Learn How to Write a Research Paper Outline and Make Your Writing Process Smoother

Writing is always a challenging process. It requires a lot of skills: analytical, critical, and creative. Since a research paper is a serious scope of work, it can not be written for 2 hours. And as it has multiple structural parts and requirements to stick to, you must know how to write a research paper outline. It helps to organize your thoughts and build a coherent structure for your paper.

Are you interested in learning how to make a research paper outline? Follow on, and you will become an expert in research paper outline creation.

Why Learn How to Outline a Research Paper?

At first glance, it might seem that outlining is additional scope of work. However, by dedicating 30 minutes to research paper outline creation, you can reduce stress and mess in your other writing process.

Here are the reasons to learn how to make a research paper outline.

  •     It helps to organize your thoughts. Research is a long way. It has multiple parts and theoretical and practical tasks to accomplish. Thus, you might feel overwhelmed when required to conduct research. However, a research paper outline will help you to structure your thoughts in the right direction.
  •     It helps to build a coherent research structure. The important sign of a high-quality research paper is its cohesive structure. And having a research paper outline makes it easy to make your paper sound smooth and logical.
  •     It helps to divide the research into parts and stages. Every research should have a proper structure so the reader can understand your writing. A research paper outline helps to group the information into logical parts.
  •     It helps to process a large amount of data. Research writing is always about a lot of information. And how can you process it if not through a research paper outline creation? Thus, learning how to cope with multiple sources and a lot of information is important.

How to Do an Outline for a Research Paper: Actionable Tips

And now, when you are quite interested in learning how to make a research paper outline, we will present you the tips on creating a design for a research paper. Please read them carefully and implement them into your writing process.

Identify the Topic

The topic is always the first thing you must focus on before writing a research paper outline. By determining the theme of your research, you identify the whole further process.

Clarify the Research Paper Style

A research paper outline depends on the style you are writing your research paper in. Be it argumentative research or an empirical one, and the outline creation will significantly differ.

Learn the Background

As you have to know what to write about in your research paper, you must go to the resources. First, gather some notes and literature to make a clear understanding of your topic.

Think About Your Audience

When creating a research paper outline, it is essential to identify your audience. The outline will differ whether it has to be presented at an official conference or just in front of your college colleagues.

Brainstorm Some Ideas

As soon as you gather the relevant information to your topic, you are ready to produce the ideas you will discuss or investigate in your research paper. That is the time to write them out. It is not necessary to follow any structure. Just write what comes into your mind.

Divide the Ideas into Logical Groups

When you have a list of your ideas, it is time to divide them into groups and sub-groups. This is how your research paper outline will start to form. And basically, it is the most important part of the outline creation.

Build a Hierarchy

You will have ideas representing different points: minor and major. And your task is to build a hierarchy. That is to say; you have to put major ideas first and then describe those that represent minor points.

Form the Headings and Subheadings

You are ready to write the headings as you realize what should come first and next. In the research paper outline, it is crucial to stick to a parallel structure. In other words, your headings and subheadings should have the same format: start with the same word (verb, noun) and have a similar word order.

Remember About Research Paper Structure

Every research paper has a typical structure: introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. Since these parts are different, you should also mind them when organizing your headings and subheadings.

Don’t Make the Headings Very Long

Indeed, headings in the research paper outline give you hints on what to write about. However, they should not exceed several sentences. Try to make them concise and clear, so the readers understand you correctly.

How to Create an Outline for a Research Paper: Formatting Tips

When you compose the headings and subheadings for the research paper outline, you are ready to format them according to special formatting rules. Of course, the choice of proper formatting will depend on the type of your research paper. And you will have to choose among the alphanumeric, full-sentence, and decimal formatting types. So let’s take a closer look at every formatting type.

Alphanumeric research paper outline

It is a commonly used formatting type. In alphanumeric formatting, you can use Roman numerals, Arabic numerals, and capitalized and lowercase letters. However, you will have to write short sentences instead of long ones here.

Full-sentence research paper outline

The difference between the outlines of the alphanumeric and full-sentence research paper is that the second one allows using full sentences. Also, you are free to use Roman and Arabic numerals and capitalized and lowercase letters.

Decimal research paper outline

When formatting according to the decimal research paper outline, you will have to write numbers for subheadings in the following way: 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, etc. Again, you must use short sentences in the outline of the decimal research paper.

What Should a Research Paper Outline Look Like?

Your research paper outline can look different depending on the type of your research and the topic. However, a typical IMRAD format relates to the introduction, methods, results, and discussion sections. Let’s see what a standard research paper outline will look like.

  •     Title page. Your title page is more important for the overall structure than a research paper outline. Still, you can also include it.
  •     Introduction. The introduction will present your readers with your topic, problem, objectives, and background.
  •     Methods. Here is the section of the research paper outline where you will write about your approach to conducting the research and the means you will use.
  •     Results. As you conduct research, you receive the results of your work. This is the section to mention your findings.
  •     Discussion. The discussion section mostly refers to summarizing where you will have to summarize what you have been investigating.
  •     Acknowledgments. In this part of a research paper outline, you will have to thank your college or university and your mentor – professor or colleague.

Final Words About Research Paper Outline

A research paper outline is a crucial part of the writing process. It helps to organize the thoughts and structure the paper logically and comprehensively. Research paper outline creation can be simple if you follow our tips and practice a lot!


How to write a research paper outline?

To create the proper research paper outline, you should first come up with a few ideas. Then, arrange a brainstorming for yourself that will help you with ideas for your research paper outline. After you come up with a few ideas, it is the perfect time to start shaping your future research paper outline. Do not worry if you do not receive the desired result immediately; most likely, you will have to come up with a few drafts.

Why is it important to write a research paper outline?

If you do not know why the research paper outline is an important component of your paper, here are some significant reasons. First, it organizes your thoughts and helps create a structure. With the research paper outline, you will not miss any important points and decrease the number of possible mistakes.

How to format a research paper outline?

There are different kinds of research paper outlines. However, in a research paper outline, you will usually use the three most common formats: alphanumeric, full-sentence, and decimal. Every format is suitable for a research paper outline. However, you should choose the format according to your assignment and subject.

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Margaret Vizenor
Sociology & Literature
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