How to Write an Outline for a Research Paper

Tips and Tricks of How to Write an Outline for a Research Paper

Did you know that you cannot get lost if you do not know where you are going? Well, in research paper writing, an outline plays a crucial role in creating a roadmap for your paper. An outline is a blueprint and just a plan for your paper. You need a paper outline to organize your thoughts and arguments in a logical manner. With a good paper outline, your research and writing will be very effective and enjoyable. Read on to find out more ideas on how to write an outline for a research paper.

What this document is about:

  • Drafting a good research paper outline
  • Elements of a good research paper outline
  • Function of a research paper outline

This guide will walk you through a journey to simplify your understanding of research paper outlines. Since different papers have different outlines, this document offers flexible tips to allow you make adjustments depending on the paper you are handling. Are you ready for this journey? Let’s go…

How to write an outline for a research paper

An outline is an integral part of your research paper. It has a direct bearing on your final product. In other words, a good research paper depends on the outline. You cannot claim to be good in research paper writing when you cannot put together an excellent paper outline.

Many writers do not pay attention to a paper outline because they do not know its function. Are you in this lot? Do not worry. Here are the functions of a good research paper outline you should always keep in mind.

The role of Research paper outline

Acts as your roadmap – As you ponder on how to write an outline for a research paper, remember that it is what helps you keep track of your argument throughout the paper. Without a proper outline, you are likely to go off the tangent and end up with something different from your assignment.

Aids your writing – You really need an outline before and during the entire writing process. It makes the entire process less tiresome, because it acts a compass pointer to what you are supposed to do.

A great organizational tool – For long papers, you need an outline to achieve a good paper structure. With this writing tool, you will be able to sort your ideas and leave out what you do not need. Above all, your paper will have order.

Helps you organize materials – When handling long research papers, you are likely to end up with chunks of materials from which you should develop a good paper. This can be a daunting task in the absence of a good outline. Use it and see how your paper shapes out.

It links your ideas – A good outline ensures smooth transition between ideas. It creates connecting fabrics that connect your thoughts, giving your paper continuity from the introduction to the conclusion.

Clearly, an outline remains the backbone of any excellent paper. It is what creates the difference between veteran and amateur writers. With this understanding, it becomes easier to master the art of how to write an outline for a research paper.

Fundamental principles of how to write an outline for a research paper

Writing a 10,000-word research paper without an outline is a task in futility. Do not even think of it because you will not make any step. For long papers, create your paper outline in advance and present to your supervisor for approval. From the sketch, he or she will determine if you are on the right path or not and give guidance early enough.

However, knowing the benefits of a good research paper outline will not help you improve your writing; you must have a mastery of putting together a sketch of your paper before you embark on the actual writing process. Below are recommended steps to follow:

Creating a research paper outline:

STEP 1: Determine the purpose of your research paper. Why are you writing your paper? This question will help you visualize a roadmap that you need to accomplish your objectives.

STEP 2: Determine your target audience. Before writing a paper outline, know your readers. A target audience helps you package your paper to address their needs. For instance, if you are writing for your tutor, adhere to the elements in the instructions as your draft your paper. You only succeed as a write if you satisfy your target audience.

STEP 3: Create a thesis for your paper. As you think about how to write an outline for a research paper, focus on the main idea you want to develop in your paper. What is your argument? Do you have evidence to support your claim? How do you intend to present your ideas? A thesis statement will help you develop ideas logically and achieve your goal.

STEP 4: Brainstorm your paper. Once you have a thesis, look at your topic or the issue at hand from all angles. Jot down every idea that pops in your mind as you think through your topic. These ideas will form the basis of your paper as you get into the actual writing process. Write down as many ideas as you can.

STEP 5: Organize your work. After you have listed all the possible angles and ideas to develop, cluster them. Bring together all related ideas.

STEP 6: Order your ideas. Arrange your material in a particular way that gives meaning. For example, put the material in subsections, starting with the general to the specifics. Alternatively, you can start from the abstract to concrete.

STEP 7: Label your idea. The last step is creating main and subheadings for your ideas. You can label the ideas using numerical numbering or alphabetical.

If you follow the seven steps of how to write an outline for a research paper, then you are on your way of becoming a great writer. Do not use shortcuts; they oftentimes turn into long cuts.

With this discussion and the steps we have so far examined, let us look at an example, before we move to another important section. Keep reading…

Example: Research Paper

Thesis Topic: A research on the factors that influence Infant Feeding Practices of Mothers in New York

  1. Introduction
  2. Statement of the Problem
  3. Definition of Terms
  4. Theoretical Framework
  5. Methodology
  6. Hypothesis
  7. Review of Related Literature
  8. Scope and Limitations
  9. Significance of the Study
    1. Body

Background of the Study

  1. Benefits of Breastfeeding
  2. WHO Recommendations
  3. National Situationer
  4. The Milk Code

Presentation and Analysis of Data

  1. Socio-economic Demographic Profile of Mothers
  2. Information Regarding Current (Youngest) Infant
  3. Current Infant Feeding Practices of Mothers
  4. Maternal Knowledge
  5. Correlation Tests
    • Conclusion

Concluding Statement

  1. Analytical Summary
  2. Thesis Reworded


This research paper outline shows some of the elements to capture when working on your assignment. As we have already mentioned, outline differ from one research paper to another. Do not copy paste a paper outline even if the writer scored an ‘A.’ Develop your own because have a different purpose. With this example, let us look at more elements that will help you figure out how to write an outline for a research paper.

More tips on how to write an outline for a research paper

Most research papers have the following elements, which should appear on your outline:

Title – Author(s) – It is the shortest and most complex to write. You can write this section at the end of your paper when all your ideas are in place.

Abstract – It always appears in the database when someone searches for your research paper. It summarizes your work in about 200 words.

Table contents – It is a breakdown of all the sections of your paper. It shows all the sections and subsections with their page numbers. You do not need contents for short papers.

Introduction – It orients your reader by giving background information on the topic. An intro can repel or attract a potential reader. Give your best.

Methods – This is where you report the tools you used to perform your experiment and gather your data. Methods may include interviews, observations, and questionnaire among others.

Results – Here, you document what you found out. Give facts, figures and statistics, which you used to make your conclusions.

Discussion– It allows you to interpret the results and explain their meaning.

Conclusion– This is where you wrap up your research paper.

This handout has given you all the secrets of how to write an outline for a research paper. Put them into practice and you will surely excel. Godspeed.

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