Research Paper Outline Step-by-Step Guide

posted by Laura Callisen 27 Oct 2021
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To write a great text, students should learn how to write a research paper outline. Yes, writing research paper is complex task that requires hard work and hours putting it all together. It takes some serious dedication and energy from coming up with your topic to submitting it to your professor. On top of that, you have a ton of other college obligations. So, writing an outline may feel like additional work you don’t need. However, writing a plan will help speed the whole process up and end up with a high-quality paper. That's why we've put together this guide that contains everything you need to know about research essay outlines and how to write them.

Reasons to Write a Research Essay Outline 

Let’s start by discussing importance and benefits of writing research essay outline. After realizing how much it can help, you’ll be more than happy to invest the extra time into writing one and using it in creating paper. Here are some reasons to spend some time outlining an assignment before writing. It helps to:

  1. Organize Ideas. When just starting to write, your head can be quite a mess. You have a ton of great ideas, but they’re all mixed up and chaotic. A detailed plan will help organize those ideas and decide how and when to introduce each one.
  2. Save Time. Time spent writing an outline is time saved when writing the actual paper. You will already have the whole thing figured out and organized, so you will just have to type. That’s why you should know how to write a research paper outline.
  3. Define Topic. It’s one thing to have a general idea about the topic and a whole other thing to define it. Choose and stick to one of many unique research topics and clearly define what you want to cover.
  4. Pick Relevant Information. Not all information gathered during research is going to be relevant and worthy of appearing in final draft. Whether you're doing scientific research or a humanities paper, ensure the information you include is carefully selected and valuable. 

Now that you understand benefits of having formal plan, let’s head to actual writing tips and instructions.

How to Write an Outline for a Research Paper Fast

Writing plan for research paper means that you know all the essential elements of the outline, and how to write each one. Below, we'll cover the basic format for a research paper outline, and how to write each of the elements. If you will be not sure about your outcome, you can always use research paper editors for polishing a paper. 

1) Outline Introduction. Introduction is supposed to interest readers into reading the whole text. When writing outline for a research paper, introduction needs to be spot on. It should briefly cover how you’ll present topic to the reader. Think about giving background information about the topic and reasons for why you’re doing the research. 

Define how your topic contributes to study area and why it’s important to be discussed. Simply put, introduction plan must reflect on the importance of your work and serve as a sample of what readers should expect in paper.

2) Outline Body. Next part of research project outline is body of the paper. Think of all sections to include in the body and main elements that’ll make assignment noteworthy. In the body, define main ideas you are discussing as well as sections you’ll write to go over each one. Define the subheadings and create bullet points of the facts and information you will share. Also, go over arguments you will try to prove and hypothesis, and questions you want to raise.

Finally, don’t forget to define formatting style, whether it’s APA, MLA, or any other academic writing style. Keep it in mind while writing your body outline and make notes accordingly. So, if you choose APA, then make outline for research paper APA cited as well. The body of your research paper is the most demanding and extensive part. In case you need help with writing a research paper, you can look for it online.

3) Outline Conclusion. Finally, the last section is about conclusion. It’s the final unit and must leave a strong impression on readers. But, what information should you include in conclusion outline? The truth is, your conclusion is a summary of everything you've already said and written in the introduction and body. However, the conclusion needs to repeat main ideas and summarize the major conclusions you've reached.

If you look at any research paper outline example, you’ll see that the conclusion is a reflection of the results of your hard work and a recap of the entire paper. However, some students and academics find it difficult to write it on their own, so they decide to buy a research paper instead. You can do the same if you find it too difficult to handle or look for an example to see how others have done it.

Language in Research Papers Outline 

Finally, there’s one last aspect to consider. Language you’re using is extremely important, even though official version is yet to be written. We’ve selected four major aspects of language usage in research papers. 

  • Parallelism. Parallelism is something you should use across outline for research paper to make it more readable. It refers to creating a balance in your text by using similar words, clauses, and phrases. By doing so repeatedly, you’re giving your paper rhythm and helping the reader comprehend and memorize your text better. Here’s an example:

       Examinees had to fill out questionnaire, do a live interview, and record a short video message.

