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How to Create a Structured Research Paper Outline | Example

Published on August 7, 2022 by Courtney Gahan . Revised on August 15, 2023.

How to Create a Structured Research Paper Outline

A research paper outline is a useful tool to aid in the writing process , providing a structure to follow with all information to be included in the paper clearly organized.

A quality outline can make writing your research paper more efficient by helping to:

  • Organize your thoughts
  • Understand the flow of information and how ideas are related
  • Ensure nothing is forgotten

A research paper outline can also give your teacher an early idea of the final product.

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Table of contents

Research paper outline example, how to write a research paper outline, formatting your research paper outline, language in research paper outlines.

  • Definition of measles
  • Rise in cases in recent years in places the disease was previously eliminated or had very low rates of infection
  • Figures: Number of cases per year on average, number in recent years. Relate to immunization
  • Symptoms and timeframes of disease
  • Risk of fatality, including statistics
  • How measles is spread
  • Immunization procedures in different regions
  • Different regions, focusing on the arguments from those against immunization
  • Immunization figures in affected regions
  • High number of cases in non-immunizing regions
  • Illnesses that can result from measles virus
  • Fatal cases of other illnesses after patient contracted measles
  • Summary of arguments of different groups
  • Summary of figures and relationship with recent immunization debate
  • Which side of the argument appears to be correct?

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Follow these steps to start your research paper outline:

  • Decide on the subject of the paper
  • Write down all the ideas you want to include or discuss
  • Organize related ideas into sub-groups
  • Arrange your ideas into a hierarchy: What should the reader learn first? What is most important? Which idea will help end your paper most effectively?
  • Create headings and subheadings that are effective
  • Format the outline in either alphanumeric, full-sentence or decimal format

There are three different kinds of research paper outline: alphanumeric, full-sentence and decimal outlines. The differences relate to formatting and style of writing.

  • Alphanumeric
  • Full-sentence

An alphanumeric outline is most commonly used. It uses Roman numerals, capitalized letters, arabic numerals, lowercase letters to organize the flow of information. Text is written with short notes rather than full sentences.

  • Sub-point of sub-point 1

Essentially the same as the alphanumeric outline, but with the text written in full sentences rather than short points.

  • Additional sub-point to conclude discussion of point of evidence introduced in point A

A decimal outline is similar in format to the alphanumeric outline, but with a different numbering system: 1, 1.1, 1.2, etc. Text is written as short notes rather than full sentences.

  • 1.1.1 Sub-point of first point
  • 1.1.2 Sub-point of first point
  • 1.2 Second point

To write an effective research paper outline, it is important to pay attention to language. This is especially important if it is one you will show to your teacher or be assessed on.

There are four main considerations: parallelism, coordination, subordination and division.

Parallelism: Be consistent with grammatical form

Parallel structure or parallelism is the repetition of a particular grammatical form within a sentence, or in this case, between points and sub-points. This simply means that if the first point is a verb , the sub-point should also be a verb.

Example of parallelism:

  • Include different regions, focusing on the different arguments from those against immunization

Coordination: Be aware of each point’s weight

Your chosen subheadings should hold the same significance as each other, as should all first sub-points, secondary sub-points, and so on.

Example of coordination:

  • Include immunization figures in affected regions
  • Illnesses that can result from the measles virus

Subordination: Work from general to specific

Subordination refers to the separation of general points from specific. Your main headings should be quite general, and each level of sub-point should become more specific.

Example of subordination:

Division: break information into sub-points.

Your headings should be divided into two or more subsections. There is no limit to how many subsections you can include under each heading, but keep in mind that the information will be structured into a paragraph during the writing stage, so you should not go overboard with the number of sub-points.

Ready to start writing or looking for guidance on a different step in the process? Read our step-by-step guide on how to write a research paper .

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Getting started with your research paper outline

how to write a outline for a research

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.

how to write a outline for a research

Enago Academy

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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Home » Research Paper Outline – Types, Example, Template

Research Paper Outline – Types, Example, Template

Table of Contents

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 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 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

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How to Write a Research Paper Outline with Examples

how to write a outline for a research

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. 

