the thesis statement.

V) Discussion

  • Interpretation of results, such as the significance of the findings for mental health and social media use
  • Comparison of findings to previous research, such as how the current study’s results align with or differ from previous studies
  • Discuss limitations and implications for future research, such as the need for longitudinal studies to examine the long-term effects of social media use on mental health.

VI) Conclusion

  • Recap of key findings and their implications, such as the need for further research and public education on the impact of social media on mental health
  • Significance of research, such as the contribution to the understanding of the relationship between social media use and mental health
  • Suggestions for future research, such as examining the role of social media use on specific mental health disorders.

VII) References

List of sources cited in the research paper, such as academic articles and books on social media and mental health.

Different Types of Research Paper Outlines

Outlines for research papers can be categorized into various levels of detail, from one to four. Level one outlines list the main section titles or topics, while level four outlines provide more detailed breakdowns of each paragraph and sentence.

There are three different ways to set up an outline for a research paper – alphanumeric, full sentence, and decimal. We’ll detail each of these formats and give examples of how they look in an outline.

Alphanumeric outline 

This outline uses a mix of Roman numerals, letters and numbers to sort out ideas and data.

For example:

Introduction

  • Background information
  • Thesis statement

Main idea 1

– Supporting detail 1

– Supporting detail 2

Main idea 2

III. Conclusion

  • Summary of main points
  • Restate thesis

Decimal outline 

This type of outline uses decimals to organize ideas and information. For example:

1.1 Background information

1.2 Thesis statement

1.1 Supporting detail

1.2 Supporting detail

2.1 Supporting detail

2.2 Supporting detail

3.1 Summary of main points

3.2 Restate thesis

Full-sentence outline

This outline uses full sentences to put across ideas and info. For example: 

  • Background information: social media is a prevalent aspect of modern society, with numerous implications for the mental health of its users.
  • Positive effects of social media on mental health: Social support and sense of community

Supporting detail:  Studies have shown that social media can provide a sense of belonging and support for individuals who may feel isolated.

  • Negative effects of social media on mental health: Anxiety and depression

Supporting detail:  Research has also shown that social media use can contribute to feelings of anxiety and depression in some individuals.

  • Summary of main points: Social media has positive and negative effects on mental health.
  • Restate thesis: Addressing the negative impact of social media on mental health is crucial for promoting overall well-being.

These are just a few examples of the different types of research paper outlines. It’s important to choose the type that works best for you and your research project.

Advantages of Creating a Research Paper Outline

Helps in the organization of your research paper.

Creating an outline for your research paper is a great way to organize your thoughts and ideas. It gives you a structure to follow and makes it easier to assemble a well-supported argument. Breaking down your paper into sections and subsections allows you to see how each piece of information fits into the bigger picture and contributes to your argument.

Improves Your Efficiency

An outline helps you avoid repeating yourself and keeps your paper on track. It also makes prioritizing the most important points easier and saves time by focusing on what matters most.

Saves Your Time

Outlining before you start writing your paper can save you much time. Planning out your paper in advance helps you stay focused and on track during the writing process, which means you’ll be able to write faster and more effectively. You’ll have a plan to follow and won’t be stuck or side-tracked.

Helps in Identifying Gaps

Outlining your research paper can help spot any potential weaknesses or gaps in your argument. This way, you can fill in any missing gaps before you start writing, which can make your paper much stronger. It’s a great way to ensure your research and arguments are as solid as possible.

Helps with Transitions

Having an outline can help you keep track of the different sections of your paper and ensure they all fit together nicely. It can help you create a logical flow between paragraphs and sections, making it easier for readers to understand how your points connect. Additionally, it can help you identify any areas that need extra transitions or explanations to help readers understand the links between your ideas.

Creating a great research paper outline is important to ensure that your paper is a success. With the right techniques and approach, you can make one that will help you stay focused and get your message across clearly and effectively. That’s what this article was all about, and we hope it was really helpful. Still, if you need help creating one, let  our writers  know, who are always available to handle your academic tasks.

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How to Write an Outline in APA Format

Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

example of a outline for a research paper

Amanda Tust is a fact-checker, researcher, and writer with a Master of Science in Journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

example of a outline for a research paper

  • Before Starting Your Outline
  • How to Create an Outline

Writing a psychology paper can feel like an overwhelming task. From picking a topic to finding sources to cite, each step in the process comes with its own challenges. Luckily, there are strategies to make writing your paper easier—one of which is creating an outline using APA format .

Here we share what APA format entails and the basics of this writing style. Then we get into how to create a research paper outline using APA guidelines, giving you a strong foundation to start crafting your content.

At a Glance

APA format is the standard writing style used for psychology research papers. Creating an outline using APA format can help you develop and organize your paper's structure, also keeping you on task as you sit down to write the content.

APA Format Basics

Formatting dictates how papers are styled, which includes their organizational structure, page layout, and how information is presented. APA format is the official style of the American Psychological Association (APA).

Learning the basics of APA format is necessary for writing effective psychology papers, whether for your school courses or if you're working in the field and want your research published in a professional journal. Here are some general APA rules to keep in mind when creating both your outline and the paper itself.

Font and Spacing

According to APA style, research papers are to be written in a legible and widely available font. Traditionally, Times New Roman is used with a 12-point font size. However, other serif and sans serif fonts like Arial or Georgia in 11-point font sizes are also acceptable.

