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How Can You Create a Well Planned Research Paper Outline

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

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

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

Table of Contents

What Is a Research Paper Outline?

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

1. Title Page

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

2. Abstract

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

3. Introduction

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

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

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

6. Discussion

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

7. Acknowledgments

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

8. Declaration of Competing Interests

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

Steps to Write a Research Paper Outline

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

Benefits of Creating a Research Paper Outline

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

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

Research Paper Outline Template

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

1. Research Title

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

F. Declaration of Competing Interests

5. References

Download the Research Paper Outline Template!

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

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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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Getting started with your research paper outline

basic research paper outline template

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.

basic research paper outline template

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How to create a helpful research paper outline

Last updated

21 December 2023

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

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

  • What is a research paper outline?

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

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

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

Topic ideas

Paragraph ideas

Direct quotes

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

  • Why use an outline?

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

  • Are there different kinds of research paper outlines?

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

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

  • The 3 types of outlines

The three outline formats available to research paper writers are:

Alphanumeric or topic outlines

Sentence or full-sentence outlines

Decimal outlines

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

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

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

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

Full-sentence outlines

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

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

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

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

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

  • How to write a research paper outline

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

1. Determine your topic

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

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

2. Gather information

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

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

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

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

Argumentative: Builds logic and support for an argument

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

Analytical: Presents a claim on what is being analyzed

Interpretive: Informative and persuasive explanations on how something is perceived

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

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

Definition: Defines what a term or concept means

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

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

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

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

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

4. Include basic sections

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

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

5. Organize your outline

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

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

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

6. Consider compare-and-contrast essays

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

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

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

7. Consider advanced organizers for longer essays

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

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

  • Do outlines need periods (full stops)?

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

  • An example research paper outline

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

I.  Introduction

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

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

II.  Reasons that support the thesis statement

    A.  Reason or argument #1

           1.  Supporting evidence

           2.  Supporting evidence

    B.  Reason or argument #2

    C.  Reason or argument #3

          1.  Supporting evidence

          2.  Supporting evidence

III. Counterarguments and responses

       A.  Arguments from the other point of view

       B.  Rebuttals against those arguments

IV.  Conclusion

  • How long is a thesis outline?

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

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

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

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

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How to Write an Outline in APA Format

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

basic research paper outline template

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

basic research paper outline template

  • Before Starting Your Outline
  • How to Create an Outline

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

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

At a Glance

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

APA Format Basics

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

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

Font and Spacing

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

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

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

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

Headings and Subheadings

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

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

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

Before Starting Your APA Format Outline

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

Review Your Instructor's Requirements

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

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

Consider Your Preferences

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

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

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

Formatting Tips

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

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

How to Create a Research Paper Outline Using APA

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

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

Start Your Research

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

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

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

Draft Your Outline Using APA Format

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

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

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

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

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

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

Begin Writing Your Research Paper

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

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

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

Update Your Final Outline

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

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

American Psychological Association. About APA Style .

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

Mississippi College. Writing Center: Outlines .

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

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

How to Write a Research Paper Outline: Simple Steps for Researchers

basic research paper outline template

Research writing is an essential component of scholarly research that necessitates both academic and writing abilities on the part of the author(s). It is frequently regarded as an overwhelming task, particularly by those who are new to academic writing. If you are just getting started, you may ask, ‘Why do I need to write and publish a research paper?’ The answer is that publications are one of the most common ways of communicating your research to a broader audience. It helps share data and knowledge with the scientific community to advance research in a specific field of study. Publications are also critical for getting university promotions, securing collaborations, and obtaining funding for your research. Now that you know why it’s important to get published, let’s start with pointers on writing a research paper outline, the first step in the manuscript writing process. 

Writing a research paper outline is critical, even before you start working on the first draft. A research paper outline is a basic framework of the topics and sections that will appear in the final version. The goal of a research paper outline is to simplify the writing process by organizing the information, structuring the sections, establishing how different sections are related, and ensuring the free flow of information throughout the paper 1 . In the research domain, most article outlines follow the IMRAD (Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion) format. This article will go over how to write a research paper outline and provide some research paper outline examples. 

  • Choosing a research topic or thesis statement: The first step in writing a research paper outline is to choose a research topic (or thesis statement). Before you begin working on the outline, you should have a clear idea of the topic, the ideas, and the sections you want to include in the research article, as well as adequate knowledge and background in the literature. Know the What , Why , and How of the research problem once you have decided on a topic and are ready to begin writing a research paper outline. Let’s discuss these in more detail. 
  • The “What” of the thesis statement 

Almost all research proposals should begin with the “What” of the thesis statement, which discusses the research problem, introduces the research topic, and provides relevant background information. This part is usually covered in the introduction, which is one of the most critical sections of the paper. 