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Writing and Research: Creating an Outline

  • Getting Started
  • Choosing a Topic
  • Creating an Outline
  • Conducting Research
  • Drafting an Essay
  • Revising an Essay
  • Creating Citations

Header Image

essay outline bibguru illustration

How To Create an Outline

How to Write an Outline for an Essay    This article discusses strategies for creating essay outlines and includes an example.

Why and How to Use Outlines   The Purdue OWL offers insights for why an outline can help you with your research.

Create an Outline    This chapter from an open access textbook breaks down the anatomy of an outline and offers tips for creating one.

Outline Examples

Example Outline   Walden University's Writing Center provides a sample outline for a 5-7 page paper.

Sample Outline with Worksheet   This is a sample outline and worksheet from the website of the University of Mary Washington.

  • << Previous: Choosing a Topic
  • Next: Conducting Research >>
  • Last Updated: Dec 5, 2022 11:05 AM
  • URL: https://paperpile.libguides.com/writing-research

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

blog image

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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Why and How to Create a Useful Outline

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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.

  • EXPLORE Random Article

How to Write an Outline for a Research Paper

Last Updated: December 18, 2020 References

This article was co-authored by Matthew Snipp, PhD . C. Matthew Snipp is the Burnet C. and Mildred Finley Wohlford Professor of Humanities and Sciences in the Department of Sociology at Stanford University. He is also the Director for the Institute for Research in the Social Science’s Secure Data Center. He has been a Research Fellow at the U.S. Bureau of the Census and a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. He has published 3 books and over 70 articles and book chapters on demography, economic development, poverty and unemployment. He is also currently serving on the National Institute of Child Health and Development’s Population Science Subcommittee. He holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin—Madison. There are 7 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 297,741 times.

Writing an outline for a research paper can seem like a time consuming task, and you may not understand the value of it if you have never written one before. Outlines can help you structure your research and your final paper in much more efficient ways, though, so it is a good idea that you learn how to write one. Here are a few things to keep in mind when doing so.

Sample Outlines

how to write a outline for a research

Outline Type and Structure

Step 1 Choose between a topic outline and sentence outline.

  • Topic outlines are usually used when your research deals with many different issues that can be arranged in different ways.
  • Sentence outlines are usually used if your research focuses on complex issues.
  • Some instructors will insist that you must not combine these two forms. Many others, however, offer one exception to this guideline by allowing the main section headings to be short phrases while the remaining subpoints are written as full sentences.

Step 2 Most outlines use an alpha-numerical structure.

  • The first level is represented by Roman numerals (I, II, III, IV, etc.), the second level is represented by capital letters (A, B, C, D, etc.), the third level is represented by numbers (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.), and the fourth level is represented by lowercase letters (a, b, c, d, etc.).

Step 3 Note capitalization issues.

  • One school of thought indicates that first level headings should be written in all capital letters while all remaining headings use standard sentence capitalization rules.
  • Another school of thought suggests that the first level headings should only have the first letter of each word capitalized, rather than the entire word. The remaining headings, again, use standard sentence capitalization rules.

Step 4 Keep matters of length in mind.

  • For a four to five page paper, you only need a single page outline.
  • For a 15 to 20 page paper, your outline will usually run no longer than four pages. [2] X Research source

Outline Levels

Step 1 Familiarize yourself with a one-level outline.

  • These headings are labeled with Roman numerals.
  • Note that you would not usually use this outline for a research paper, as it is not very specific or detailed. It can still be a good idea to start with this outline level, however, since you can use it to provide yourself with a general direction for your paper and expand upon it as the information flows in.

Step 2 Move onto a two-level outline.

  • In other words, your Roman numeral and capital letter sections are both present.
  • Each second-level subheading should discuss a primary supporting argument for the main idea it falls under.

Step 3 Progress to a three-level outline.

  • You use Roman numerals, capital letters, and standard numbers for this version.
  • Next to each third-level subsection, you should address the topic of a paragraph that falls under the corresponding second-level section or main idea above it.

Step 4 Use a four-level outline, when necessary.

