Cathy A.
Cathy A.

Research Paper Outline - A Complete Guide With Examples

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Published on: Apr 28, 2020

Last updated on: Dec 25, 2022

Research Paper Outline

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A research paper is a form of an academic essay. A detailed study of the topic is presented in it, which is achieved from extensive research. A research paper writer includes information obtained from various sources such as books, journals, articles, reviews, and credible websites.

Writing a research paper is a major component of a student’s academic life. College students are assigned this assignment type to analyze their ability to write and research professionally.

Being the most important element, it is the outline that decides how well your research paper comes out to be and whether the readers will read your document or not.

In order to ensure a proper structure and maximum readership of your paper, continue reading to learn how to draft a perfect outline for a research paper.

What is a Research Paper Outline?

A research paper outline is a structure through which the information is organized. An outline creates a logical order and hierarchical relationship in concepts and ideas in the content. Moreover, a research paper outline helps the writer to keep track of all the information and data gathered. In order to learn how an outline is developed, it is important to understand the reasons behind drafting it. A good outline is created for the following reasons:

  • It helps in the writing process of the research paper.
  • Assists in organizing your concepts and ideas.
  • Presents the raw information in a sensible and logical manner
  • States the relationship among ideas and concepts on the concept
  • Creates a structured overview
  • Define boundaries, categories, and groups.

An outline should be crafted before you start writing your research paper. It will organize your thoughts and ideas according to a proper format.

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A research paper outline has three major sections. All the supporting information gathered on the topic is divided among these sections. An outline has the following parts:

  • Introduction
  • Body Paragraphs
  • Conclusion

In order to understand how to draft each part effectively, it is essential to learn their requirements. Let’s discuss each chapter in detail.


An introduction is the first section of the research paper. This section briefly introduces the topic and the purpose of your paper. The reason behind drafting this section is to let the audience know what your document is about and to motivate them to read the paper.

Introductory paragraphs include the following information:

  • Significance of the chosen paper topic
  • Definition of the major terms
  • Theoretical framework
  • Purpose of your research
  • Research methodologies and techniques used in the paper
  • Hypothesis
  • And the thesis statement.

A thesis statement is written towards the end of the introduction. The thesis statement is the writer’s argument about the topic so it should be precisely and explicitly presented. When deciding on the thesis statement make sure it reflects the topic as well as the content of the paper.

Keep in mind that the introduction provides the context of your research to the readers and prepares them for the main argument. It is mandatory to make this section look informative and attractive.

Body Paragraphs

Following the introduction comes the main body of the paper where all the detailed analysis and researched information is given. This information is gathered through an extensive literature review.

As this section supports the main thesis statement, it should include all the explanations, examples, analysis, and evaluation in a structured way.

In a nutshell, a strong body is based on the following points:

  • Background of the research or study
  • Presentation and analysis of the data
  • Results obtained from the research
  • Discussion

The rule of 3 can be used to make your body section impactful. Keeping in view this rule, present three strongest supporting arguments to prove the thesis statement.

Use headings, subheadings, topic sentences, and transition words to maintain a smooth flow and connection throughout the content of the main body.


The conclusion is written in order to give closure to your paper. In the concluding paragraphs, the writer not only provides a summary of the major points but also ties a claim into a bigger discussion.

The conclusion of a research paper is created using the following information:

  • Summary of the major points
  • Restating the thesis statement
  • Providing limitations faced while conducting the research
  • Whether the results obtained are according to the hypothesis
  • Future recommendations
  • How the research contributes to the field

The conclusion of the research paper is as important as its introduction section so it should be planned and structured well. The audience remembers the conclusion so provide them with something to think about.

How to Write a Research Paper Outline?

Students find writing a research paper to be the most challenging task. This is due to the fact that it requires deep planning and extensive research to formulate a credible and authentic piece of work.

The success of a research paper highly depends on the fact that how well it is structured and researched. For this purpose, all professional research paper writers develop an outline.

The importance of creating an outline when writing a research paper can not be underestimated. If the planning of the paper is done correctly, only then you will be able to write an impactful paper. In order to help students draft a strong outline, it is essential to learn how to write it.

