mla format for research paper outline

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How to write an Outline of a Research paper in MLA Style?

16 Oct 2021

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Thesis statement of research mla paper outline, headings and subheadings of research mla paper outline, check-list of a good mla outline for a research paper, the template of mla research paper outline, alphanumeric outline example, decimal outline example, frequently asked questions about mla outline.

Today we are going to help you understand all about the MLA research paper outline. This is something you will need to write and has a huge effect on your paper. The outline is basically a plan for your MLA paper, and it has a huge role. You will use it to organize all the paragraphs, sections, main ideas, and more.

Usually, students use bullet points to make all of this easier. MLA outline is important and can help you complete the task in less time, provide better information, eliminate mistakes, and so much more. An outline is mandatory or highly recommended for all writings, and you can really benefit from it. A research paper outline is something your professor will recommend you write!

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Writing essays

Before you even start with the MLA paper, you need to write a thesis. It is important for any paper, and it is essential. It goes before the research paper outline, and it is an explanation of the paper, the ideas, and the main elements you will use. It should be 6-7 lines, but you can make it shorter if you like. Once you have it, you can proceed to the  college research paper outline and use the bullets we have mentioned above. It is important to add that the thesis is not an introduction for an outline, essay, or anything similar. It is not abstract, either.

Now you will have to organize the ideas you will use. According to modern language associations, these have to be well-organized and important. In simple terms, do not use vague or unimportant pieces of information. You will create headings, and then you will create subheadings. A structured research paper outline will have as many headings/subheadings as you need in order to explain the topic in detail.

MLA format may be beneficial in this case scenario. An outline in MLA format will present all the main ideas. The key element is not to provide more or less the information you need. If you do, a reader will not be interested, and you will end up with a bad paper. In addition, the outline must not use vague, inaccurate, or completely irrelevant ideas. You will have to use this for any MLA paper and most essays in general. The goal is to stay accurate and detailed but not go extreme. Use times new roman to keep things simple. Consider style 6th edition.

Creating an MLA outline for a research paper is essential to the writing process. An outline helps to ensure that your work remains focused and organized throughout the writing process. If you are struggling to create an outline, an online paper writer can help you create an outline that is comprehensive and effective.

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  • In cases where you are allowed to indicate corrections on printed research papers, use carets (ʸ) to show it. Correction is easy if you are submitting an electronic copy.
  • Write complete sentences to support your thesis statement.
  • All capital letters should be followed by phrases that offer proof, support evidence, or an explanation of the main idea.
  • Use examples and statistics to expound your points.  Here is an example:

Now, look at a sample template of the MLA research paper outline below. The theme of it is "Research on the effects of global warming":

Here we have an example. It is ideal for an MLA outline and uses a proper MLA format, so you can always modify it and apply it to your specific needs and goals. If this is too complicated for you or you need help, you can always use " Write my research paper " services and get the job done in a minute. This is ideal if you need a complicated college research paper outline MLA or you just don't have time. Anyway, here is an example of a decimal MLA outline. The theme is "Facebook is a great place for making new friends":

What is an MLA Outline?

An outline in MLA format is precise as you think. It is a plan you will use to write the assignment. It consists of the headings, subheadings, and ideas you will have to use. Basically, this is a path you will take while writing, and it will reflect how your complete task will look at the end.

According to the modern language association, this is mandatory, and something all of you need to complete first. It eliminates mistakes and makes the whole task easier. Now you have a plan. You may want to follow these steps here and get the job done in less time and expect a better grade.

How to write an Outline for a Research Paper MLA?

You will have to start by explaining the main idea of your essay. Then you will start with defining the headings. Add all the subheadings now and try to focus each one on an important part of the writing. Each one should explain the idea. This is the guide on what you will write later on. The idea must be relevant, accurate, and simple if possible. Do not use ideas that are inaccurate, have flaws, or are completely irrelevant to the essay. These can make a reader get bored and not interested.

When does the page numbering of the MLA Research Title Page begin?

It should start with the first page. It always uses Arabic numbers, and all pages should be numbered. The numbers will have to be present in the upper right corner of the page, and there are no exceptions. The only expectation is that some professors will ask you not to number the first page. If that is mandatory, you will start from the second page using number 2 and move on. Numbers must be 0.5 inches from the top, and they must be flush with the proper margin.

How to Set the Outline of a Research Paper in MLA Style in Google Docs?

Formatting your research in this case scenario is simple. You will have to start a new document and click on the file/new/template. From there, you will have to search for the MLA template and open it when you find it. Then start with the main idea at the top. You will now have to write the headings followed by or containing the subheadings.