APA format also dictates that the research paper be double-spaced. Each page has 1-inch margins on all sides (top, bottom, left, and right), and the page number is to be placed in the upper right corner of each page.

Both your psychology research paper and outline should include three key sections:

  • Introduction : Highlights the main points and presents your hypothesis
  • Body : Details the ideas and research that support your hypothesis
  • Conclusion : Briefly reiterates your main points and clarifies support for your position

Headings and Subheadings

APA format provides specific guidelines for using headings and subheadings. They are:

  • Main headings : Use Roman numerals (I, II, III, IV)
  • Subheadings: Use capital letters (A, B, C, D)

If you need further subheadings within the initial subheadings, start with Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3), then lowercase letters (a, b, c), then Arabic numerals inside parentheses [(1), (2), (3)]

Before Starting Your APA Format Outline

While APA format does not provide specific rules for creating an outline, you can still develop a strong roadmap for your paper using general APA style guidance. Prior to drafting your psychology research paper outline using APA writing style, taking a few important steps can help set you up for greater success.

Review Your Instructor's Requirements

Look over the instructions for your research paper. Your instructor may have provided some type of guidance or stated what they want. They may have even provided specific requirements for what to include in your outline or how it needs to be structured and formatted.

Some instructors require research paper outlines to use decimal format. This structure uses Arabic decimals instead of Roman numerals or letters. In this case, the main headings in an outline would be 1.0, 1.2, and 1.3, while the subheadings would be 1.2.1, 1.2.2, 1.2.3, and so on.

Consider Your Preferences

After reviewing your instructor's requirements, consider your own preferences for organizing your outline. Think about what makes the most sense for you, as well as what type of outline would be most helpful when you begin writing your research paper.

For example, you could choose to format your headings and subheadings as full sentences, or you might decide that you prefer shorter headings that summarize the content. You can also use different approaches to organizing the lettering and numbering in your outline's subheadings.

Whether you are creating your outline according to your instructor's guidelines or following your own organizational preferences, the most important thing is that you are consistent.

Formatting Tips

When getting ready to start your research paper outline using APA format, it's also helpful to consider how you will format it. Here are a few tips to help:

  • Your outline should begin on a new page.
  • Before you start writing the outline, check that your word processor does not automatically insert unwanted text or notations (such as letters, numbers, or bullet points) as you type. If it does, turn off auto-formatting.
  • If your instructor requires you to specify your hypothesis in your outline, review your assignment instructions to find out where this should be placed. They may want it presented at the top of your outline, for example, or included as a subheading.

How to Create a Research Paper Outline Using APA

Understanding APA format basics can make writing psychology research papers much easier. While APA format does not provide specific rules for creating an outline, you can still develop a strong roadmap for your paper using general APA style guidance, your instructor's requirements, and your own personal organizational preferences.

Typically you won't need to turn your outline in with your final paper. But that doesn't mean you should skip creating one. A strong paper starts with a solid outline. Developing this outline can help you organize your writing and ensure that you effectively communicate your paper's main points and arguments. Here's how to create a research outline using APA format.

Start Your Research

While it may seem like you should create an outline before starting your research, the opposite is actually true. The information you find when researching your psychology research topic will start to reveal the information you'll want to include in your paper—and in your outline.

As you research, consider the main arguments you intend to make in your paper. Look for facts that support your hypothesis, keeping track of where you find these facts so you can cite them when writing your paper. The more organized you are when creating your outline, the easier it becomes to draft the paper itself.

If you are required to turn in your outline before you begin working on your paper, keep in mind that you may need to include a list of references that you plan to use.

Draft Your Outline Using APA Format

Once you have your initial research complete, you have enough information to create an outline. Start with the main headings (which are noted using Roman numerals I, II, III, etc.). Here's an example of the main headings you may use if you were writing an APA format outline for a research paper in support of using cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for anxiety :

  • Introduction
  • What CBT Is
  • How CBT Helps Ease Anxiety
  • Research Supporting CBT for Anxiety
  • Potential Drawbacks of CBT for Anxiety and How to Overcome Them

Under each main heading, list your main points or key ideas using subheadings (as noted with A, B, C, etc.). Sticking with the same example, subheadings under "What CBT Is" may include:

  • Basic CBT Principles
  • How CBT Works
  • Conditions CBT Has Been Found to Help Treat

You may also decide to include additional subheadings under your initial subheadings to add more information or clarify important points relevant to your hypothesis. Examples of additional subheadings (which are noted with 1, 2, 3, etc.) that could be included under "Basic CBT Principles" include:

  • Is Goal-Oriented
  • Focuses on Problem-Solving
  • Includes Self-Monitoring

Begin Writing Your Research Paper

The reason this step is included when drafting your research paper outline using APA format is that you'll often find that your outline changes as you begin to dive deeper into your proposed topic. New ideas may emerge or you may decide to narrow your topic further, even sometimes changing your hypothesis altogether.

All of these factors can impact what you write about, ultimately changing your outline. When writing your paper, there are a few important points to keep in mind:

  • Follow the structure that your instructor specifies.
  • Present your strongest points first.
  • Support your arguments with research and examples.
  • Organize your ideas logically and in order of strength.
  • Keep track of your sources.
  • Present and debate possible counterarguments, and provide evidence that counters opposing arguments.

Update Your Final Outline

The final version of your outline should reflect your completed draft. Not only does updating your outline at this point help ensure that you've covered the topics you want in your paper, but it also gives you another opportunity to verify that your paper follows a logical sequence.