  • The fourth-level subheadings should address supporting statements, citations, or ideas within each paragraph listed in the third-level sections.

Components of Effective Outlines

Step 1 Use parallelism.

  • This refers most obviously to the usage of "topic" versus "sentence" outline formats, as described in the "structure and type" section of the article.
  • Parallelism also refers to parts of speech and tense. If a heading starts with a verb, then the other headings must also start with a verb. Moreover, that verb must also be in the same tense (usually present tense).

Step 2 Coordinate your information.

  • Your major headings should identify major tasks or ideas.
  • Your subheadings should elaborate on the points addressed in your major headings.

Step 3 Employ effective subordination.

  • For instance, if you were writing about memorable experiences from your childhood, "Memorable Childhood Experiences" would be the heading and the subheadings might look something like, "Vacation at 8 years old," "Favorite birthday party," and "Family trips to the park."

Step 4 Practice division.

  • There is no limit on subheadings, but once you start forming a dozen or so subheadings under a single heading, you might find your outline looking cluttered and messy.

Organizing the Outline

Step 1 Identify the research problem.

  • From this research problem, you will derive your thesis statement. A thesis statement is a single sentence that sums up the entire purpose or argument of your research paper.
  • This thesis statement will usually be written above the outline itself or within the first "Introduction" heading of the outline.
  • Your research problem can also help you figure out a title.

Step 2 Identify your main categories.

  • The main points are details that support or address your research paper. They should be very general in nature.

Step 3 Consider the order.

  • Chronological arrangements generally only work if you have a topic that has some chronological history to it. For example, if you were researching the history of modern medicine, it would make sense that your paper and outline follow a chronological order.
  • If your research topic does not have a history, though, you will probably end up using a spatial structure. For instance, if you are researching the effects of television and video games on the adolescent brain, you probably would not follow the chronology of the research. Instead, you might describe the different contemporary schools of thought on the issue or otherwise follow some other spatial arrangement of ideas.

Step 4 Establish your major headings.

  • Some instructors will insist that you do not use the terms "Introduction" and "Conclusions," however. In these instances, you can usually skip these two sections altogether, but you will need to write your thesis statement separately and above the outline.

Step 5 Know what to include in your Introduction.

  • Note that these elements will usually be listed as subpoints, not as major headings. The major heading for the section will be "Introduction."

Step 6 Understand what the body of your outline will consist of.

  • As with the actual paper itself, this portion of your outline will hold all the significant content.
  • The main headings will correspond to the main categories briefly listed under a subheading of your “Introduction” section.
  • You can include only the main ideas and supporting details of those ideas (a two-level outline, as noted in the “Outline Levels” section of the article) or you could include information about specific paragraphs and supporting details within those paragraphs (three-level and four-level outlines, respectively).

Step 7 Arrange the Conclusions section.

  • Restate and rephrase your thesis.
  • If you drew any additional conclusions based on your research, list them here. Keep in mind that none of this information should be “new,” and all of it should have been addressed elsewhere in the paper.
  • If your research demands a “call to action”—a response that a reader should have in response or an action that should be done in response—include that under this section, as well. This will usually be your final point within the outline.

Expert Q&A

  • A good outline shows you what to address next in your paper, thereby limiting writer's block.
  • Outlines help maintain a coherent, orderly flow of ideas.
  • You can use an outline to check yourself as you write if you suspect that you are straying from the main topic.
  • Having a visual outline can help encourage you as you write your paper since you can tell how much you have left.
  • Outlines help you organize different ideas about the same topic and gain an understanding of how those ideas connect.