Below is the writing process of an outstanding research outline. Follow these steps and impress your instructors with an extraordinarily outlined research paper.

1. Decide The Theme Of The Paper- When writing your paper the first thing you need to do is to decide on the subject or topic for the paper. Make sure that the topic you choose should be interesting and should contribute to the advancement of knowledge in the field.

2. Gather All The Relevant Ideas - Once you have a topic in hand, brainstorm ideas that complement it. Think of all the relevant and related points and note them down. Conduct extensive research by consulting credible sources and gather as much information as you can.

This process can be time-consuming but the experts suggest investing time and effort to gather strong and reliable information.

Organize All The Ideas - After collecting and assembling all the ideas, organize them into groups and sub-groups. Carefully examine the significance of the points and logically categorize them to make them meaningful for the audience.

Arrange The Ideas In A Hierarchical Order - Arrange the ideas in a hierarchy or in an order you want your audience to learn those facts. Depending on the writer’s preference, the information can be arranged in the order of importance or in a way that makes the ending most effective.

Create Headings - Develop headings and subheadings to properly structure the content. The headings will make it easier for the readers to analyze what the main idea of the section is. Keep the headings simple and precise.

Choose The Outline Format - If the outline type is not provided in the guidelines, choose any format such as alphanumeric, full sentence, or decimal. Make sure to follow one format for the entire outline.

Following these steps will allow you to give a professional organization of the content of your research paper.

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How to Format a Research Paper Outline?

Generally, there are three ways in which you can outline your academic research paper. Depending on the writer and the guidelines provided, any type of outline can be used to structure the research paper.

The types of research paper outline include the following. No matter which type you choose, make sure to use only one outline type for your entire research paper. This will ensure clarity and ease for the audience to navigate through your document.

Alphanumeric Outline

Alphanumeric is the most common form of an outline. In this, the writer uses numbers, letters, and roman numerals. In this outline format, the writer uses short notes along with the numbers and letters, to mark the details.

Full Sentence Outline

The full sentence outline format is similar to the alphanumeric. The only difference is that in full-sentence complete points are given instead of short sentences. This outline is often used when writing a traditional essay or paper.

Decimal Outline

The decimal outline follows the alphanumeric structure. But the added benefit is that a system of decimal notations gives a clearer representation of the information.

Here is a research paper outline example to help you understand better.

Research Paper Outline Template

A research paper is written using different formats. The most common formats include MLA and APA research paper outline. When teachers assign this academic assignment, the format is specified in the guidelines. But if you have not been specified a format, choose any of the formats to outline and draft the paper.

Students look for templates and examples to understand the outline form in the two basic formats. Below are the samples to help you understand the major similarities and differences in the APA and MLA style research papers.

Outlining a paper can be time taking and daunting. But if done correctly, the success of the paper is guaranteed. If you are running out of time or finding it difficult to create an outline, take professional assistance. is a professional writing company that assists students in all their academic assignments. So if you need help in structuring your paper or even require help in writing, hire our expert essay writing service.

Feel free to contact our representatives for queries or simply place an order to get a custom paper or essay in no time.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you structure a research paper?

A properly organized research paper has the following structure:

  • Title 
  • Abstract 
  • Introduction 
  • Materials and methods 
  • Results 
  • Discussion 
  • Limitations 
  • Conclusion 
  • Bibliography 
  • Acknowledgments 

What is research writing outline?

Outlines ensure that writers cover the most important information, in a logical order. Researchers benefit greatly from outlines when writing by addressing which topic they should address first and last.

Cathy A.


Cathy A., Literature, Marketing

Cathy has been been working as an author on our platform for over five years now. She has a Masters degree in mass communication and is well-versed in the art of writing. Cathy is a professional who takes her work seriously and is widely appreciated by clients for her excellent writing skills.

Cathy has been been working as an author on our platform for over five years now. She has a Masters degree in mass communication and is well-versed in the art of writing. Cathy is a professional who takes her work seriously and is widely appreciated by clients for her excellent writing skills.

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