As you can see, the whole process is super easy and far easier than when using other platforms. There is no need to adjust all the settings and optimize the content manually. Keep in mind that you should use font sizes 12, 11.5, or 11.

How to Set the Outline of a Research Paper in MLA Style in Word?

To start with your research paper outline in Word, start a new document. Click on no spacing and choose font and size. Write the main idea. Click on multi-level numbering and define multiple-level numbering then. Change the values. They should be A., I., 1. and so on (enter formatting for number). Choose the number style for this number in I, II, III for the first level, A, B, C for the third level, and 1, 2, 3 for the third level. Now you can start writing.

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  • Research Paper Format | APA, MLA, & Chicago Templates

Research Paper Format | APA, MLA, & Chicago Templates

Published on November 19, 2022 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on January 20, 2023.

The formatting of a research paper is different depending on which style guide you’re following. In addition to citations , APA, MLA, and Chicago provide format guidelines for things like font choices, page layout, format of headings and the format of the reference page.

Scribbr offers free Microsoft Word templates for the most common formats. Simply download and get started on your paper.

APA |  MLA | Chicago author-date | Chicago notes & bibliography

  • Generate an automatic table of contents
  • Generate a list of tables and figures
  • Ensure consistent paragraph formatting
  • Insert page numbering

Table of contents

Formatting an apa paper, formatting an mla paper, formatting a chicago paper, frequently asked questions about research paper formatting.

The main guidelines for formatting a paper in APA Style are as follows:

  • Use a standard font like 12 pt Times New Roman or 11 pt Arial.
  • Set 1 inch page margins.
  • Apply double line spacing.
  • If submitting for publication, insert a APA running head on every page.
  • Indent every new paragraph ½ inch.

Watch the video below for a quick guide to setting up the format in Google Docs.

The image below shows how to format an APA Style title page for a student paper.

APA title page - student version (7th edition)

Running head

If you are submitting a paper for publication, APA requires you to include a running head on each page. The image below shows you how this should be formatted.

APA running head (7th edition)

For student papers, no running head is required unless you have been instructed to include one.

APA provides guidelines for formatting up to five levels of heading within your paper. Level 1 headings are the most general, level 5 the most specific.

APA headings (7th edition)

Reference page

APA Style citation requires (author-date) APA in-text citations throughout the text and an APA Style reference page at the end. The image below shows how the reference page should be formatted.

APA reference page (7th edition)

Note that the format of reference entries is different depending on the source type. You can easily create your citations and reference list using the free APA Citation Generator.

Generate APA citations for free

Scribbr Citation Checker New

The AI-powered Citation Checker helps you avoid common mistakes such as:

  • Missing commas and periods
  • Incorrect usage of “et al.”
  • Ampersands (&) in narrative citations
  • Missing reference entries

mla format for research paper outline

The main guidelines for writing an MLA style paper are as follows:

  • Use an easily readable font like 12 pt Times New Roman.
  • Use title case capitalization for headings .

Check out the video below to see how to set up the format in Google Docs.

On the first page of an MLA paper, a heading appears above your title, featuring some key information:

  • Your full name
  • Your instructor’s or supervisor’s name
  • The course name or number
  • The due date of the assignment

MLA heading

Page header

A header appears at the top of each page in your paper, including your surname and the page number.

MLA page header

Works Cited page

MLA in-text citations appear wherever you refer to a source in your text. The MLA Works Cited page appears at the end of your text, listing all the sources used. It is formatted as shown below.

The format of the MLA Works Cited page

You can easily create your MLA citations and save your Works Cited list with the free MLA Citation Generator.

Generate MLA citations for free

The main guidelines for writing a paper in Chicago style (also known as Turabian style) are:

  • Use a standard font like 12 pt Times New Roman.
  • Use 1 inch margins or larger.
  • Place page numbers in the top right or bottom center.

Format of a Chicago Style paper

Chicago doesn’t require a title page , but if you want to include one, Turabian (based on Chicago) presents some guidelines. Lay out the title page as shown below.

Example of a Chicago Style title page

Bibliography or reference list

Chicago offers two citation styles : author-date citations plus a reference list, or footnote citations plus a bibliography. Choose one style or the other and use it consistently.

The reference list or bibliography appears at the end of the paper. Both styles present this page similarly in terms of formatting, as shown below.