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  • ↑ http://libguides.usc.edu/c.php?g=235034&p=1561769
  • ↑ http://libguides.usc.edu/content.php?pid=83009&sid=634166
  • ↑ http://www.eng.usf.edu/~cunning/CGN6933-drinkingwater/CGN6933-drinkingwater-project/HowToOutline.pdf
  • ↑ https://www.utsc.utoronto.ca/twc/sites/utsc.utoronto.ca.twc/files/resource-files/Outline.pdf
  • ↑ Matthew Snipp, PhD. Sociology Professor, Stanford University. Expert Interview. 26 March 2020.
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/the_writing_process/developing_an_outline/how_to_outline.html
  • ↑ http://www.austincc.edu/tmthomas/sample%20outline%201.htm

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APA Research Paper Outline: Examples and Template

image

Table of contents

  • 1 Why Is Research Paper Format Necessary?
  • 2.1 Purpose of research paper outline
  • 2.2 APA outline example
  • 3.1 APA paper outline example
  • 3.2 Introduction:
  • 3.4 Conclusion:
  • 4 The Basic APA Outline Format
  • 5 APA Style Outline Template Breakdown
  • 6.1 APA Research Paper Outline Example
  • 6.2 APA Paper Outline Format Example
  • 7.1 First Paragraph: Hook and Thesis
  • 7.2 Main Body
  • 7.3 Conclusion
  • 7.4 Decimal APA outline format example
  • 7.5 Decimal APA outline format layout
  • 8.1 A definite goal
  • 8.2 Division
  • 8.3 Parallelism
  • 8.4 Coordination
  • 8.5 Subordination
  • 8.6 Avoid Redundancy
  • 8.7 Wrap it up in a good way
  • 8.8 Conclusion

Formatting your paper in APA can be daunting if this is your first time. The American Psychological Association (APA) offers a guide or rules to follow when conducting projects in the social sciences or writing papers. The standard APA fromat a research paper outline includes a proper layout from the title page to the final reference pages. There are formatting samples to create outlines before writing a paper. Amongst other strategies, creating an outline is the easiest way to APA format outline template.

Why Is Research Paper Format Necessary?

Consistency in the sequence, structure, and format when writing a research paper encourages readers to concentrate on the substance of a paper rather than how it is presented. The requirements for paper format apply to student assignments and papers submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed publication. APA paper outline template style may be used to create a website, conference poster, or PowerPoint presentation . If you plan to use the style for other types of work like a website, conference poster, or even PowerPoint presentation, you must format your work accordingly to adjust to requirements. For example, you may need different line spacing and font sizes. Follow the formatting rules provided by your institution or publication to ensure its formatting standards are followed as closely as possible. However, to logically structure your document, you need a research paper outline in APA format. You may ask: why is it necessary to create an outline for an APA research paper?

Concept & Purposes of Research Paper Outline

A path, direction, or action plan! Writing short essays without a layout may seem easy, but not for 10,000 or more words. Yet, confusing a table of contents with an outline is a major issue. The table of contents is an orderly list of all the chapters’ front matter, primary, and back matter. It includes sections and, often, figures in your work, labeled by page number. On the other hand, a research APA-style paper outline is a proper structure to follow.

Purpose of research paper outline

An outline is a formalized essay in which you give your own argument to support your point of view. And when you write your apa outline template, you expand on what you already know about the topic. Academic writing papers examine an area of expertise to get the latest and most accurate information to work on that topic. It serves various purposes, including:

  • APA paper outline discusses the study’s core concepts.
  • The research paper outlines to define the link between your ideas and the thesis.
  • It provides you with manageable portions that you can handle.
  • The research paper’s APA outline enables the detection of structural faults or gaps.
  • As shown in the example, it must clearly comprehend the subject at hand.

APA outline example

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This research paper outline example will guide you in formatting the layout for a clear direction to work on. It eliminates the inconsistency along with lacking proper substance in the paper.

Understanding the APA Outline Format

It would not be wrong to say there is no standard outline format. The official publishing handbook does not give precise guidelines for preparing an outline. But, it requires certain basic guidelines to follow regarding typeface, font size, structure, margins, etc.

APA paper outline example

Moreover, the final shape of your work relies on your instructor’s specifications and your particular preferences for APA citation format. Though, it would be better to follow some standards for formatting your outline, for instance:

Times New Roman is a widely accessible standard typeface for an APA essay format in 12-point font. However, serif and sans serif fonts like Arial and Georgia are acceptable in font size 11pt.

The text of your paper format should be double-spaced.