  • The “Why” of the thesis statement 

It is important to address the “Why” of the research statement to pique readers’ interest in reading the entire article. Here, you emphasize the significance of the project by explaining why it was critical to conduct the study and providing relevant information. This section usually follows the study background or introduction and comes before the methodology section begins. 

  • The “How” of the thesis statement 

This section should explain how the research was carried out in order to provide context for the readers. You should construct arguments from existing literature while discussing how your research fills gaps or solves existing problems. 

  • Compilation of relevant studies to support the thesis statement/research hypothesis: You should assemble a collection of relevant studies that support the main idea (hypothesis) addressed in your research article. These studies serve as supporting literature, providing context for your arguments and findings. Typically, three pieces of supporting evidence are provided for each topic, and this is done for all sections in the main body of the article (Introduction in the case of the research article and different sections for the review articles). It is also important to keep track of citations manually or through a reference manager to avoid plagiarism when writing your first draft of the manuscript. While organizing the main ideas and studies, you can either write headings/subheadings or complete sentences. The former is quick and straightforward, but it can lead to confusion, especially if you are working on the manuscript with your peers. The latter is preferable, but it is more time-consuming, and authors can sometimes get sucked into writing the first draft rather than writing a research paper outline. Note: Regardless of the format of your paper outline, include the relevant citations. 
  • Decide on the research paper outline template: There are three standard formats for writing a research paper outline that will aid the researcher as they develop their manuscript. These are alphanumerical, complete sentences, and decimal-based formats, with alphanumerical being the most common. 
  • In alphanumerical order, the main heading is listed in Roman numerals, the topics are listed in capital letters, the specific points for each subtopic are listed in Arabic numerals, and additional details for the subtopics are listed in small letters. It should be noted that in this format, the information is written in short sentences, similar to quick notes, which allows for greater flexibility in modifying outlines as new information becomes available. 
  • In the full-sentence format, each section contains entire complete sentences, and each topic and idea includes three specific points. The organization in this format is similar to the alphanumerical format, with the exception that this has sentences as opposed to sharp points in the alphanumerical format. 
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  • Although the decimal format is a little more complicated, it is useful when there are many ideas and subtopics in each section. The main topic is given a whole number (0, 1), and the subtopics are given increasing decimal points (1.1, 2.1, 3.1…). Specific subtopic points are represented by two decimal points (1.1.1, 2.1.1…) and three decimal points (1.1.1.1, 2.1.1.1). 

The information above should simplify the process of writing a research paper outline. Once you have an outline in place, the next step is to seek feedback from peers or co-authors to gain different perspectives and make sure to get all the important information. This will ensure you have a strong research paper outline that you can then use to develop your manuscript for submission.  

References  

  • Indeed Career Guide. ‘How To Write a Research Paper Outline (With Examples and Tips)’. Accessed 31 October 2022. https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/how-to-write-a-research-paper-outline . 

Related Reads:

  • 6 Tips for Post-Doc Researchers to Take Their Career to the Next Level
  • 10-Point Manuscript Checklist to Ensure High-Quality Journal Submissions 
  • Confusing Elements of a Research Paper That Trip Up Most Academics
  • How to Present Data and Statistics in Your Research Paper: Language Matters 

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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!

Arrow Down

  • 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. 

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Research Paper Guide

Research Paper Outline

Last updated on: Feb 8, 2023

Research Paper Outline - Basic Format & Sample

By: Nathan D.

Reviewed By: Melisa C.

Published on: Jun 4, 2019

research paper outline

Anyone who's ever had to write a research paper knows that it can be an overwhelming and time-consuming task. But, don't worry! We're here to help you out with some valuable information on how to create the perfect outline for your next paper.

Making an outline is a part of  research paper writing  and must not be ignored at any cost.

Many students think that making a paper outline is a waste of time. In this post, we will explain the importance of making and having a detailed and perfect outline.

Here, you will find all the information you need to make a great and strong research paper outline and avoid writer’s block.

research paper outline

On this Page

What is a Research Paper Outline?

A research paper outline is created to structure the main ideas and add them to the paper in a cohesive manner. It is essential for a good research paper.

Essays and other assignments also involve writing and research. An assignment entirely dedicated to facts, research, and evaluation is somewhat different and needs a high level of research and writing skills.

Researching is only half of the work done; the other half is about presenting those facts and material. A good outline will help you know about the details and things you need to add to your paper.