Chicago bibliography

To format a paper in APA Style , follow these guidelines:

  • Use a standard font like 12 pt Times New Roman or 11 pt Arial
  • Set 1 inch page margins
  • Apply double line spacing
  • Include a title page
  • If submitting for publication, insert a running head on every page
  • Indent every new paragraph ½ inch
  • Apply APA heading styles
  • Cite your sources with APA in-text citations
  • List all sources cited on a reference page at the end

The main guidelines for formatting a paper in MLA style are as follows:

  • Use an easily readable font like 12 pt Times New Roman
  • Include a four-line MLA heading on the first page
  • Center the paper’s title
  • Use title case capitalization for headings
  • Cite your sources with MLA in-text citations
  • List all sources cited on a Works Cited page at the end

The main guidelines for formatting a paper in Chicago style are to:

  • Use a standard font like 12 pt Times New Roman
  • Use 1 inch margins or larger
  • Place page numbers in the top right or bottom center
  • Cite your sources with author-date citations or Chicago footnotes
  • Include a bibliography or reference list

To automatically generate accurate Chicago references, you can use Scribbr’s free Chicago reference generator .

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.

Caulfield, J. (2023, January 20). Research Paper Format | APA, MLA, & Chicago Templates. Scribbr. Retrieved November 6, 2023, from

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mla format for research paper outline

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Types of Outlines and Samples

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Alphanumeric Outlines

This is the most common type of outline and usually instantly recognizable to most people. The formatting follows these characters, in this order:

  • Roman Numerals
  • Capitalized Letters
  • Arabic Numerals
  • Lowercase Letters

If the outline needs to subdivide beyond these divisions, use Arabic numerals inside parentheses and then lowercase letters inside parentheses. Select the "Sample Outlines" PDF in the Media Box above to download the sample of this outline.

The sample PDF in the Media Box above is an example of an outline that a student might create before writing an essay. In order to organize her thoughts and make sure that she has not forgotten any key points that she wants to address, she creates the outline as a framework for her essay.

What is the assignment?

Your instructor asks the class to write an expository (explanatory) essay on the typical steps a high school student would follow in order to apply to college.

What is the purpose of this essay?

To explain the process for applying to college

Who is the intended audience for this essay?

High school students intending to apply to college and their parents

What is the essay's thesis statement?

When applying to college, a student follows a certain process which includes choosing the right schools and preparing the application materials.

Full Sentence Outlines

The full sentence outline format is essentially the same as the Alphanumeric outline. The main difference (as the title suggests) is that full sentences are required at each level of the outline. This outline is most often used when preparing a traditional essay. Select the "Sample Outlines" PDF in the Media Box above to download the sample of this outline.

Decimal Outlines

The decimal outline is similar in format to the alphanumeric outline. The added benefit is a system of decimal notation that clearly shows how every level of the outline relates to the larger whole. Select the "Sample Outlines" PDF in the Media Box above to download the sample of this outline.

Citation Styles

Mla Format Guide

Caleb S.

MLA Format and Citation - Step by Step Guide

17 min read

Published on: Apr 20, 2018

Last updated on: May 26, 2023

MLA format and citation

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Is formatting your paper stressing you out so much that you can't focus on your research?

Formatting can be a real pain, and if you get it wrong, your professor will dock points. If you've ever struggled with citing sources or formatting your papers, you're in the right place. 

With this writing guide, you'll not only learn the ins and outs of MLA style, but you'll also find examples and tips that will make your papers stand out. Let's face it, no one wants to lose points for improper formatting or a missing citation.

So, let’s read on to find out how to properly format your paper!

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What Is an MLA Format?

MLA format is a style used mainly in subjects like literature, history, and language. It follows rules made by the Modern Language Association (MLA). These rules include citing sources inside the paper, making a list of sources at the end, and using in-text citations.

MLA format also has rules for how information should look in the paper, like font size, margins, and line spacing. It even has rules for using punctuation marks.

Following these rules is important because it makes your writing look professional and organized. This helps readers understand what you are saying.

It is entirely different from other formats as it is more focused on providing detailed references of the sources as additional information for the readers. It includes everything including in-text citations, endnotes, footnotes, and a bibliography.

Difference Between APA and MLA Format?

What makes it different from the APA style? Check the table below to understand.

