How to Write an Outline for a Research Paper – You Need a Plan!

posted by Laura Callisen 14 Sep 2015

Constructing a good research paper outline just makes sense. It keeps your ideas organized, lets you present your information, ideas or opinions in a logical order, and help you make sure you have not left anything out. If you write a research paper without using an outline, your paper is pretty much doomed to be dis-organized, and professors tend to hate dis-organization. So do it right and be impressive.

How to Write a Research Paper Outline in a Few Easy Steps

  1. While you do your research, you are going to find that your source materials themselves seem to present information and concepts in an organized manner. One of the best things you can do is to take one resource that is pretty comprehensive and see how it organizes the content.
  2. You can use that one comprehensive resource to determine the sub-headings for your paper. Write those subheadings down.
  3. As you take notes from all of your resources, place a sub-heading at the top of each piece of information or concept that matches one of the sub-headings that you wrote down. Then, after all of that research is finished, you can take your note cards (yes, his is still the best way to take research notes) and put them in stacks based upon those sub-headings.
  4. Go through each stack of cards and divide them up based upon the details they provide. You now have your points to cover under each of your sub-headings.

You will find that, by using this method, your outline for research paper writing basically constructs itself.

Ask a research paper writing service to provide you with an excellent outline on time!


How to Write an Outline for a Research Paper – Formal and Informal


If you have to turn your outline in with your paper, you will need to craft a formal outline. This means you will use Roman numerals, and capital letters, Arabic numerals, and then small letters. It will look like this:

  1. Introduction
  1. Catchy Opening
  2. Introduce Topic
  3. Make Thesis Statement
  1. Body
  1. Section One – (Subheading 1)
  1. Detail
  2. Detail
  3. Detail
  1. Section Two – (Subheading 2)
  1. Detail

You get the idea.


If you don’t have to turn that outline in, you don’t have to get so formal. Just use a sheet of paper for each sub-heading. Put the sub-heading at the top of the paper, and make note of the details you will put in that section, in the order you will cover them. Depending on the depth of your topic, each detail may take up from one to several paragraphs.

No matter which style you use for your outline, you will not have your map for writing.

A Few Other Considerations

  1. Getting good ideas for a research paper: Sometimes, you have a general topic area for your paper but you don’t really have a specific topic that interests you. You can conduct on online search for paper topics in the general area and will find lots of lists from which you can choose.
  2. When you do pick a topic, try to pick one that is a bit unique. Instructors and professors get tired of reading the same old stuff every semester.

Mind Some Assistance?

If you need help with writing a research paper making your outline is just the first step of many in getting that final polished piece of writing. You may have other issues.

  1. You may not know how to cite a research paper in the style your professor requires
  2. You may have writing skill deficits
  3. You may just be flat out of time because of so many other things goin on in your life

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