Besides outline, your research topic is also vital for a strong research paper. A good research topic is wide, impressive, and engaging, and once you choose from this list of  good research topics , you are good to start the work.

Coming back to the research paper outline, a good and detailed outline is important for a great research paper. It aids the process of writing and helps you stay focused and in line with the main topic. So, for an impressive and good research paper, you need to have a good outline.

Significance of a Good Research Paper Outline

‘ Is it important to make an outline before writing the paper? ’ Unlike what many students think, a good and functional research paper outline helps you in several ways. Many students could not submit their research papers on time only because they could not keep with the writing flow.

As a result, they lose pace and submit their paper at the deadline. A good and carefully created outline helps in avoiding any such situation and submitting the paper on time. Here are some key benefits of having a good research paper outline.

  • You will be able to avoid writer’s block and keep working at the same pace. The outline will help you know the path you are going and complete each section on time.
  • A proper outline will help you stay focused and ensure proper coherence throughout the paper. However, the outline must be used and followed as a guide only. As you work on your paper, the outline could change many times.
  • It keeps you motivated about the project. Having a detailed outline in hand makes the writing process easy and better than if you start writing a lengthy paper without knowing where you are headed.
  • An outline helps you organize your thoughts about a topic. It is important because some problems are quite diverse, and you can work on them in a number of ways. An outline helps you in knowing which approaches are better.
  • It helps you in making and following a schedule for every task or section. Sometimes, the teacher gives the deadline for each section himself, but if not, set the deadline yourself and follow it.

Due to all of these elements, making a good and detailed outline is important and quite helpful also.

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How to Write a Research Paper Outline?

‘How to create a strong research paper outline?’

‘How to write an outline for a research paper?’

We know that you are looking for answers, and we are here to help you. Being a top writing assistance company, we know what problems students face, and this is why we know what you want.

Below, we have discussed some core sections to add when writing an outline for a research paper. Make sure that you do not miss any of them when working on your paper’s outline. And use roman numerals for sub-sections.

To help you understand better how to create an outline, we will also add a sample research paper template at the end. So stay with us.

1. Title Page

The title page is the first part of a research paper. It includes the student’s name, the name of the institute, and the topic of the research. All the information should be centralized and in 12 pt. Times New Roman format.

Usually, the paper format is APA but if your teacher has specified some other formatting style, follow it.

2. Abstract

An abstract is a short form of summary. It is brief and revolves around the main idea and research question of the paper. However, when writing a research paper abstract, be careful not to give away too much information.

Explain the main idea and inform the reader about the findings and research results. Adding background information and connecting it with the main research topic is a good idea to create a solid abstract.

3. Introduction

The introduction presents the statement of the problem, the definition of the core terms, and the main ideas of the research. A strong introduction is a key to a strong and impressive research paper. Start the introduction with a hook sentence and engage the reader.

Moving forward, mention the reasons why you chose the topic and how you will conduct your research.

An introductory paragraph will introduce your main question and the concepts you will discuss in the main body paragraphs. Still, just like with the abstract, you have to be careful not to add all the main details here.

Just elaborate on the background of the research question, your literature review, findings, and the main reasons that make this research significant.

4. Thesis Statement

It is written after the introduction and is the essence of the entire research paper. Write your thesis statement to give a clear idea about your research question. A thesis statement is brief, usually a few lines, and tells the readers about the main research findings.

Here are a few  thesis statement examples  for research papers.

However, keep it brief and, in the case of scientific research, present your hypothesis here.

5. Body Paragraphs

The main body is the largest of your research paper. It occupies more than half of your paper’s length and includes all the main ideas, arguments, background, research, and findings.

To present relevant and structured information, the main body section follows a set pattern:

6. Literature Review

The literature review is submitted with the research proposal. Your research question and the main ideas you will discuss in your research are the main parts of your research. You can start your research after your proposal is accepted.

The literature review presents the previous relevant studies regarding the research topic and main question. It discusses notable and prominent studies and research and compares them with the topic of the paper.

Research credible sources for relevant information. Discuss your point of view and the study that is relevant to it. Usually, it includes many studies, and it depends on your topic. But on a general note, the more, the better.

7. Significance of the Study

Mention and discuss the significance of your research. Why is your research significant? Why was your research necessary? What were the shortcomings of the previous research? And other questions like these. Discuss them and talk about the reasons that make your research important and necessary.

8. Research Methodology

Every research follows a method. In scientific studies, students usually use quantitative research, while the students studying humanities use qualitative research techniques. Based on your field of study, select and explain the methodology you will use for your research.