When reading through your APA-formatted outline, consider whether it flows naturally from one topic to the next. You wouldn't talk about how CBT works before discussing what CBT is, for example. Taking this final step can give you a more solid outline, and a more solid research paper.

American Psychological Association. About APA Style .

Purdue University Online Writing Lab. Types of outlines and samples .

Mississippi College. Writing Center: Outlines .

American Psychological Association. APA style: Style and Grammar Guidelines .

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

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How to Write an Essay Outline | Guidelines & Examples

Published on August 14, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.

An essay outline is a way of planning the structure of your essay before you start writing. It involves writing quick summary sentences or phrases for every point you will cover in each paragraph , giving you a picture of how your argument will unfold.

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Table of contents

Organizing your material, presentation of the outline, examples of essay outlines, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about essay outlines.

At the stage where you’re writing an essay outline, your ideas are probably still not fully formed. You should know your topic  and have already done some preliminary research to find relevant sources , but now you need to shape your ideas into a structured argument.

Creating categories

Look over any information, quotes and ideas you’ve noted down from your research and consider the central point you want to make in the essay—this will be the basis of your thesis statement . Once you have an idea of your overall argument, you can begin to organize your material in a way that serves that argument.

Try to arrange your material into categories related to different aspects of your argument. If you’re writing about a literary text, you might group your ideas into themes; in a history essay, it might be several key trends or turning points from the period you’re discussing.

Three main themes or subjects is a common structure for essays. Depending on the length of the essay, you could split the themes into three body paragraphs, or three longer sections with several paragraphs covering each theme.

As you create the outline, look critically at your categories and points: Are any of them irrelevant or redundant? Make sure every topic you cover is clearly related to your thesis statement.

Order of information

When you have your material organized into several categories, consider what order they should appear in.

Your essay will always begin and end with an introduction and conclusion , but the organization of the body is up to you.

Consider these questions to order your material:

  • Is there an obvious starting point for your argument?
  • Is there one subject that provides an easy transition into another?
  • Do some points need to be set up by discussing other points first?

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See an example

example of a outline for a research paper

Within each paragraph, you’ll discuss a single idea related to your overall topic or argument, using several points of evidence or analysis to do so.

In your outline, you present these points as a few short numbered sentences or phrases.They can be split into sub-points when more detail is needed.

The template below shows how you might structure an outline for a five-paragraph essay.

  • Thesis statement
  • First piece of evidence
  • Second piece of evidence
  • Summary/synthesis
  • Importance of topic
  • Strong closing statement

You can choose whether to write your outline in full sentences or short phrases. Be consistent in your choice; don’t randomly write some points as full sentences and others as short phrases.

Examples of outlines for different types of essays are presented below: an argumentative, expository, and literary analysis essay.

Argumentative essay outline

This outline is for a short argumentative essay evaluating the internet’s impact on education. It uses short phrases to summarize each point.

Its body is split into three paragraphs, each presenting arguments about a different aspect of the internet’s effects on education.

  • Importance of the internet
  • Concerns about internet use
  • Thesis statement: Internet use a net positive
  • Data exploring this effect
  • Analysis indicating it is overstated
  • Students’ reading levels over time
  • Why this data is questionable
  • Video media
  • Interactive media
  • Speed and simplicity of online research
  • Questions about reliability (transitioning into next topic)
  • Evidence indicating its ubiquity
  • Claims that it discourages engagement with academic writing
  • Evidence that Wikipedia warns students not to cite it
  • Argument that it introduces students to citation
  • Summary of key points
  • Value of digital education for students
  • Need for optimism to embrace advantages of the internet

Expository essay outline

This is the outline for an expository essay describing how the invention of the printing press affected life and politics in Europe.

The paragraphs are still summarized in short phrases here, but individual points are described with full sentences.

  • Claim that the printing press marks the end of the Middle Ages.
  • Provide background on the low levels of literacy before the printing press.
  • Present the thesis statement: The invention of the printing press increased circulation of information in Europe, paving the way for the Reformation.
  • Discuss the very high levels of illiteracy in medieval Europe.
  • Describe how literacy and thus knowledge and education were mainly the domain of religious and political elites.
  • Indicate how this discouraged political and religious change.
  • Describe the invention of the printing press in 1440 by Johannes Gutenberg.
  • Show the implications of the new technology for book production.
  • Describe the rapid spread of the technology and the printing of the Gutenberg Bible.
  • Link to the Reformation.
  • Discuss the trend for translating the Bible into vernacular languages during the years following the printing press’s invention.
  • Describe Luther’s own translation of the Bible during the Reformation.
  • Sketch out the large-scale effects the Reformation would have on religion and politics.
  • Summarize the history described.
  • Stress the significance of the printing press to the events of this period.

Literary analysis essay outline

The literary analysis essay outlined below discusses the role of theater in Jane Austen’s novel Mansfield Park .

The body of the essay is divided into three different themes, each of which is explored through examples from the book.

