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How to Write a Research Paper Outline

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Written by Kunal Vaghasiya

Research paper writing is one of the most common writing assignments you’ll encounter during your academic years. In most cases, your teacher will assign each and every one of you a specific topic to conduct a study on. But in some occasions, students were given the leeway to choose their own topic.

Once you’ve decided on the topic that you will be writing about, the next thing you should pay attention to is the scope of your paper. You should therefore decide on the things that you will include in your discussions. However, be aware that broader topics are often more difficult to discuss the full details. This is basically the reason why you need to establish the scope and limitations of your research paper beforehand. Knowing them will make it a lot easier to make your research paper outline.

Writing a research paper outline may seem time consuming to some. On the contrary, it can help you structure your research paper well, thus, if you want to learn how to structure your research paper properly and efficiently, then it is definitely a good idea to learn how to make a research paper outline.

A research paper outline is generally composed of three main parts: introduction, body and conclusion. However, some professors may let you include additional parts so it’ll be safer to ask your teacher about the specific parts that you should include in your research paper. Now, let’s discuss each part in detail.


Your introduction should contain your thesis statement or your claim from which the whole research paper will be revolving. The purpose of your study should also be included in the introductory part. By doing so, you will make your readers appreciate your work especially when you can make them feel that your study is essential in their everyday lives. You can also include your reasons for choosing your topic as well as the type of approach that you’ll be using on your research paper. Basically, the very essence of introduction is orienting your readers with al the major points that you will be tackling in your research paper.


The body of your paper is where you present your arguments with the main aim of supporting your thesis statement. In every claim you make there should be at least three supporting arguments. This will not only make your research paper credible but also very convincing. In working on the body of your research paper, you should write in ascending manner. Start with a strong argument, followed by a stronger one then end it with your strongest argument as your final point.


The concluding part is where you sum up all your arguments and come up with your final position. This part where you reiterate your thesis statement. Make sure to end your conclusion with a solid sentence that will emphasize the reason why you come up with such a conclusion.

Here are some tips to remember in making a research paper outline:

  1. Decide whether to use a topic outline or a sentence outline.

To give you an overview on the difference of the two, a topic outline is often used in research that deals with various issues which can be arranged in many different ways. The headings and the subpoints in topic outline are all written using single words or short phrases.

On the other hand, a sentence outline is commonly used on research with more complex issues. Unlike topic outline, sentence outline’s headings and subpoints are all written in complete sentences.

In some cases, your professor will instruct you to use a combination of the two outlines, however, they often allowed to have the main section headings to be on short phrases while all the subpoints are written in complete sentences.

  1. Research paper outlines are often written in an alpha-numeric structures.

A series of letters and numbers are used to identify and organize sections accordingly. The first level is often assigned with Roman numerals (I, II, III…) while the second level is represented by capital lettere (A, B, C…). The third level is represented by numbers (1, 2, 3…) and if your research paper has fourth level, you can use lowercase letters to represent them (a, b, c…).

  1. Be aware of the rules in capitalization.

If you’ve decided to use sentence outline, then you definitely have to follow proper capitalization as you do when you write a sentence on a regular basis. However, it’s not always the case with topic outline.Often the first level heading is written in all capital letters and the succeeding subheadings uses standard sentence capitalization rules.

  1. Beware of the length of your outline.

Research paper outlines doesn’t have to be lengthy. It is commonly a quarter of the total amount of your whole research paper.

  1. Write your headings and subheadings in a parallel structure.

You should maintain a structure that every heading and subheading are parallel to other headings and subheadings. It is also important to observe proper verb tense all throughout the outline to make it uniform.

The takeaways for Research paper outline

In making a research paper outline, it is important to understand the value of it, otherwise, you’ll find it difficult to accomplish it. In summary, a good research paper gives you a clear picture of what you ought to discuss in your paper in a coherent manner which aid in limiting writer’s block. Outlines keeps you aware of what you should be writing in your paper thereby helping you give a clearer and more focused discussions. Outlines enables us to estimate how much we still need to write. Nevertheless, research paper outlines help us organize our ideas about a  certain topic and help us connect each subtopic to the main topic.

Research Paper Outline

We hope that this simple guide can help you make a good research paper outline but if in case you find it difficult to write your outline as well as your research paper, there is no need to worry, because our professional writers are always ready to give you a helping hand.

About the author

Kunal Vaghasiya

Kunal Vaghasiya is the writing adviser for International students that seek rapid paper assistance. Kunal shares helpful suggestions on writing, productivity, study, references. Occasionally Kunal goes off-topic by discussing his personal experience peppered with playful humor.

1 Comment

  • This article is really helpful! My prof discussed the same thing today. I really need to work on my research paper…thank you!

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