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9. Research Findings and Analysis

The analysis section will mention and explain the strongest arguments of the research and their findings. However, do not try to explain and add everything together. Decide the order in which you will present your ideas and stick to them. Generally, the following structure is followed.

1. The first main idea of the paper

  • Background information
  • Your main claims and arguments
  • Supporting major points

2. The second main idea of the paper

3. The third main idea of the paper

You can add as many ideas as necessary but keep everything relevant and structured.

10. Limitations of the Research

Add and discuss the limitations of your research. In the case of humanities, the limitations could be the lack of relevant data and research. For scientific research, the limitations include ethical concerns, lack of financial and research resources, and time constraints.

11. Conclusion

The conclusion is the final part of your research. It concludes the entire research and presents your research findings. Some students think that they can add a new idea and discuss it briefly, which is wrong. A conclusion is your paper’s closure, not a place to open discussion on new ideas.

For a strong impact, support your thesis statement and mention whether your research findings were according to your hypothesis.

12. References

The references list includes all the works and studies that you have used in your research paper. Make sure that it has every work that you have cited and included in your paper. Follow the given formatting style and indentation guidelines.

13. Bibliography

A bibliography will include every study and book that you have consulted for your research. No matter if you have cited it in your research or not, it will be added here.

Have a look at the following research paper outline template to get a better idea of writing one.

RESEARCH PAPER OUTLINE TEMPLATE

Formatting Your Research Paper Outline

There are different kinds of research paper outlines, such as alphanumeric, decimal, and full sentences. The difference between these lies in the formatting and writing style. Have a look at the different research paper outline examples:

In Alphanumeric:

Body Paragraph 1

  • Sub-point of sub-point

In Decimal:

      1.0 Body paragraph 1

               1.1 Point 1

                      1.1.2 Sub-point of point 1

                1.2 Point 2

In Full-Sentence:

  • First body paragraph

                 A. The first point of evidence

  • Sub-point discussing evidence outlined in point A

                 a. Additional sub-point to conclude the discussion

Sample Research Paper Outline

To help you understand further, we have added some college research paper outline examples below.

SAMPLE RESEARCH PAPER OUTLINE (PDF)

SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH PAPER OUTLINE (PDF)

APA RESEARCH PAPER EXAMPLE (PDF)

MLA RESEARCH PAPER OUTLINE (PDF)

SOCIOLOGY RESEARCH PAPER OUTLINE (PDF)

If you need help creating a good research paper outline, then we are here for you. 5StarEssays.com  is a professional  write essay for me  service that specializes in offering quality research papers and academic writing help for you.

To know more, talk to our support team or place your  order  now.

Nathan D.

Law, Education

Nathan completed his Ph.D. in journalism and has been writing articles for well-respected publications for many years now. His work is carefully researched and insightful, showing a true passion for the written word. Nathan's clients appreciate his expertise, deep understanding of the process, and ability to communicate difficult concepts clearly.

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basic research paper outline template

How to Write a Research Paper Outline: Detailed Guide

basic research paper outline template

In the vast landscape of academia, where ideas are the currency and knowledge the battleground, crafting a research paper isn't just a scholarly exercise—it's a narrative expedition. As you embark on this intellectual journey, consider this intriguing fact: did you know that Sir Isaac Newton's groundbreaking work, 'Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica,' which revolutionized our understanding of physics, was outlined meticulously before the ink touched the parchment? Much like Newton's meticulous planning, the success of your piece hinges on the blueprint you create—the outline.

In this guide, our research paper help will explore not only the conventional methods but also the avant-garde tips and examples for crafting an outline for a research paper that transforms your ideas into a compelling narrative, paving the way for academic excellence.

What is Research Paper Outline?

A research paper outline is essentially a systematic framework that streamlines the structure of your academic document. It's more than just a preliminary step; it's a practical tool designed to enhance the coherence and organization of your ideas. This skeletal structure acts as a guide, ensuring your paper unfolds logically, and your arguments build upon each other. Besides providing clarity for the writer, a well-crafted outline of a research paper also serves as a roadmap for your readers, helping them navigate through the complexities of your study. In essence, when we explore what is a research paper , it's crucial to recognize the outline as the strategic plan—the blueprint—highlighting key elements like the introduction, thesis statement, supporting evidence, and conclusion.

what is research paper outline

It's important to integrate several critical elements essential for the paper's effectiveness and coherence. The role of these components is significant in shaping your research and demands thorough attention during the initial stages of your work. In the sections that follow, we'll delve into the crucial components of an outline for your research paper and share insights to elevate your outlining process for a more robust and effective piece.