  • Describe the theatricality of Austen’s works
  • Outline the role theater plays in Mansfield Park
  • Introduce the research question : How does Austen use theater to express the characters’ morality in Mansfield Park ?
  • Discuss Austen’s depiction of the performance at the end of the first volume
  • Discuss how Sir Bertram reacts to the acting scheme
  • Introduce Austen’s use of stage direction–like details during dialogue
  • Explore how these are deployed to show the characters’ self-absorption
  • Discuss Austen’s description of Maria and Julia’s relationship as polite but affectionless
  • Compare Mrs. Norris’s self-conceit as charitable despite her idleness
  • Summarize the three themes: The acting scheme, stage directions, and the performance of morals
  • Answer the research question
  • Indicate areas for further study

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example of a outline for a research paper

You will sometimes be asked to hand in an essay outline before you start writing your essay . Your supervisor wants to see that you have a clear idea of your structure so that writing will go smoothly.

Even when you do not have to hand it in, writing an essay outline is an important part of the writing process . It’s a good idea to write one (as informally as you like) to clarify your structure for yourself whenever you are working on an essay.

If you have to hand in your essay outline , you may be given specific guidelines stating whether you have to use full sentences. If you’re not sure, ask your supervisor.

When writing an essay outline for yourself, the choice is yours. Some students find it helpful to write out their ideas in full sentences, while others prefer to summarize them in short phrases.

You should try to follow your outline as you write your essay . However, if your ideas change or it becomes clear that your structure could be better, it’s okay to depart from your essay outline . Just make sure you know why you’re doing so.

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Research Paper Outline – How to create a good one

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Inhaltsverzeichnis

  • 1  Research Paper Outline: Definition
  • 3  Structure
  • 5 APA Outline
  • 6 MLA Outline
  • 7 In a Nutshell

 Research Paper Outline: Definition

A research paper outline is a simple structure of what you will include in each part of your research paper . The research paper structure should help to reduce the stress of writing the entire paper since you will only be tackling one section at a time. A good research paper structure should also help you avoid leaving out points or making mistakes in the paper.

Research paper outlines can make your work a lot easier since they show you what to include in every part of the research paper. After reading this guide, you will be able to create a research paper outline. We have included a sample of a research paper structure.

What are the parts of the research paper outline?

A research paper outline should include all of the essential parts of a research paper . The essential parts are generally the introduction, the main section, and the conclusion. The introduction should contain a hook, a thesis statement, and it should define the research topic. The body should contain your arguments in support of the thesis. In the conclusion, you should summarize your arguments and add a call to action.

What is the format of the research paper outline?

For the research paper outline, there are many strategies that you can use. Which one you choose, depends on your research paper topic , and your lecturers’ instructions. The research paper outline is most commonly formatted with letters and (or) numbers. Usually, the format of a research paper outline starts with Roman numerals for the main topics (I., II., III., …). For subtopics, uppercase letters are often used (A., B., C., …). For detailed parts of your subtopics, use Arabic numbers (1., 2., 3., …). And if there are any subparts, you can use lowercase letters for them (a., b., c., …).

What should be included in a research paper outline?

Your research paper outline should simply show what you will include in each section of your research paper. For example, the introduction , body paragraphs and conclusion. You should show the main ideas that will be covered in each of the specific sections. The research paper outline should follow the layout of the actual study, and each part should contain points that are relevant to the corresponding section.

What's the difference between MLA and APA research paper outlines?

MLA stands for the Modern Language Association and APA stands for the American Psychological Association. They are both methods for formatting research papers. The main differences are in the referencing styles and the cover pages . Which method you are required to use, will depend on your area of research. Areas in humanities usually require you to use MLA, whereas scientific research usually requires APA formatting.

What are the steps before writing the research paper outline?

Before writing your research paper outline, you need to have completed the research phase. This means that you should have decided on your research topic and your research question . You need to have already written at least a draft thesis statement. You can’t create a research paper outline, if you don’t know which areas within your research topic are going to be covered.

A research paper outline should have the following parts:

Your research paper outline should be well divided. First, you will determine what you will include in the abstract . This part basically works as a brief summary of your entire paper, and in the research paper outline, you should include the key points to include in this section.

Thesis statement

The next part of your research paper outline will be the introduction . This part hooks the reader to the paper and should contain some key details. As you create your research paper outline, make sure you include the thesis statement , the core terms in the paper, and major points tackled in the paper.

Major arguments

The body part of your research paper outline should have the most information. This part of the research paper outline should contain different sections. Immediately after the introduction, you should show what you will include in your methodology. You should make notes on the methods used to carry out the research. You should then note the literature you used as a backup to your hypothesis and theories. In the research paper outline, you should mention the main theme of your study, along with how you intend to expand on the chosen literature.

Supporting points for each argument

After this part, your research paper outline should show the data and analysis section of the study. Note your results and other variables that you got in the study and indicate your preferred method of presenting the data. This could be with tables, graphs, etc.

A summary of the research findings and conclusions should also be included in this part of the research paper structure. Determine whether the findings make a difference to existing studies. Also, note the drawbacks of the research and its advantages.

To make your work easier, you can use this format and add the details of your own research paper structure. Note that this format may need to be changed depending on the type of research and the writing style requested. The following is an example of a research paper outline:

Research-paper-outline-example

APA Outline

When writing the research paper with the APA format, you should consider the particularities of this style. First, remember that the papers include separate cover pages, and the cover page includes the title, author’s name, school name, and running head. The header on every next page has a number and title. With this format, the abstract has to be followed by keywords. The list of cited sources is titled as ‘References’. You should note these items in the research paper outline to make sure you don’t get anything wrong.