The primary headlines use Roman and Arabic numerals to write an outline.

Headings & Subheadings

While writing an APA essay, there are particular standards for utilizing headings in your outline: I – Main headings are numbered by Roman numerals like I, II, III, IV A  – Subheadings are numbered with Capital letters (A, B, C, D) 1  – The APA outline uses Arabic numerals (1-9 type numbers) within those subheadings. a  – Below Arabic number subheadings, lower-case letters are used (a, b, a). [1] – Headings below those subheadings use Arabic numbers enclosed in parenthesis.

APA format offers a standard layout for each paper, such as

  • 1-inch margins on the top, bottom, left, and right.
  • The page number on the upper right corner.

The structure of writing an outline consists of three major sections:

  • Introduction

Introduction:

This section highlights crucial background information.

Explain the primary points that support your ideas.

Conclusion:

  • Summarize your key arguments.
  • Explain how these concepts support your ultimate stance, as shown in APA outline example below.

An outline in APA has three common formats that vary in the numeric sequence of all. To make it easier for you, we have compiled all three templates. You can format your document using these examples for added coherence and structure.

The Basic APA Outline Format

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APA Style Outline Template Breakdown

Numbering the APA style format follows five levels of headings that use different alphabets and numbers. For instance, I – Headings use Roman numerals like I, II, and III. A – CAPITAL ALPHABETS”, such as A, B, C, etc. 1 – Headings and subheadings use Arabic numbers (1, 2, 3). a – If there are further headings (the fourth level), use lower-case alphabets. [1] – Headings below that (the fifth level) use Arabic numerals enclosed in parentheses, such as [1], [2], [3].

Full Sentence Outline Format

As the name specifies, the full-sentence style outline format requires every line to be a proper sentence. Full-sentence APA style outline is best recommended for essays and speeches. It gives your writing process an idea or a logical path to follow.

APA Research Paper Outline Example

If you are looking for how to write a research paper outline APA in Full Sentence Format, here is an example:

Full Sentence APA format heading utilizes Roman numerals I, II, and III. Every heading must be a full sentence. Here is an APA style paper outline template for the full-sentence format that will clear all your confusion on how to write an outline in full-sentence format.

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APA Paper Outline Format Example

I. Introduction

III. Conclusion

Decimal Outline Format

The decimal outline format for APA research papers differs from other formats. The decimal APA style is simple and uses paragraphs for structure. It contains three main paragraphs, introduction, main body, and conclusion.

First Paragraph: Hook and Thesis

  • The first paragraph is a sentence or two that introduces the central concept of your article.
  • Introduce your topic or subject of study where your research is applicable as a context for further research.
  • Explain why the mentioned issue is essential or relevant to the audience.
  • A thesis statement is a claim that you make throughout your whole essay.
  • The topic phrase is the first point in any writing to support a thesis statement.
  • Give an explanation or provide evidence to support your point.
  • Provide verifiable facts, figures, and/or citations from credible sources in your writing. It helps in the substantiating assertion.
  • Include as many supporting statements and related evidence in your decimal outline.

Finally, when you write an outline, provide a concluding remark to support your claims.

Decimal APA outline format example

1.0 The main heading 1.1 Subheading under the main heading 1.2 Second digit is represented by subheadings under the main headings 1.2.1 Further division adds another digit in decimal format 1.2.2 You can number them as per the number of paragraphs or points, or lines An easy way to write in decimal APA outline format is to remember the structure, i.e.; 1.1.1 = Heading.Paragraph.Sentence/point under paragraph.”

Decimal APA outline format layout

1.0 Main heading 1.1 First paragraph for first heading. 1.2 Second paragraph for first heading. 1.2.1 First point or sentence for the second paragraph. 2.0 Second heading 2.1 Second heading, first paragraph. 2.2 Second heading, second paragraph. 2.2.1 Second, heading, second paragraph, first sentence, or point. 3.0 Decimal working 3.1 You must remember that each digit represents a segment. 3.2 It is easier to remember the placement of numbers. 3.2.1 First digit represents the heading 3.2.2 Second digit represents the paragraph under the main heading <3.2.3 The third digit represents any point or sentence under the paragraph.