Title/Cover Page

It is the opening section to introduce the major details. The length of the recommended title is 60 characters. On the whole, do not miss this information on the title page:

  • Your full name
  • Professor’s name
  • Peers who took part in the investigation (if any)
  • Submission date

A summary is an integral part of the research paper. In college, they call it an abstract. The length of such text should not exceed 250-300 words (1/3 of an A4 page), and a student should include the basic findings, their significance, and a brief conclusion.

Introduction

Experts recommend painstaking the entire research into the investigation’s background. Try to explain why the chosen problem is necessary to analyze and discuss. Mention the results you expected to obtain during the working process and state a hypothesis that should enclose the introduction (it would be the thesis). Also, don’t forget to mention the thesis statement or the topic of your research.

Methodology

List the tools, equipment, & techniques used to carry out a study. This section should make it possible to replicate the investigation step-by-step. The goal of the section is to allow other scientists interested in the same research question to continue the investigation.

Results & Discussion (R&D)

In most cases, master cheap research paper writers combine results and discussion in one huge section. They are interrelated. Start with sharing the findings of the study. Go on interpreting the meaning of the results for the society and provide a short synopsis of the main components: figures and statistical examinations. While adding any visual elements for understanding (graphs, images, etc.), place the numbers next to each of them to provide details in the last section — Appendix.

In the Conclusion part, it is necessary to include:

  • A summary of the results
  • Paraphrased thesis statement
  • Value of the research paper
  • Ways to implement the findings
  • Some forecasts

Explore our article on writing a conclusion for a research paper to master the art of effectively summarizing and concluding your work.

Based on the chosen paper format, develop a full list of references. Each time you cite something, write the source’s details on a separate piece of paper. It will speed up the process in the end.

Structure of a Research Paper Outline

Crafting an effective academic piece is not just about having great ideas; it's about presenting them in a clear and organized manner. The structure of your research paper outline plays a pivotal role in achieving this goal. In this section, we'll explore three popular formats, each offering a unique approach to organizing your thoughts and arguments.

Alphanumeric research paper outline

The alphanumeric outline follows a hierarchical structure, using a combination of numbers and letters to denote different levels of information. For example:

I. Introduction

  • A. Background
  • B. Thesis statement
  • A. Main point 1
  • Supporting detail
  • B. Main point 2
  • III. Conclusion

Full-sentence research paper outline

This format requires complete sentences for each section and subsection. It provides a detailed preview of the content within each part of the outline. Example:

  • A. Provide background information.
  • B. Clearly state the thesis.
  • A. Present the first main point with supporting details.
  • B. Explore the second main point.

Decimal research paper outline

The decimal outline employs a numerical system, using decimals to indicate the hierarchy of information. Each level is a subcategory of the preceding level. For instance:

1.0 Introduction

  • 1.1 Background
  • 1.2 Thesis statement
  • 2.1 Main point 1
  • 2.1.1 Supporting detail
  • 2.1.2 Supporting detail
  • 2.2 Main point 2

3.0 Conclusion

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Research Paper Outline Formats: MLA and APA

Mla research paper outline.

The Modern Language Association (MLA) research paper format provides a standardized approach to documenting and formatting academic writing. Creating an MLA research paper outline is an essential step in organizing your thoughts and ensuring a cohesive structure for your scholarly work. Here's an in-depth guide to crafting an MLA outline:

MLA Research Paper Outline by EssayPro

  • A. Background information
  • C. Purpose of the study
  • A. First Main Point
  • Supporting detail or evidence
  • a. Sub-detail
  • b. Sub-detail
  • B. Second Main Point
  • C. Third Main Point (if applicable)

III. Counterargument (if applicable)

  • A. Acknowledge opposing views
  • B. Refute or address counterarguments

IV. Conclusion

  • A. Summarize main points
  • B. Restate thesis
  • C. Implications for future research

V. Works Cited

  • A. List of sources cited in the paper
  • Book citations
  • Journal article citations
  • Other relevant sources

Formatting Tips:

  • Ensure your research paper outline is double-spaced.
  • Use a legible 12-point font, such as Times New Roman.
  • Apply consistent formatting throughout the document, including indents and headings.
  • Follow MLA guidelines for citing sources both in the outline and the final paper.

Key Considerations:

  • Tailor your research paper outline to the specific requirements of your work.
  • Be concise and clear in writing your outline sections.
  • Consider including any necessary background information to provide context when you write an outline for a research.
  • Ensure that each main point and supporting detail aligns with the central thesis.