MLA Outline

As you complete your research paper outline for an MLA paper, you should remember that the citation styles differ based on the type of source. For example, a book will be cited differently from a video or magazine article. With MLA format, you will also not need to worry about title pages, unless your instructors indicate that they need a title page. In the research paper outline, the titles and emphasis points should all be written in italics. Before writing your cited works, you should consider making a list of the endnotes. The subheadings should be marked with Arabic numbers.

In a Nutshell

  • Research paper outlines can make your work easier and will ensure that you don’t miss anything out of your paper.
  • Research paper outlines differ based on the formating style used. APA research paper outlines will be slightly different from the MLA research paper outlines.
  • A research paper outline should have an introduction, body, and conclusion.
  • You should make brief notes on your main points and arguments in the research paper structure and refer to them when writing the paper itself.

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How To Write A Research Paper

Research Paper Outline

Nova A.

A Comprehensive Guide to Creating a Research Paper Outline

13 min read

Published on: May 7, 2021

Last updated on: Jan 30, 2024

research paper outline

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Making a research paper outline is an essential step for writing a research paper . By creating an outline, you can simplify the writing process and ensure that your paper is well-organized and easy to follow.

This blog provides an easy-to-follow guide on how to craft an effective research paper outline. You’ll also get some useful tips and example outlines to help you learn faster.

So let’s dive in!

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What is a Research Paper Outline?

A research paper outline is a plan or blueprint that helps you organize your research paper before you start writing.

In other words, it is the structure of your research that provides a clear and organized roadmap for your paper. It contains several sections, with each section having sub-sections or topics for each paragraph. The outline also contains relevant evidence for each section.

Creating a research paper outline is essential for several reasons. It helps you…

  • Organize your ideas logically,
  • Make sure you include all important points,
  • Ensure that all points are related,
  • Identify any gaps or issues early on.

Structure of Research Paper Outline

Your research paper outline needs to have the following sections:

  • Title of your research
  • Thesis Statement / Main Hypothesis
  • Main Sections

Literature Review

  • Research Methodology
  • Main Findings / Main Arguments
  • Supporting Analysis / Discussion

Let’s explore this structure and how you can incorporate it into your outline.

Title of the Research

Having a clear title for your research is necessary for the outline. The title reveals the main variables involved in your research and indicates the focus of your study. 

Hypothesis & Research Questions

Your hypothesis is the central claim of your research paper. It should be a concise statement that summarizes the main argument of your research. It should be specific and focused, providing a clear direction for your paper.

Another important part of the outline is your research questions . You should mention the main questions that your research aims to answer in your outline.

Other Major Sections

The main sections of a research paper outline typically include the following:

In this section, you mention all the existing literature you have studied for your research. It could include articles, books, and other scholarly sources that you reviewed during your research. 

Conducting a literature review is another essential aspect of research. Learn how to write a literature review with our guide.

Research Methodology 

The research methodology section outlines the methods and techniques you will use for your research. 

It should provide a clear description of the research design, data collection methods, and data analysis techniques you will use.

Research Body - Arguments & Related Evidence

Your arguments and discussion forms the main parts of your body paragraphs. In the outline, you can divide the research body into several parts - each part having a specific topic or argument that supports your main hypothesis.

Here is an example of how a research paper outline following the above structure looks like: 

Now that you know what you have to include in a research paper outline, let’s see how you can write an efficient one in simple steps.

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Steps for Writing Research Paper Outline

Crafting a research paper outline doesn't have to be difficult. By breaking it down into manageable steps, you can create a helpful that will guide your research till it’s finished. 

Here's how to create a research paper outline step-by-step:

Step 1: Identify Your Hypothesis & Research Questions

Before you get started on your outline, you need to have a clear understanding of your hypothesis and research questions. 

You can choose any hypothesis related to your field of research. Just make sure that it is specific, focused, clear, and concise. Similarly, you need to have research questions in mind which will guide your overall research. 

Step 2: Choose a Methodology & Gather Relevant Information 

Once you have identified your hypothesis, the next step is to choose your research methodology and the type of research you want to do. 

This includes choosing whether you want to use a qualitative, quantitative or mixed-methods approach. Moreover, you need to decide whether to conduct primary or secondary research.

Want to learn more about ways of conducting research? Read our guide about types of research methodologies.

You also need to gather relevant sources and information. This means reading and reviewing established research to gather evidence and data that will be useful for your paper. Note down your sources and any information in there that you find useful and relevant. 

Step 3: Make a List of Your Main and Sub-Points - H3

The next step is to make a list of points and sub-points that you want to make in your research paper.

This is the brainstorming stage. The research framework you established and the literature you read previously will help you come up with relevant ideas. Jot down any relevant sections, sub-sections, or topics that you think you need to cover in your research.

Step 4: Organize Your Points, Sub-Points, & Evidence 

Now that you have your evidence, topics, and points, you need to arrange them in a logical manner.

You can start by organizing your main points into sections, and then breaking down those sections into sub-points. This will help you create a hierarchy of information that flows logically throughout your paper.

Once you have your main points and sub-points organized, you can start adding in the evidence you gathered during Step 2. This can include quotes from research articles, statistics, or other relevant data that supports your main points and sub-points.

Step 5: Review and Revise the Outline -H3

The final step in creating your research paper outline is to review and revise it. This is an important step because it ensures that your outline is clear, concise, and logical.

Take a step back and review your outline with fresh eyes. Does it make sense? Are there any gaps in the information? Do you have enough evidence to support your main points and sub-points?

