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To write a great research paper a good outline is needed. It serves as a roadmap, guiding you from start to finish and ensuring logical and coherent presentation of ideas. This article covers different examples and tips for writing a research paper outline.

A research paper outline helps the writer to organize their thoughts and ideas before delving into the actual writing process. It is a crucial part of any research paper, whether it be an APA research paper outline, an argumentative research paper outline, or any other type of research paper.

A research paper outline typically includes the thesis statement, main points, headings, subheadings, and subtopics that the writer intends to cover. This can be structured in various formats, such as an alphanumeric outline, decimal outline, or APA outline.

The outline for a research paper helps the writer to create an outline in a step-by-step manner, starting from the title page to the different sections of the paper. By summarizing each part of the research paper in the outline, the writer ensures that they have a clear plan for writing the research paper in a systematic and organized manner.

How to Create a Research Paper Outline?

In order to create a well-crafted research paper outline, it is essential to follow specific steps to ensure the structure of your paper is clear and organized. Here are some key points to consider when creating an effective outline:

  1. Start by choosing a research paper outline template that well suits your writing style and the requirements of your assignment. You can find research paper outline examples online to use as a guide. Also, you can follow here to get Speech Outline examples.
  2. Divide your outline into sections using Roman numerals, Arabic numerals, or lowercase letters to indicate the hierarchy of your ideas. This will help to organize the flow of information in your paper. 
  3. Include keywords and main points in each section of your outline to ensure that you are covering all the essential parts of your research paper.
  4. Once you have created a comprehensive outline, you can begin writing your paper without losing track of your main arguments and supporting evidence.

Along with the research paper outline, also learn How to Write an Essay Outline.

What are the Different Types of Research Paper Outlines?

Two common types of research paper outlines can assist you in organizing your ideas and structuring your paper effectively.

1. MLA Research Paper Outline:

  MLA research paper outline

The MLA research paper outline is most commonly used in college research writing. It follows a specific format example, using complete sentences to outline the main topics and structure of your research paper.

Creating a research paper outline in MLA format involves organizing your ideas systematically to build a coherent argument or presentation of information. Here’s an essential structure for an MLA research paper outline, which includes critical elements and formatting suggestions:

MLA research paper outline, which includes critical elements and formatting suggestions:


Title: [Your Paper’s Title]

Thesis Statement: [A concise summary of the main point or claim of the essay.]

  1. Introduction
  • A. Background Information: Provide general information about the topic to set the context for your research.
  • B. Thesis Statement: Clearly state your thesis in a sentence or two, explaining the point your paper aims to prove.

II.  Body Paragraphs

  • A. Main Point 1: Topic sentence that introduces the first main point of your thesis.
  • 1. Supporting Evidence: Detail, example, or analysis that supports your point.
  • 2. Explanation: Discuss how this evidence supports your main point.
  • 3. Mini-conclusion: Tie back to the main point.
    • B. Main Point 2: Topic sentence that introduces the second main point of your thesis.
    • 1. Supporting Evidence
    • 2. Explanation
    • 3. Mini-conclusion
      • C. Main Point 3 (continue as necessary)
      • 1. Supporting Evidence
      • 2. Explanation
      • 3. Mini-conclusion

      III. Counterarguments and Rebuttals (if applicable)

      • A. Counterargument 1: Present opposing viewpoints.
      • 1. Rebuttal: Evidence and reasoning to refute the counterargument.

      IV. Conclusion

      • A. Summary of Main Points: Briefly recap the central insights of the paper.
      • B. Thesis Restatement: Restate your thesis in a new way, showing how it has been developed through your analysis.
      • C. Final Thought: Leave the reader with a final thought or question to ponder.

      2. APA Format Outline:

       APA  research paper format

       The APA format is another type of research paper outline. It also uses full sentences and parallel structure to help organize the different parts of a research paper.


      Title Page: This should include the title of your paper, your name, and the institutional affiliation.

      Abstract: A brief summary of the paper, usually between 150-250 words.

      1. Introduction
      • A. Background Information: Give a brief overview of the topic and its importance.
      • B. Thesis Statement: Present your thesis, which should outline the central argument or point of your paper.

      II. Literature Review (if applicable)

      • A. Overview of Existing Research: Summarize the key findings from existing literature.
      • B. Gaps in the Research: Highlight what is missing in the literature and where your research fits in.

      III. Methodology

      • A. Participants: Describe the participants in your study.
      • B. Instruments: Detail the tools and methods used to collect data.
      • C. Procedures: Outline the procedures followed in your research.

      IV. Results

      • A. Data Analysis: Present the analysis of the data collected.
      • B. Findings: Summarize the findings based on the data analysis.

      V. Discussion

      • A. Interpretation of Results: Discuss what the results mean in relation to your hypothesis.
      • B. Implications: Explain the significance of your findings.
      • C. Limitations: Acknowledge any limitations of the study.
      • D. Suggestions for Future Research: Propose areas for further investigation based on your findings.

      VI. Conclusion

      • A. Recap of Thesis and Main Points: Briefly summarize the main argument and the supporting points.
      • B. Concluding Remark: Provide a final thought or call to action based on your findings.


      • List all sources used in your research in APA format.

      Why is Proofreading your Research Paper Outline Important?

      Proofreading your research paper outline is crucial for several reasons.

      • Firstly, it ensures you follow the correct research paper outline format example. This is necessary for organizing your ideas logically and coherently. Without a well-crafted outline, the writing of your research paper process can become disjointed and confusing. Meanwhile, you can follow the link here to learn the assignment format.
      • Secondly, by meticulously reviewing each paragraph in your outline of a research paper, you can identify any inconsistencies or gaps in your research question or argument. This allows you to make any necessary revisions before writing your entire paper.
      • Additionally, a carefully constructed MLA outline or APA outline can assist you in staying focused on your main points. This also prevents you from going off on tangents or including irrelevant information. 

      How does Creating a Structured Research Paper Outline Help in the Writing Process?

      Creating a structured research paper outline can significantly benefit the writing process in several ways:

      • When writing your research paper outline helps in systematically organizing your thoughts and ideas. This will ensure you cover all the necessary information and maintain a logical flow throughout your paper.
      • There are different kinds of research paper formats. These include the Modern Language Association (MLA) and the American Psychological Association (APA). By creating an outline using the specific guidelines of these formats, you can ensure that your paper meets the requirements of the chosen style.
      • A well-structured outline helps in saving time during the writing process, as you already have a roadmap to follow. You can write in complete sentences based on the outline and add the details as needed for each section.
      • The outlining process can help you identify any tangential or related articles that can be used to carry out good research paper topics. This will ensure that your research paper also contains three main sections. The sections are an introduction, body, and Conclusion – all interconnected and support your central topic sentence.

      Research Paper Outline Template

      Research paper outline template

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      Jane Roberta Jones