Need more info? Check our full guide - HOW TO CITE A RESEARCH PAPER USING MLA FORMAT .

APA Research Paper Outline

The American Psychological Association (APA) style is widely used in the social sciences, and creating an APA format research paper outline is crucial for maintaining a standardized structure. Here's a comprehensive guide to crafting an APA outline template for research paper.

 Template for Building an Outline in APA, from EssayPro

I. Title Page

  • A. Title of the research paper
  • B. Author's name
  • C. Institutional affiliation
  • D. Running head and page number (top right corner)

II. Abstract

  • A. Brief summary of the research paper
  • B. Keywords (optional)

III. Introduction

IV. Literature Review

  • A. Overview of relevant literature
  • B. Identification of gaps in existing research
  • C. Theoretical framework (if applicable)

V. Methodology

  • A. Participants
  • B. Procedure
  • C. Materials
  • D. Data analysis

VI. Results

  • A. Presentation of research findings
  • B. Use of tables and figures (if applicable)

VII. Discussion

  • A. Interpretation of results
  • B. Implications of the findings
  • C. Limitations and suggestions for future research

VIII. Conclusion

  • C. Practical applications or recommendations

IX. References

  • Use a 12-point, Times New Roman font.
  • Set 1-inch margins on all sides.
  • Double-space the entire document.
  • Create a running head in the header section.
  • Use transitions between sections for smooth reader navigation.
  • Integrate sources seamlessly, labeling each for reader guidance.
  • Seek feedback to refine the clarity and effectiveness of your APA outline for research paper.
  • Strategically employ APA heading levels for hierarchical organization.

By adhering to these guidelines, you'll master how to cite a research paper and ensure a standardized and professional presentation of your work in the social sciences. This meticulous approach not only enhances the clarity of your writing but also showcases your commitment to academic standards.

Goals and Benefits of a Research Paper Outline

Starting your paper without a roadmap is akin to setting sail without a compass—directionless and prone to drift. Crafting a well-structured research paper outline serves as a strategic tool with distinct goals and manifold benefits, transforming the daunting task of research writing into a purposeful journey.

research paper outline

Clarity in Purpose:

  • A well-crafted outline for a research paper establishes the groundwork for your study by clearly defining its purpose. It forces you to distill the essence of your research, ensuring that every section contributes meaningfully to the overarching goals of your paper.

Streamlined Organization:

  • One of the primary goals of an outline is to streamline the organization of your ideas. By delineating the key components—introduction, main points, evidence, and conclusion—it provides a systematic structure that prevents your paper from becoming a chaotic jumble of thoughts.

Enhanced Focus and Efficiency:

  • When you write an outline for a research paper, it acts as a focal point, directing your attention to the core objectives of your study. It serves as a roadmap, guiding you through each section with precision and efficiency, eliminating the risk of veering off course into tangential or irrelevant details.

Seamless Transitions:

  • Achieving a seamless flow from one section to another is a distinctive benefit of a well-crafted outline. It allows for the strategic placement of transitions, ensuring that your ideas connect coherently and enabling readers to follow your argument with ease.

Time Management and Planning:

  • Crafting an outline isn’t just a preparatory step; it's a time-management strategy. It compels you to allocate time effectively to each section, preventing procrastination and facilitating a more structured and manageable writing process.

Revision and Refinement:

  • The iterative nature of outlining allows for continuous revision and refinement. It enables you to assess the coherence of your research paper topics , identify gaps in logic, and refine your arguments before delving into the full paper, saving time and effort in the long run.

Thesis Alignment:

  • Perhaps most crucially, an outline ensures that every main point and supporting detail aligns harmoniously with the central thesis. This alignment not only strengthens the overall argument but also reinforces the thesis as the guiding force behind your research.

Research Paper Outline Example

Also, check the free research paper outline template example: Developing an Attention-Grabbing Resume! The example is written according to APA writing style guidelines - the rules of the game may be different for other formats.

Things to Remember

  • An outline is like an action plan which guides you through the writing process.
  • You need to write an outline if your research paper is more than 1000 words in length.
  • Basically, the outline contains three main sections: the Introduction, the Body, and the Conclusion.
  • The outline format depends on the type of academic assignment (MLA, APA), adapting to the specific guidelines relevant to all the ideas you'll present.
  • Before developing a research paper outline, read the latest version of the manual according to the chosen format of the research paper.

To gain a deeper understanding of the initial stages of academic writing, delve into our article exploring how to start a research paper , providing you with essential steps and methodologies.

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For those moments when you're unsure how to outline a research paper, and it feels like an unsolved maze, let our paper writing service be your academic GPS!