Make any necessary revisions to your outline until you feel confident that it accurately represents the flow and content of your research paper.

Here’s a short video about writing research paper outline that you can watch for additional help:

Research Paper Outline Format- H2

The outline provides a structure for your paper - but it can be formatted in different ways. You could use any format for your outline as long as it is clear, easy, and useful for you.

Here are some popular ways of formatting your outline:

Alphanumeric Point-by-Point Outline - H3

The most common type of outline used in academic writing is an alphanumeric one. It organizes various sections, parts, and points of your outline using alphabets and Roman or Arabic numerals. 

Each part of the outline is described using headings, sub-headings, and short notes. 

Here is an example of a point-by-point research paper outline:

Full-Sentence Outline 

A full-sentence outline uses complete sentences to define the sections and points in the outline instead of headings. 

This type of outline is more detailed. It is helpful when you need to present a detailed overview of the topics and arguments in your research outline.

Here is a basic research paper outline in full-sentence format.

Decimal Outline 

The decimal outline is similar to the alphanumeric point-by-point outline. It just uses a different system to enumerate the outline. 

It uses numbers and decimals to denote main sections, sub-sections, and other points. This outline is easier to understand for most people, as it uses clear, understandable numbers for each part.

Here is an example:

Research Paper Outline Example

We have gathered some examples that will help you understand research outlines better. Check these out. 

APA Research Paper Outline Template

MLA Research Paper Outline Template

Research Paper Outline Sample

College Research Paper Outline PDF

Tips for Writing a Better Research Paper Outline

You are now ready to get started on writing your research paper outline. But before you do, here are three tips that will help you make an even better and more effective outline for your paper.

Keep it Consistent and Parallel

Make sure that your headings and subheadings are consistent throughout your outline. Use the same level of detail for each section and avoid mixing different types of headings.

Moreover, ensure that the structure of your outline is parallel. Each section should have a similar structure, with headings and subheadings that follow the same format. This will help to create a sense of balance and clarity in your outline.

Maintain Coherence: Coordination and Subordination

Ensure that your ideas flow logically from one section to the next. Ensure that each section builds upon the previous one.

You can do this by making each section of your outline coordinate with the overall topic of your research paper. Each section should relate to the central theme of your paper, and each subtopic should support the main argument.

In other words, each subtopic should be subordinate to the main topic of your paper. Each subtopic should be more specific than the main topic, while the supporting evidence should be even more specific.

Divide it into Sections

Ensure that your outline divides your research paper into distinct sections. Each section should have its own theme and be supported by specific evidence.

With these tips, your outline will become even clearer and better. It would come in handy when you start writing your actual research paper, making the process a lot easier.

To Wrap Up , 

Creating a research paper outline is an important step in producing a high-quality academic paper. A well-structured outline helps to organize your ideas, arguments, and research findings logically and coherently, making it easier for you to write your paper. 

With our essay writer , you can develop an outline that will help enhance the quality of your paper.

However, if you find the task of creating a research paper outline too challenging or time-consuming, you can always rely on CollegeEssay.org! 

We are a professional research paper writing service that provides top-notch research paper outlines and other writing services. Our experienced writers can develop a customized outline that meets your specific requirements and guidelines. 

So don't hesitate to contact us today and take advantage of our professional essay writing . Order your research paper outline now!

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How long should a research paper outline be.

A typical research paper outline is about one to two pages in length. However, there is no fixed length for a research paper outline, as it depends on the scope and complexity of the research topic.

Can I modify my research paper outline once I start writing my paper?

Yes, you can modify your research paper outline as you write your paper. It is common to revise your outline as you uncover new information or change your research focus. However, make sure that your outline remains coherent and well-structured.

Should I include citations in my research paper outline?

Yes. When you include evidence in your outline that you gathered through research, you should cite its reference. You can add a separate page for the “References” or “Works Cited” section below the outline. 

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example of a outline for a research paper

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Why and How to Create a Useful Outline

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This resource describes why outlines are useful, what types of outlines exist, suggestions for developing effective outlines, and how outlines can be used as an invention strategy for writing.

Why create an outline? There are many reasons, but in general, it may be helpful to create an outline when you want to show the hierarchical relationship or logical ordering of information. For research papers, an outline may help you keep track of large amounts of information. For creative writing, an outline may help organize the various plot threads and help keep track of character traits. Many people find that organizing an oral report or presentation in outline form helps them speak more effectively in front of a crowd. Below are the primary reasons for creating an outline.

  • Aids in the process of writing
  • Helps you organize your ideas
  • Presents your material in a logical form
  • Shows the relationships among ideas in your writing
  • Constructs an ordered overview of your writing
  • Defines boundaries and groups

How do I create an outline?

  • Determine the purpose of your paper.
  • Determine the audience you are writing for.
  • Develop the thesis of your paper.
  • Brainstorm : List all the ideas that you want to include in your paper.
  • Organize : Group related ideas together.
  • Order : Arrange material in subsections from general to specific or from abstract to concrete.
  • Label : Create main and sub headings.

Remember: creating an outline before writing your paper will make organizing your thoughts a lot easier. Whether you follow the suggested guidelines is up to you, but making any kind of outline (even just some jotting down some main ideas) will be beneficial to your writing process.

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example of a outline for a research paper

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Research Paper Outline Examples

Below are examples of research paper outlines. Creating an outline is the first thing you should do before starting on your research paper.

