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How to Write a Research Paper Outline: A Step-by-Step Guide

Mar 16, 2022

Mar 16, 2022 | Blog

What Is A Research Paper Outline?

A research paper outline is a plan written by the author to avoid being stuck in the middle of the process. Call it an action plan or the skeleton of your research paper. This part reveals the primary ideas of the study. It identifies whether your work will be qualitative or quantitative. The outline also contains the thesis statement and explains what the research paper is trying to prove. And, it helps to identify any possible flaws in your experiment before you start working on it.

It is possible to write your research paper without a quality outline, but it might suggest that your paper lacks organization if you do so. A research paper outline is a useful tool and helps to create a logical, coherent structure for your writing. It is helpful to organize your ideas so that you know what points belong in which section of the paper. This can keep your essay clear and well organized.

We have also included example research paper outlines to provide guidance and be used as templates.

How To Write a Research Paper Outline

Research papers are among the most intimidating tasks students face in their academics. This is because of the time, effort, and skills that they need to complete. Here are the main considerations and steps for writing research paper outlines:

Select an appropriate topic

The first step to choosing a research paper topic is narrowing down your interests. If you are interested in the environment, for example, try researching one aspect of it, such as water quality. If you are not sure about the range of your topic, ask your teacher for help.

State your argument

Your thesis statement should be concise and reflect the type of paper you are writing. All research essays must be documented in certain ways in order to avoid plagiarism. Depending on the topic of your research and your field of study, you will have to use different styles of formatting. MLA, APA 6th ed formats or 7th ed, and Chicago are the three most common citation formats and determine the way in-text citations or footnotes should be used, as well as the order of information in your paper.

Define the audience

If you know who will read your paper, it is easier to choose a tone that is appropriate for them. Some topics require more formal language than others; some are suitable for jokes. Research papers written for academic or scientific publications require professionalism and adherence to strict guidelines. Personal essays typically do not include references because they are entirely based on opinion.

Conduct a research

Researching your topic will help you find enough evidence for supporting idea, and prove that it is valid. Make sure to collect data from sources that are credible by checking

Organize references

References are the evidence of each of your arguments and the research you have conducted. You should prioritize them according to the importance and relevance of your thesis.

Structure Of A Research Paper Outline

The main sections of a research paper outline include the introduction, body, and conclusion. The small sections have been bulleted under the main headings.


  • Hook
  • Define the audience.
  • Thesis statement.


  • An argument to support the thesis.
  • An argument to support the thesis.
  • An argument to support the thesis.


  • Summary of arguments.
  • Call to action.

A research paper outline: a step-by-step guide


The introduction part of your research paper outline should state the problem, provide a brief description why it is important, and how you are going to address it. Also, include a thesis sentence as well in this section.


This part may contain several paragraphs where you will elaborate more on your topic. You can include technical definitions and other details that are essential to the topic. As a result, they will help your audience have a better understanding of it.


In this section, you should summarize all the detailed information that you have discussed in the body. Besides, you can also state your personal opinion here as well regarding the topic.


As you may know by now, academic papers require citations for everything except for original ideas or thoughts. If you want to cite websites and articles, then use APA style (American Psychological Association). On the other hand, if you want to cite books and magazines, then use MLA style (Modern Language Association).

Have problems with your essay?

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