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  • How to write an essay outline | Guidelines & examples

How to Write an Essay Outline | Guidelines & Examples

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

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

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Table of contents

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

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

Creating categories

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

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

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

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

Order of information

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

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

Consider these questions to order your material:

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

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See an example

basic research paper outline template

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

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

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

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

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

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

Argumentative essay outline

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

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

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

Expository essay outline

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

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

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

Literary analysis essay outline

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

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

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

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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

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

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

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

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

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Research paper outline template

Brainstorm and organize your ideas for an academic research paper

basic research paper outline template

The Research Paper Outline template is a space to brainstorm, collect resources, and plan out your academic paper or essay at a high level. This will be a living resource that you can come back to throughout your research and writing process to add ideas and resources, make adjustments, and keep you on track.

Start by brainstorming and deciding on the topic of your paper and outline the main points to include in your thesis and guide you in your research.

In the title brainstorm section you can note down ideas of titles you have for your paper as they come to you so when it is time to choose a title you can revisit the ideas you have been collecting.

Next, the Research brainstorm section is an area for you to jot down ideas to direct you in your search for resources. You could add sticky notes for particular themes, key words, or specific sources you want to make sure to look at. This is the space to ideate what you want to be researching and where you are going to look for the information.

In the Resources section you can directly copy and paste any links to articles, podcasts, videos, images, or any other media you will use. This will help you to keep track and visually organize all of your sources. We recommend sorting the sources into the different topics you will cover in your paper. You can even use icons to indicate if a source has a quote you will want to use or is just good background information. Throughout your research process you can continue collecting different sources in this section. You can also include links to note documents that you take.

Once you have enough resources and understanding of your topic you can determine what themes you would like to cover in your research paper and the associated arguments you would like to make in each theme. Once you have brainstormed arguments you can include which sources from the Research section will provide evidence to each of your arguments.

Lastly, you can create a high level visual outline of your paper or essay. No matter the length of your academic paper, it should include an introduction, body, and conclusion. You can organize your thesis, themes, main points, and evidence into the sections of the introduction, body, and conclusion. You may still want to write out a more detailed outline in a document before you start writing but this visual outline will serve you as a starting point as well as a guiding resource that you can return to throughout the process. The visual nature of the template will make it easy to revisit and rearrange or add quick ideas and thoughts as your paper develops and you need to make adjustments. Share the mural with any team members, peers, or advisors for feedback on the direction of your academic research paper.

How to create a Research paper outline template

Get started with this template right now.

Sticky notes & text

Sticky notes & text

Add ideas, action items, and more as a sticky note or text box — then change the colors and cluster to identify patterns and new solutions.

Tags on sticky notes

Tags on sticky notes

Customizable labels make it easy to find, organize, and categorize your work in a mural.

Commenting

Add comments and tag collaborators for smooth asynchronous communication.

Icons, GIFs, & images

Icons, GIFs, & images

Express complex ideas visually or lead an engaging team-building activity with Noun Project, GIPHY, and Unsplash integrations.

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Outline Templates

8+ printable research paper outline templates.

The very basic principle of ‘observe before you arrive at a conclusion’ is to conduct a research. Besides, you already know that it is not possible to arrive at a conclusion by judging a situation from its face value. With that said, you have to plan your research; and the best way to get started is to use a Research Outline Templates . While there are many options on the web today, some aren’t always up to the right standards. For this reason, we have filtered the right templates to make it possible for you to plan your simple research well.

basic research paper outline template

Basic Research Paper Outline Template

basic research paper outline template

Informative Research Paper Outline Template

informative research paper outline template

> What are the benefits of Research Paper Outline Templates?

  • It gives your research a special focus.
  • It enables you to spend time and money the right way.
  • The outline will help you get the best value and results from your investment.

Psychology Research Paper Outline Template

psychology research paper outline template

Blank Research Paper Outline Template

blank research paper outline template

Research Paper Outline Template for Medication

research paper outline template for a medication

General Research Paper Outline Template

general research paper outline template

Thesis Research Paper Outline Template

thesis research paper outline template

Career Research Paper Outline Template

career research paper outline template

Modern Literature Research Paper Outline Template

modern literature research paper outline template

> How to structure the Research Outline?

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  1. How to Write a Research Paper Outline With Examples?

    basic research paper outline template

  2. Printable Research Paper Outline Template

    basic research paper outline template

  3. FREE 6+ Sample Research Paper Outline Templates in PDF

    basic research paper outline template

  4. Research Outline Template

    basic research paper outline template

  5. A Short Guide Of How To Write A Research Paper Outline

    basic research paper outline template

  6. FREE 6+ Sample Research Paper Outline Templates in PDF

    basic research paper outline template

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COMMENTS

  1. How to Create a Structured Research Paper Outline

    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. Example: 1 Body paragraph one. 1.1 First point. 1.1.1 Sub-point of first point. 1.1.2 Sub-point of first point.