This article is a part of the guide:

  • Example of a Paper
  • Write a Hypothesis
  • Introduction
  • Example of a Paper 2

Browse Full Outline

  • 1 Write a Research Paper
  • 2 Writing a Paper
  • 3.1 Write an Outline
  • 3.2 Outline Examples
  • 4.1 Thesis Statement
  • 4.2 Write a Hypothesis
  • 5.2 Abstract
  • 5.3 Introduction
  • 5.4 Methods
  • 5.5 Results
  • 5.6 Discussion
  • 5.7 Conclusion
  • 5.8 Bibliography
  • 6.1 Table of Contents
  • 6.2 Acknowledgements
  • 6.3 Appendix
  • 7.1 In Text Citations
  • 7.2 Footnotes
  • 7.3.1 Floating Blocks
  • 7.4 Example of a Paper
  • 7.5 Example of a Paper 2
  • 7.6.1 Citations
  • 7.7.1 Writing Style
  • 7.7.2 Citations
  • 8.1.1 Sham Peer Review
  • 8.1.2 Advantages
  • 8.1.3 Disadvantages
  • 8.2 Publication Bias
  • 8.3.1 Journal Rejection
  • 9.1 Article Writing
  • 9.2 Ideas for Topics

Research Paper Outline Examples

Once you've decided what topic you will be writing about, the next thing you should pay attention to is the scope of your paper or what you will be including in your discussion . The broader your topic is, the more difficult it is to discuss the full details. This is why you should establish early on the scope and limitations of your paper which will provide the foundation for your research paper outline.

Basically, your outline will constitute three main sections: the Introduction, the Body and the Conclusion. But to make sure your paper is complete, consult your instructor for specific parts they wants to be included in your research paper . Sample outlines for research papers will follow. But first, let’s discuss the main sections of your paper and what information each should cover.

example of a outline for a research paper

The introduction should contain your thesis statement or the topic of your research as well as the purpose of your study. You may include here the reason why you chose that particular topic or simply the significance of your research paper's topic. You may also state what type of approach it is that you'll be using in your paper for the entire discussion of your topic. Generally, your Introduction should orient your readers to the major points the rest of the paper will be covering, and how.

example of a outline for a research paper

The body of your paper is where you will be presenting all your arguments to support your thesis statement. Remember the “Rule of 3” which states that you should find 3 supporting arguments for each position you take. Start with a strong argument, followed by a stronger one, and end with the strongest argument as your final point.

The conclusion is where you form a summary of all your arguments so you can arrive at your final position. Explain and reiterate why you've ended up with the said conclusion.

As mentioned earlier, here are some sample outlines for research papers:

Thesis Topic: A Study on Factors Affecting the Infant Feeding Practices of Mothers in Las Pinas City

  • Statement of the Problem
  • Definition of Terms
  • Theoretical Framework
  • Type of Research
  • Respondents
  • Questionnaire
  • Review of Related Literature
  • Scope and Limitations
  • Significance of the Study
  • Benefits of Breastfeeding
  • WHO Recommendations
  • The International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes
  • The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative
  • The Innocenti Declaration on the Protection, Promotion and Support of Breastfeeding
  • National Situationer
  • The Milk Code
  • BFHI in the Philippines
  • Milk Code Violations
  • Formula Feeding
  • Factors Influencing the Decision Regarding Infant Feeding Method
  • Area Situationer
  • Socio-economic Demographic Profile of Mothers
  • Information Regarding Current (Youngest) Infant
  • Exclusive Breastfeeding
  • Mixed Feeding
  • Previous Infant Feeding Practices
  • Maternal Knowledge
  • Correlation Tests
  • Analytical Summary
  • Thesis Reworded
  • Recommendations

Topic: Asbestos Poisoning

  • Definition of Asbestos Poisoning
  • Symptoms of Asbestos Poisoning
  • Effects of Asbestos Poisoning
  • How to Deal with Asbestos Hazards

Topic: Shakespeare Adapted from AResearchGuide.com .

  • Life of Anne Hathaway
  • Reference in Shakespeare's Poems
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • The Tempest
  • Much Ado About Nothing
  • Richard III
  • Other Poems
  • Last Two Plays
  • Concluding Statement

Research Paper Outline Examples

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Explorable.com (Jan 6, 2009). Research Paper Outline Examples. Retrieved Feb 26, 2024 from Explorable.com: https://explorable.com/research-paper-outline-examples

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  1. How to Create a Structured Research Paper Outline

    Home Knowledge Base Research paper How to Create a Structured Research Paper Outline | Example How to Create a Structured Research Paper Outline | Example Published on August 7, 2022 by Courtney Gahan . Revised on August 15, 2023.

  2. Research Paper Outline

    Example: I. Introduction A. Background information B. Thesis statement II. Body A. Main idea 1 1. Supporting detail 1 2. Supporting detail 2 B. Main idea

  3. How to Write a Research Paper Outline In 7 Steps

    For example, a basic college research paper outline for a one-page assignment might contain only a list of four or five paragraph topics, whereas a formal research paper for a scientific study might outline each sentence in all five parts of a research paper: introduction, review of literature, methods, results, and discussion.

  4. How to Create a Research Paper Outline (With Template & Examples)

    This will help you align your thoughts. Expand the ideas based on the questions created in the paper outline. After creating a detailed outline, discuss it with your mentors and peers. Get enough feedback and decide on the journal you will submit to. The process of real writing begins.