General MLA Formatting 

The general format for an MLA paper should include the following elements: 

  • A page header at the top of every page. The page header is a shortened version of your paper’s title. It shouldn’t exceed 50 characters including punctuation and spacing. 
  • An appropriate title centered on the first page is typed in 12-point Times New Roman font.
  • One-inch margins on all sides of the page. 
  • A heading for the author’s name in the upper left corner of each page, including a page number in the upper right corner. The header should be half an inch from the top of each page and should include the author’s last name, a space, and then the page number.
  • Double-spacing throughout the document, including quotations of more than four lines and the Works Cited page. 
  • Indentation on all paragraphs except those following a heading or subheading.
  • Appropriate MLA format font size is typically 12-point - Times New Roman. 
  • In-text citations, including the author’s last name and page number in parentheses after a quotation or paraphrase. 
  • A Works Cited page at the end of the document, listing all sources cited within the text as well as any related research that was consulted but not directly cited. 
  • A title page is optional in most cases. 
  • Use easy-to-read fonts like Times Roman or Arial. Keep the font size at the default settings of your word or document processor.

You can follow these guidelines to ensure that your MLA formatted paper is correctly presented and looks professional.

Your professor or instructor may have specific requirements for formatting your paper, so always make sure to check with them before beginning your project.

How to Do MLA Format?

An MLA format is different from other citation and reference styles. Predominantly, it includes the author’s name and the page number of the citation source, the book, or the edition.

MLA Cover Page

Unlike other referencing-style papers and essays, an MLA-style paper does not have a separate title or cover page. The student writes his full name, his teacher’s name, the course title, the course number, and the paper’s due date on the first page as the header of the page. In case your professor asks you to make the title page separately, follow the below example.

mla format for research paper outline

MLA Format Header

Since an MLA format paper does not include a separate title page, it has a header or top heading on the first page. The heading, or the header, contains:

  • The student’s full name
  • The teacher’s full name
  • The name and number of the course
  • The assignment deadline

To make the right MLA header, follow the below instructions:

  • Type your full name and position it 1 inch from the left margin and at the top of the page
  • Beneath your name, add a double space
  • Add the name of your teacher
  • Add your course name
  • Add the deadline of your assignment
  • Follow double space throughout the heading
  • The title of the essay should be centered and in title case, with no additional formatting (no bold, underlining, or italics). 
  • Each page should have a header in the upper right corner that includes your last name and page number. 

MLA Headings and Sub-headings

Here's a table outlining how headings and subheadings are formatted in MLA format:

Follow the instructions closely and make sure that you add the correct details.

MLA “Works Cited” Page

MLA’s page of references is regarded as Works Cited instead of references. As of its latest 8th edition, you will format your MLA style paper references in the following way: 

  • Author’s name
  • Website’s title
  • Article’s title
  • Publication date (if available)
  • Place the name of the author in the reverse order
  • The last name first
  • Follow it with a comma
  • Then the 1st name is followed by a period
  • Use italics font for writing the title of the website
  • All entries are in alphabetical order

These are the latest changes in the said format. Here is an MLA Works Cited page example;

mla format for research paper outline

MLA Format In-Text Citation

The in-text citation is added whenever you add a quote or paraphrased content to your paper. How to do it correctly? In the case of one writer, add the last name of the writer in the parenthesis, like:

What to do if a website has more than one author? For two authors, take a look at the following example written in MLA format:

Put the name of both authors in the parenthesis.

(Wadhwa and Salkever).

How to write MLA format in-text citations for more than 2 authors? Only include the 1st author’s last name. For rest, et al. will serve the purpose.

(Wadhwa, et al.)

How to Cite Quotes in MLA Format?

Do you use quotes in research papers?  You can directly quote or paraphrase them. However, learning the technique to use these quotes is important. The right way of doing it is to use them to support your claims and arguments.

Many students make the mistake of adding the quotes first and adding the arguments later. Your essay is your work and quotes should only be used to support and prove your claims, not the other way around. 

Do not let them eat up the majority and the main part of your paper. To avoid plagiarism and content theft, always cite the quotes whether you are adding them as it is or paraphrasing them.

You can cite the MLA format quotes in either of the following ways:

  • Use the name of the person in the sentence.
  • Add the whole quote and add the name of the person at the end, in the parenthesis.
  • For larger quotes, use block quotes. For short quotes, you can add them with quotation marks.

MLA Format Book

Looking to cite a book in your paper? Citing a book is different from citing a website. For the citation, you will need the following information:

1.       Author(s) 2.       Publication information 3.       The book’s title

The same MLA format is followed for each book.

While writing in-text citations, add the page number of the book with the name of the author like in the example below…

(Jones 134)

MLA Format Date

The date and year of the publication are added in an MLA format style. Besides, year and month, it may also include season.

Have a look at the example for a better understanding….

Citation Generator

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MLA Format Annotated Bibliography

Works Cited and MLA bibliography formats are not the same. A bibliography is a list of sources recommended by the writer for reading. However, the bibliography does not have a different referencing style or structure.