  2. PDF The Basic Outline of a Paper

    The Basic Outline of a Paper. The following outline shows a basic format for most academic papers. No matter what length the paper needs to be, it should still follow the format of having an introduction, body, and conclusion. Read over what typically goes in each section of the paper. Use the back of this handout to outline information for ...

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. How to write a research paper outline

    Research paper outline template. 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.

  6. 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.

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

    Research outline example 1 The example below provides a basic template for five-paragraph research papers. I. Introduction. Introductory sentence; Supporting sentence, citation or quote; Supporting sentence, citation, or quote; Thesis—Most often, a thesis contains three points. II. Body Paragraph I. Topic sentence related to the first point ...

  8. 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.

  9. Free Research Paper Outline Template

    The decimal format is the most comprehensive research paper outline and is more common for long papers with technical aspects. It lists items using numbers with increasing decimal points. Usually, the main topics are whole numbers (1, 2, 1.0, 2.0), while the subtopics contain one decimal point (1.1, 2.1).

  10. How to Write an Outline in APA Format

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

  11. How to Write a Research Paper Outline: Simple Steps for Researchers

    A research paper outline is a basic framework of the topics and sections that will appear in the final version. The goal of a research paper outline is to simplify the writing process by organizing the information, structuring the sections, establishing how different sections are related, and ensuring the free flow of information throughout the ...

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

    Here's a sample research paper outline template for this format: 1. Introduction 1.1. Research Topic and Context 1.2. Thesis Statement. 2. Literature Review 2.1. Key Theories and Concepts 2.2. Previous Research Findings. 3. Methodology 3.1. Research Design 3.2. Data Collection Methods 3.3. Data Analysis Techniques. 4. Findings 4.1 ...

  13. How To Create A Research Paper Outline

    To help you understand better how to create an outline, we will also add a sample research paper template at the end. So stay with us. 1. Title Page. The title page is the first part of a research paper. It includes the student's name, the name of the institute, and the topic of the research.

  14. How to Write a Research Paper Outline: Detailed Guide

    The length of such text should not exceed 250-300 words (1/3 of an A4 page), and a student should include the basic findings, their significance, and a brief conclusion. ... Also, check the free research paper outline template example: Developing an Attention-Grabbing Resume! The example is written according to APA writing style guidelines ...

  15. PDF Essay Outline Template

    the same basic structure with variations based on the number of paragraphs or specific requirements. However, this outline template can provide you with a starting point to help you organize your thoughts and brainstorm the shape and flow of your paper. Sample Outline Template I. Introduction A. Hook/ Attention Grabber 1. Provide a sentence ...

  16. PDF How To: Outlining a Research Paper

    A basic, two-level outline with many of the common elements in a research paper is shown below: Introduction. Motivation (Why this work is important) Objectives (Goals of this paper) or Thesis Statement. Organizational overview of paper II Literature Review. Heading for topic area A.

  17. How to Write an Essay Outline

    Revised on July 23, 2023. An essay outline is a way of planning the structure of your essay before you start writing. It involves writing quick summary sentences or phrases for every point you will cover in each paragraph, giving you a picture of how your argument will unfold. You'll sometimes be asked to submit an essay outline as a separate ...

  18. PDF Formatting a Research Paper

    Do not use a period after your title or after any heading in the paper (e.g., Works Cited). Begin your text on a new, double-spaced line after the title, indenting the first line of the paragraph half an inch from the left margin. Fig. 1. The top of the first page of a research paper.

  19. Research paper outline template

    The Research Paper Outline template is a space to brainstorm, collect resources, and plan out your academic paper or essay at a high level. This will be a living resource that you can come back to throughout your research and writing process to add ideas and resources, make adjustments, and keep you on track. Start by brainstorming and deciding ...

  20. Research Paper Outline: Templates & Examples

    A research paper outline creates a logical flow for your thoughts and helps structure disorganized information. Let's see how it's created with the help of some examples and templates.

  21. 8+ Printable Research Paper Outline Templates

    Research Paper Outline Template for Medication. gov.bc.ca. Details. File Format. PDF. Size: 367 kB. Download Now. It is impossible to arrive at a medical conclusion before researching, investigating, and reporting a medication. Use the following sample file to lay a foundation for your research.