  5. How To Write a Research Paper Outline (With Examples and Tips)

    1. Determine the type of essay you'll be writing Research essays for high school are early college are often five paragraphs in length and are either descriptive or argumentative. 2. Determine your topic Many times, instructors provide topics for students. The best topics are those that are of interest to your reader and are arguable.

  6. How to write a research paper outline

    Content: Levels of organization for a research paper outline First level of organization Second level of organization Third level of organization Fourth level of organization Tips for writing a research paper outline Research paper outline template My research paper outline is complete: what are the next steps?

  7. Research Paper Outline

    Last Updated: 15 July 2023 A research paper outline also referred to as research paper structure, is an important writing tool that a student or a professional writer can apply in their writing process. It contains the blueprint or skeleton of the research paper, detailing the structure to follow when inserting information to make a research paper.

  8. How to Create a Research Paper Outline: Tips and Examples

    Graphs Pictures Tables Facts Once you start listing these under your main topics, you can focus your thoughts as you plan and write the research paper using the evidence and data you collected and any additional information. Why use an outline?

  9. How to Write a Research Paper Outline with Examples

    Research Paper Outline Example (Abstract style) WORDVICE_Research-Paper-Outline-Example Let's say you did a research project on the effect of university online classes on attendance rates and create a simple outline example using these six questions: 1. Why did you decide to do what you did?

  10. Research Paper Outline: Templates & Examples

    1. Pick a topic of your interest. Make sure the scope of the topic is not too broad or too narrow. 2. Formulate a thesis statement. 3. Gather all relevant ideas that give support to your thesis statement.

  11. How to Create a Research Paper Outline (With Examples)

    1. What is a Research Paper Outline? 2. Different Research Paper Outline Formats 3. Steps to Create a Research Paper Outline 4. Research Paper Outline Example What is a Research Paper Outline? A research paper outline serves as a systematic framework for your paper.

  12. How to Do Research: A Step-By-Step Guide: 4b. Outline the Paper

    To create an outline: Place your thesis statement at the beginning. List the major points that support your thesis. Label them in Roman numerals (I, II, III, etc.). List supporting ideas or arguments for each major point. Label them in capital letters (A, B, C, etc.). If applicable, continue to sub-divide each supporting idea until your outline ...

  13. Sample Detailed Outline

    Organize. Organize." —U.S. Vice President and Nobel Peace Prize-winner Al Gore Below is an example of a detailed outline. (It is for a research paper, but the principles and structure apply to any paper.) Notice the hierarchical use of the roman numeral system.

  14. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Research Paper Outline

    Step 4: Create an Outline Structure. With your ideas organized, create a structure for your outline. Start with an introduction that provides background information and states your thesis statement. Then, create a separate section for each subtopic, including supporting evidence and arguments.

  15. How to Write an Outline in APA Format

    How to Create a Research Paper Outline Using APA . Understanding APA format basics can make writing psychology research papers much easier. While APA format does not provide specific rules for creating an outline, you can still develop a strong roadmap for your paper using general APA style guidance, your instructor's requirements, and your own personal organizational preferences.

  16. How to Write an Essay Outline

    Knowledge Base Essay How to write an essay outline | Guidelines & examples How to Write an Essay Outline | Guidelines & Examples Published on August 14, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023. An essay outline is a way of planning the structure of your essay before you start writing.

  17. How to Write a Research Paper Outline

    A research paper outline involves planning out the main sections of your paper, including your points and evidence, so that the drafting and editing processes go smoothly. Before you write your research paper outline, consult your instructor, research potential topics, and develop your thesis statement. Your research paper should include an ...

  18. Research Paper Outline

    A research paper outline should include all of the essential parts of a research paper. The essential parts are generally the introduction, the main section, and the conclusion. The introduction should contain a hook, a thesis statement, and it should define the research topic. The body should contain your arguments in support of the thesis.

  19. How to Craft a Research Paper Outline: Easy Steps & Examples

    Step 1: Identify Your Hypothesis & Research Questions. Before you get started on your outline, you need to have a clear understanding of your hypothesis and research questions. You can choose any hypothesis related to your field of research. Just make sure that it is specific, focused, clear, and concise.

  20. PDF The Basic Outline of a Paper

    Clearly present the main points of the paper as listed in the thesis Give strong examples, details, and explanations to support each main points If an argumentative paper, address any counterarguments and refute those arguments If a research paper, use strong evidence from sources—paraphrases, summaries, and quotations that support the main points

  21. How to Outline

    Label: Create main and sub headings. Remember: creating an outline before writing your paper will make organizing your thoughts a lot easier. Whether you follow the suggested guidelines is up to you, but making any kind of outline (even just some jotting down some main ideas) will be beneficial to your writing process.

  22. Research Paper Outline Examples

    Below are examples of research paper outlines. Creating an outline is the first thing you should do before starting on your research paper. Research Paper Outline Examples Once you've decided what topic you will be writing about, the next thing you should pay attention to is the scope of your paper or what you will be including in your discussion.

  23. PDF Strategies for Essay Writing

    In a short paper—even a research paper—you don't need to provide an exhaustive summary as part of your conclusion. But you do need to make some kind of transition between your final body paragraph and your concluding paragraph. This may come in the form of a few sentences of summary. Or it may come in the form of a sentence that