Tips for Writing an Outline: Organize Your Ideas

You may feel it is easier to write without outlines, but once you start writing, organizing your ideas or thoughts becomes hard. Even if you have some fantastic ideas, producing an engaging story is practically hard. If you are not first creating an outline or conceptual guides while writing a research paper, you may lose track. A well-written outline is essential in completing your paper and maintaining quality. Establishing your point in paper writing is easy if you create an outline first. You can find an APA research paper outline template that best suits your requirement. Moreover, these tips can help you polish your writing. These tips and sample papers can help you write outstanding outlines without making any hassle.

A definite goal

For better expression, make a list of primary objectives on a title page in a single phrase or less. Your goal should be specific and measurable. If it is too broad or imprecise, you will not achieve anything. If you are working on a large paper format that covers a variety of themes or topics, you may have a more general purpose in mind. But, if you plan to write an essay, the aim should be as specific and clear as possible to be effective.

Breaking things up rather than allowing them to become verbose is known as the division rule. Make sure that each subsection in the document corresponds to its parent heading. If it doesn’t compare to the section, removing it or moving it to another location is better.

Parallelism

It is mainly related to the consistency and structure of the document. It keeps your paper’s layout tidy and also ensures relevancy. For instance, if you begin one heading with a verb, make sure all other headings and subheadings also start with a verb.

Coordination

Having headings aligned is critical to creating a well-organized outline. This rule also applies to subheadings, which is a good thing. If one title is less important than another, consider changing your layout by incorporating it into a subsection instead.

Subordination

Subordination deals with maintaining a connection between your paper’s headings and subheadings. It helps in the proper sequencing of headings and subheadings. Headings should be broad at the outset. At the same time, the subheadings become more particular as they go further into the document.

Avoid Redundancy

While writing a paper outline, look through it many times and cross out any items that aren’t necessary or have no significance. While outlining, make sure to be specific and concise. It will prevent you from adding information that does not supporting your final essay. Remove all the extra information and points while c that weighs you down while you write.

Wrap it up in a good way

Creating an outline does not only help in writing a coherent term paper, but it also helps in ending with precise understanding. Be considerate of your audience’s time and effort when you write an outline in APA, and ensure it serves its purpose. If you still have any doubts about formatting your paper outline, you can use this APA-style research paper outline template to write your document. We have provided Outline Format Example for every style.

People find it hard to write an outline in APA, but if you are aware of the requirements and structure, it’s no breeze. Sometimes, your instructor may alter your paper format by introducing or removing existing sections. As a result, if you come across any templates for an outline in APA, pay close attention to them. If you are looking for a quick answer to how to outline an APA paper, here’s a standard logical sequence of typical parts to include when writing an outline in APA:

  • Thesis statement
  • Techniques employed
  • Body of paper
  • Conclusions section
  • List of references

A well-written outline is an excellent tool for presenting an outstanding paper. Including the key components while writing an outline for a research paper is necessary.

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How to Write a Research Paper in APA Format

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Research Paper Guide

Research Paper Outline

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Guide to Creating Effective Research Paper Outline

Research Paper Outline

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How to Write a Research Methodology for a Research Paper

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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  • 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. 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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Nova Allison is a Digital Content Strategist with over eight years of experience. Nova has also worked as a technical and scientific writer. She is majorly involved in developing and reviewing online content plans that engage and resonate with audiences. Nova has a passion for writing that engages and informs her readers.

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How to write a proposal letter: A step-by-step guide and example

Proposal letters are essential in the business world. They give colleagues and superiors some insight into a potential concept or idea without going into too much detail. A proposal letter must be written in the expected format and information. Here, we discuss writing a proposal letter and other essential information.

How do you write a proposal letter?

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Research and planning, organising and outlining, writing the proposal, editing and revising, submitting the proposal, what is the format of a proposal, other formatting tips, how do you write a good business proposal example, how to write a proposal letter for funding, proposal letter example.

