Research Paper Outline - Types & Overview

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A research paper is a piece of academic writing in which the author addresses a specific research question. Instead of using personal knowledge, the author focuses on secondary sources. Several steps are involved in creating, assembling, structuring, writing, and formatting a research paper. A research paper outline draws a general map for the study for the research paper and organizes the thoughts of an essay writer.

Outline of a research paper

The first task while writing a research paper is to decide the topic. Even if the students use an essay writing service, it will also serve no good if the topic chosen is not concise enough. Choosing a broader topic will make discussion very difficult, and most of the important points will not be covered. Hence, a more particular topic should be chosen.

After making a selection on the topic, the next task is to make the outline of the research paper. The outline is the first draft, which helps write an organized research paper with the correct flow and helps in revising the paper.

Types of research paper outline

Depending upon word structure, the outline of a research paper has two types:

  1. Word outline
  2. Sentence outline

In word outline, phrases and words are used to define the outline of the research paper. The various topics and subjects discussed in the paper are listed in this outline. Such an outline is also called the topic outline, as it is used to list the topic to be discussed in each paragraph.

Sentence outline uses full sentences to make an outline. These sentences are then used as the first line of each paragraph.

The outline has another two types, which are based on the style used for outlining the paper.

These are:

  1. Alphanumeric
  2. Decimal.

An alphanumeric outline, alphabets, and numbers are used to mark headings and subheadings, i.e., 1, A, I, etc., whereas, in decimal 1, 1.1, 1.1.1 is the format used for headings and subheadings.


The outline of a research paper is distributed into three main parts: the introduction, the body, and the conclusion.


This part of the outline contains the thesis sentence, which is basically based on the topic selected and defines the purpose of the research. The reason why research is being conducted, the goal which is to be achieved are also part of the introduction. The significance of the topic selected, the methodology used to conduct the research, and the approach used to discuss all the points within the paper are also described here.


The body contains all the topic sentences. These are the supporting arguments for the thesis statement. Along with the arguments, the secondary sources supporting each argument are also listed down in the body.


It includes a summary of all main points and the final position the researcher has arrived at. The limitation and future recommendations are also added here. Still confused, get help from a paper writing service now at affordable rates.

General outline sample

  1. Introduction
    1. Topic of research or research question
    2. Purpose of research
    3. Scope
    4. Methodology
    5. Approach
    6. Thesis statement
  2. Body
    1. Topic sentence or argument 1
      1. Supporting secondary source 1
      2. Supporting secondary source 2
    2. Topic sentence or argument 2
      1. Supporting secondary source 1
      2. Supporting secondary source 2
    3. Topic sentence or argument 3
      1. Supporting secondary source 1
      2. Supporting secondary source 2
  3. Conclusion
      1. Summary of each argument
      2. Findings and implications
      3. Limitations of the research
      4. Recommendations for future work

This general outline can be used as a working guide for students who find themselves stuck in outlining the research paper. I also use it extensively and have found it extremely useful to write my essay using this outline draft.

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