Research Paper Outline - Comprehensive Guide

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8 minutes readingAug 14, 2020

A research paper outline is a great tool that significantly helps you during the writing process. The main purpose is to give yourself a planned out idea of what you are going to write about. This part of the writing process should comprise the introduction with a thesis statement, body, and conclusion. When it comes to the body paragraphs, they must have academic standards of evidence to be compelling and credible. The work has to be written formally, which means that under no circumstances should you use colloquial language.

Writing an effective research paper layout may seem hard at first glance. It is understandable because not everyone is aware of a, let's say, decimal outline. However, it is pretty straightforward, especially after reading our blog. Let us dig deeper into a research paper outline, what it is, and how to write it.

Outline Example

  1. INTRODUCTION (in the introduction you need to hook the reader and make them keep reading):

  • here, you state the main idea you are going to talk about
  • here, you explain the importance of your written discourse
  • here, you point out a question, problem, or arguments within the paper in the form of a thesis statement

  1. BODY PARAGRAPH (here, you present an argument to support the thesis)
  2. BODY PARAGRAPH (the same)
  3. BODY PARAGRAPH (the same)

  • in the concluding statement, you encapsulate your arguments, restating your thesis
  • CTA, call to action stands for encouraging immediate action. Consider a good concluding sentence

The mentioned outline example contains the main points you have to include in your research paper outline. It is widely agreed to be the first part of your writing process.


The introduction tends to be an important part of the written discourse. In this part, you have to do your best to make your reader remain hooked and keep on reading. Pay close attention to the writing style. It should be formal, intriguing, engaging, and informative. Plus, you may include some background information to shed light on the following parts.

When it comes to the thesis statement, here, you explain the issue you are going to discuss and describe its significance. Remember to make it accurate, clear, and concise. On no account should you develop your arguments in the thesis statement. Keep it simple - one or two sentences are more than enough.


The main content of a good research paper is in the body paragraphs. The first point that should be mentioned is the logical order of your arguments. That said, the major point should be the most powerful and persuasive one backed up with evidence. The topic sentence should also be present at the beginning of every body paragraph.

Every student might commit a mistake while citing written material. Even though he/she has a good outline with great ideas, wrongly cited sources can lead to failure. Depending on your topic, make sure you cite valid references flawlessly.

Aside from that, be very attentive to the structure and style while writing research papers. They should be the same throughout the layout. Plenty of research guides don't mention tips about the language. But they should start doing that. An outline needs to be written in a varied language. Your entire research paper should possess different vocabulary and grammar to make it interesting to read.


In this part, you summarize your arguments and make a reader remember the idea of your paper. The summary doesn't have to be extensive. Three or four sentences are more than enough to restate your thesis and write a CAT (call to action). By restating your thesis, you remind the arguments your research paper relies on. In turn, call to action aims to provoke the audience to start acting or to embark on a discussion.

However, before writing a paper outline, you have to be prepared in different ways.

As such, don't forget to look at this important pre-writing guide:

  • Pick a topic. If you have freedom of choice, you won't only write a good research plan. You will also enjoy writing your paper and absorb lots of information. However, make sure you select a topic that will be interesting not only to you but also to the audience.
  • Present arguments. Once you choose a topic, think about the arguments and supporting ideas you will present. Take some time, jot down the three main ideas that come to your mind. Usually, they are general and appear to be mentioned by others. If you want your research paper outline to be specific, think one more time about the arguments. Paper writing includes asking questions. It is useful to ask, "What is the purpose of my work?"
  • Conduct research. Conducting research may well be a time-consuming activity. But without it, your outline makes the reader think about its reliability. To create a useful paper, you have to delve into the problem. After the research process is finished, you will possess detailed information on the topic, its arguments, and counter-arguments.

Other than that, you should also organize credible references. Academic writing relies on scholarly sources, so be sure to have verified information for your every argument.

Outline Format

If you have to write a research outline, you should stick to the proper format of doing it. Even though your high school or college teacher can assign you a topic, you have freedom of choice while writing a plan for your text. There are three major types of a research paper outline: decimal outline, alphanumeric outline, and full-sentences one.

Decimal outline

To be brief, a distinctive aspect of this format is the numbering system. Using this formatting style, you are to have the following structure:

  1. The first body paragraph
  2. Aspect one
  3. Sub-aspect of aspect one
  4. Aspect two

Alphanumeric outline

It is the most used format. This type includes Roman numerals, Arabic numerals, capitalized letters, and lowercase letters. It might seem that this type possesses way too many numerals and letters. It is true, but the point is that the layout is written with short notes. Have a look:

BODY PARAGRAPH (capital letters are a must in first-level headings):

  1. Aspect one
  2. Sub-aspect
  3. Sub-aspect of sub-aspect 1


While having minor differences from the alphanumeric outline, it has almost the same structure. Using this format, ensure to write full sentences instead of short points. For instance:

Here is the first body paragraph of your research paper:

  1. The first piece of evidence supporting the first argument
  2. An extra point related to the evidence
  3. A sentence that concludes the discussion of the argument

If you aspire to create a useful outline for any topic, have a glance at the four essential components and a sample provided by the Purdue Online Writing Lab. Keep in mind that when outlining, use aspects, like Parallelism, Coordination, Subordination, and Division. Without them, your paper will be insufficient. Also, you can check out how sample outlines should look here.

Face Difficulties?

With this guide, you can write a research paper faster. However, not everyone has enough time to conduct research and write a complete paper. That rings especially true for an outline for research paper, which requires creating an organization of points and writing them down in a proper structure. We are fully aware that students lead a hectic life with all the university assignments and extracurricular activities.

Apart from that, work is looked at as being an integral part of students' lives. If you don't have time to create a research paper, a lab report, a literature review, and large amounts of other tasks, you can delegate these assignments to our company. We are a team of enthusiastic writers who strive to make your academic life significantly easier.

Writing a research paper can be a tiresome process. At first, you need to conduct research. Then, you should create a useful outline and stick to it during the writing process. Choosing us, you don't have to search for a "research paper example" on the Internet. We will also give you a research paper outline example that we think is best for your topic. If you want an outline to have another structure, be it a one-page or two-page task - we will meet all your requirements.

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