Proposal letters have various benefits, which help streamline the project process. The letter can provide a more thought-out process regarding the project and allow others to look at the process with fresh eyes. It also gives all team members the same level of understanding about what is needed to make the project successful.

The proposal letter may also act as a contract between parties involved in the project. What goes into a proposal letter? This article discusses how to write a proposal, the format needed, and when a proposal is necessary.

What are the five steps in writing a proposal paper?

how to write a outline for a research

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According to Manifestly Checklists , the five steps to writing a proposal letter include research and planning, organising and outlining, writing the proposal, editing and revising, and submitting the proposal.

Ensure you know the client or group's needs and requirements so that the project stays on track and meets the desired objectives. Monitor the competition to see what they do, what your project or company can improve, and what sets your organisation apart.

Gather all relevant information needed to create the project, including statistics, data, analytics and other important details. Create a basic outline of the angle, outcome and suggestions required to motivate the project and the best place to start.

How do you start a proposal letter after gathering the necessary information? Use professional, concise wording outlining the project concept, its need, implementation methods, and relevant supporting data and statistics.

how to write a outline for a research

How to write a motivational letter for a bursary (samples included)

how to write a proposal letter for funding

Once you have created the proposal, finish with a compelling call to action that encourages all those potentially involved in the project. Read over the proposal and check for any spelling, grammar, or formatting errors, as well as fact-checking. Remove any unnecessary information to get rid of fluff.

Create a checklist to ensure you have followed all of the documentation's finalising requirements, including formatting requirements and whether the document is saved in the correct format. Submit the proposal within the desired deadline.

The best format for a proposal is to follow a clear, concise outline for everyone to follow. Manifestly Checklists mentions the following points as part of a helpful checklist to follow:

  • The title or cover page.
  • Executive summary.
  • Introduction and background.
  • The proposal's objectives.
  • The methodology and approach to the project.
  • The timeline and budget.
  • The qualifications and experience regarding the gathering of information.
  • The conclusion and appendix (if relevant).

how to write a outline for a research

Free company profile template: What you need to know

There are other valuable tips to know when formatting your proposal correctly and ensuring it is presented in the best way possible. Here are some essential tips suggested by Response:

  • Pick a legible, professional letter format with adequate spacing.
  • Ensure you use one style throughout the proposal, including single or double spacing, capitalisation, Oxford commas, and letter size.
  • Represent and support your brand through formatting and styling, including company logos and the same style of lettering as the company.
  • Remain confident yet kind in your approach, and avoid short, abrupt information.
  • Use graphics like graphs, charts and tables to show relevant statistics visually.
  • Create a touch of personalisation and creativity by including pictures in the document .
  • Embed videos and other links that further support visuals and other reliable sources.
  • Request that a colleague proofread your document for an outsider's help spotting any grammatical or spelling errors.

how to write a outline for a research

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proposal letter for project

Proposal letter for business

A business proposal letter follows the same format mentioned above, highlighting all the relevant points. You can find a business proposal letter format in Word, and sources like Indeed provide a proposal writing sample.

Hubspot Blog mentions the following points to recall when writing up a sample proposal letter for services regarding business:

  • Start with a title page.
  • Provide an executive summary of why the proposal at hand is necessary.
  • Identify the problem or need in question.
  • Suggest and explore the best solution.
  • Support the solution through relevant supporting information.
  • Mention your qualifications that make you a reliable source on the matter.
  • Include pricing options where relevant.
  • Finish off with a conclusion and call to action.

A proposal letter for an event, funding, or business idea follows the same format; you may only vary in your backing information and letter styling. Ensure you mention how the company that may provide the requested funding stands to benefit from it.

how to write a outline for a research

Simple residential lease agreement template South Africa that you can follow

Here is a template of a proposal letter you can use that clearly indicates the outline and format of the letter.

Proposal letter example

A compelling proposal letter includes a well-researched, planned, and written approach to deliver the message perfectly. A solid call to action is essential to the project's success, which increases the likelihood that other parties will rely on your services in future.