  • Coordination. Coordination in outline research paper process refers to assigning meaning to points of the same level. That means all your subheadings should be equally important and carry the same weight. That’ll create additional balance and a smooth flow from first point to the other. This sample illustrates it:

 1. Empirical Methods Used

a) Interview

b) Questionnaire

2. Results

a) Hypothesis 

  • Subordination. Subordination is about gradually building your points from the most general to the most specific. That means your main heading is general while each subheading is more and more specific. Here’s what it looks like:

1. Empirical Methods Used

a) Interview

a.1) Question 1: How do people feel when speaking a foreign language in public?

  • Division. Finally, division is simply about breaking down your subheading into more sub-points so you create a better structure. It’s what we’ve discussed in an example above. You’ll find most of these typical language figures in other research papers. If you want to learn more about them, just find a sample and see how other academics and students have used them, or check one below.

Create Your Research Paper Outline Template

Now that you know how to write a research paper plan and what information to include, you can create own template. First, create an outline example for research paper to see if you’ve got it all figured out. Then, develop a template you’ll use for all your future assignments. This way, you won’t have to do all thinking and outline structuring all over again every time a new task. That’ll also help develop and nurture writing style that you’ll be using further on. After you learn how to write a plan, you’ll have to learn how to cite a research paper, create a bibliography, use different empirical methods, and so much more.

Here is a simple sample outline for research papers provided as an example:

Title: Mental Health within Twin cities in Somali Community

I.  Introduction

   a. Describe mental health and highlight its effects on people’s health

   b. Describe prevalence of mental health illness among Somali refugees

II.  Background

    a. Outline possible causes of mental illness among Somali refugees in Somali

    b. Describe measures put in place to treat refugees suffering from mental illness

III. Statistical analysis of mental health prevalence among Somali Refugees

    a. Outline statistical facts of rates of mental illness suffering among Somali Refugees

    b. Compare rates of mental illness among Somali refugees and compare with other nationalities data.

    c. Describe possible reasons of statistical figures noted.

IV.  Analysis of measures taken to address mental health issues among Somali Refugees

    a.  Describe various treatment methods used in treating Somali Refugees suffering from PTSD and other mental illnesses.

    b. Discuss efficiencies of each of methods and present data justifying methods used

V.  Conclusion

  a. Outline findings of analysis of prevalence and treatment measures

  b. Propose measures that could best address problem of mental illness among Somali refugees

This research outline example may be useful for every student who completes essay plan for the first time. Follow it as a sample while working on your own outline or contact our experts for help.

Final Thoughts

As you can see from what we’ve covered above and every example we've given, writing research paper outline is far from a simple task. Still, it’ll help you immensely when you begin writing your actual paper since most of the hard work will already be behind you. Hopefully, our ultimate guide on writing a research paper outline will help understand its importance and teach you how to do it skillfully and successfully. Also, remember that there is research paper writing service that can do the hard work for you. 

Laura Callisen

Blog writer for GrabMyEssay


Hello there! I am Laura Callisen, and I fancy myself to be a modern “Renaissance person.” I suppose my 30-something self began my incredible journey after having been born in Stavanger, Norway and then immigrating to the U.S. (Utah, actually) at the age of 5. I am certain that this change was more of a cultural “shock” for my parents than for me, because I quickly mastered the language and was clever enough to “play the game” of public education in America. After graduating from Skyline High School, where I spent two years as the school newspaper editor, obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in English and journalism from the University of Utah was a natural culmination of my love for writing.

My inclination to be socially conscious led me to lots of community outreach and volunteering during my college years, especially in the areas of educational and housing improvement for the poor and a number of environmental crusades. My passion for philosophy and travel have now taken over, and I am enthralled with the widely varied value systems of all cultures in which I can immerse myself, if only temporarily. My life as a freelance writer allows a freedom I never want to sacrifice for a stuffy office!

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