DISCLAIMER: This article is not sponsored by any third party. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions. Any action you take based on the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

READ ALSO: PAXI prices 2024: How much does it cost? Updated pricelist and guide

PAXI is PEP's solution to courier services, providing delivery services from one PAXI point to another. Briefly.co.za wrote about PAXI prices as of 2024.

What does PAXI cost? This article provides an updated price and a helpful guide.

Source: Briefly News

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COMMENTS

  1. How to Create a Structured Research Paper Outline

    A research paper outline is a useful tool to aid in the writing process, providing a structure to follow with all information to be included in the paper clearly organized. A quality outline can make writing your research paper more efficient by helping to: Organize your thoughts; Understand the flow of information and how ideas are related

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

    2 Make a list of all the topics, subtopics, and points you want to cover. Go through your research and note each topic, subtopic, and supporting point. Be sure to keep related information together. Remember that everything you discuss in your paper should relate to your thesis, so omit anything that seems tangential.

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

    Write down all the ideas you want to include or discuss. 3. Gather information. Gather notes, resources and references that you will need to support your content. Also, complete any necessary research or investigations. Each main idea should have two or more supporting topics.

  4. How to write a research paper outline

    Tips for writing a research paper outline. 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.

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

    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 ...

  6. Research Paper 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. Example: 1.0 Introduction. 1.1 Background information.

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

    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.

  8. Outline Formats: Step-by-Step Guide with Examples

    Knowing how to make an outline is a great advantage when you're doing any kind of writing, from research papers to creative writing. Still, many students and writers don't know how to do an outline or understand the proper outline format. So below, we explain how to write an outline, with a step-by-step guide and a formal outline example.

  9. 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.).

  10. How to Write a Research Paper Outline with Examples

    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.

  11. LibGuides: Writing and Research: Creating an Outline

    How to Write an Outline for an Essay This article discusses strategies for creating essay outlines and includes an example. Why and How to Use Outlines The Purdue OWL offers insights for why an outline can help you with your research. Create an Outline

  12. 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.

  13. How to Outline

    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 ...

  14. Research Paper Outline: Templates & Examples

    Here are some additional tips to keep in mind when writing a research paper outline: 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. 4.

  15. How to Write an Outline for a Research Paper (with Pictures)

    4. Keep matters of length in mind. Your outline should run no longer than one-quarter to one-fifth the total estimated size of your final research paper. For a four to five page paper, you only need a single page outline. For a 15 to 20 page paper, your outline will usually run no longer than four pages. [2]

  16. APA Research Paper Outline [Examples + Template]

    If you are looking for how to write a research paper outline APA in Full Sentence Format, here is an example: A. For subheadings, you use capital alphabets A, B, C. B. Subheadings must complement, lead, or link to the paper's main idea. 1. Arabic numerals are used for headings under subheadings like 1, 2, and 3. 2.

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

    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:

  18. How to write an outline for your research paper?

    This video offers a step-by-step guide on writing an outline for your research paper - its structure, importance, and components. It also explains what is th...

  19. How to Write a Research Paper for Publication: Outline, Format & Types

    Objective #1 (e.g. summarize the paper, proposed methods, merits, and limitations) Objective #2 (e.g. urge other researchers to test the proposed methods and show recommendations for further research) After creating the outline, you can fill out the details and start writing your first draft.

  20. Writing a Research Paper Introduction (with 3 Examples)

    1-) Start with a Catchy Hook. Your first sentence is one of the factors that most influence a reader's decision to read your paper. This sentence determines the tone of your paper and attracts the reader's attention. For this reason, we recommend that you start your introduction paragraph with a strong and catchy hook sentence.

  21. How to write a proposal letter: A step-by-step guide

    According to Manifestly Checklists, the five steps to writing a proposal letter include research and planning, organising and outlining, writing the proposal, editing and revising, and submitting the proposal.. Research and planning. Ensure you know the client or group's needs and requirements so that the project stays on track and meets the desired objectives.

  22. How to Start Writing a Book of Your Life: A Quick Guide

    keep a journal, one of the easiest ways to come up with thoughts on your life story is. a process called free-writing. Through free-writing, you'll jot down every thought that pops into your ...