The only difference is that where the References or Works Cited only include the works that are used in the paper of the work.  The bibliography includes all the works that the writer has consulted or read when writing the essay or the paper.

MLA Bibliography Format

An annotated bibliography is different from a simple list of References or Works Cited. Along with the references, the annotated bibliography also includes a critique of the reference. When making the said bibliography, you add the reference followed by a critique of the reference.

Often, an annotated bibliography is required before starting with the research paper. Professors want to see the sources that you are planning to use in your paper.

To help you understand and write a correct and proper annotated bibliography, follow the below tips:

  • Every annotation should comprise 6-7 sentences.
  • Each line must be double-spaced.
  • When the list of citations is long, organize it by topic.
  • Always use the third-person voice.

Annotated bibliographies demand critical analysis. To write a good and helpful annotated bibliography, investigate the author’s point of view, search for flaws, strengths, negatives, and positives, and explain how the original source is helpful for the research.

MLA Format Margins

What makes the paper look sleek and elegant? Margins! In MLA papers, 1-inch margins are used around the page. Word processing programs set the default to 1-inch margins.

If not, check the settings and locate the margin size.

Margins, headers, font, and spacing are the building blocks of a perfectly crafted paper in any format, including the MLA style.

MLA Format Website

To know how to cite a website in MLA format, learn from the below example:

MLA Footnote Format

A footnote is a short reference placed at the bottom of a page that provides additional information on the text in question. 

Footnotes/endnotes follow slightly different formatting rules than regular in-text citations: 

  • Footnotes/endnotes are numbered consecutively throughout the paper 
  • A superscript number should be placed in the text right after where the source is cited, like this¹ 
  • The footnote or endnote itself should begin with a corresponding superscript number and then list all of the relevant information about the source: author, title, etc. 
  • All of the information should be formatted according to MLA guidelines 
  • All footnotes and endnotes should be placed at the bottom of the page they are cited on or at the end of your paper after any appendices or other supplemental material 
  • The text in each footnote/endnote should be single-spaced and not indented. 
  • This section should only appear at the very end of your paper and not before any other sections. 
  • When citing a source, you should use Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3) to number the citation and the note itself. The note number should appear after any punctuation marks like commas or periods. 

For example….

  • If you are providing the full citation information for the source. All of the elements of a citation (author, title, publication details, etc.) should be included, and punctuation should follow MLA stylistic conventions. For example:
  • For multiple citations of the same source, you should use “Ibid.” followed by the page number each time it is cited. For example:

2. Ibid., 25. 

  • Finally, if two or more notes have the same number, use a lowercase letter to distinguish between them like..  (1a, 1b). 

However, instead of numbering each note individually, they can be listed together in a section at the end of your paper titled “Endnotes” or “Notes.” 

MLA Research Paper Format

Literature, history, and other humanities subject's research papers are mostly written in MLA format.

Since these subjects are more detail-oriented and MLA allows the students and researchers to present their cited works in detail, they prefer this format.

Correct formatting will definitely affect your grades and help you earn your teacher’s appreciation. However, before you start, we have added some helpful MLA research paper formatting tips below:

  • Use 8 ½  x 11” paper, white in color
  • Keep 1-inch margins on all four sides of the paper
  • The first line of each paragraph should be indented one-half inch (1.27 cm). This is sometimes called an “indentation” or “hanging indent.”
  • Indent the quotations one inch from the left side of the paper
  • You can use any font that is easy to use but the most commonly used MLA format font is Times New Roman. To differentiate any text, use italics.
  • Use a 12-point font size for your paper’s font
  • Use double spacing throughout the paper including your Works Cited page
  • Leave one space after periods and other punctuation marks

Correct formatting is necessary for a perfect and A-grade-worthy paper.

MLA Style Research Paper

MLA Format Outline

MLA 8th edition does not have definite guidelines for the MLA format outline. If the teacher asks for one, use:

  • Roman numerals
  • Lowercase and capital letters
  • For suffixes, also use Roman numerals
  • King George IV

MLA Format Essay

Once you learn the basics, you are ready to write your MLA format essay or paper. Below are some helpful tips that will keep you on track:

  • The text must be double-spaced.
  • The font size for the MLA format should be 12.
  • Leave one space after punctuation marks or periods.
  • Set 1-inch margins on all sides of the document.
  • The 1st line indent of the paragraphs should be a half-inch from the left margin. Do the same for the subsequent line. (Push the TAB key for a hanging indent)
  • For titles, use italics throughout the MLA format for your paper.
  • In the case of endnotes, mention them on another page than the Works Cited page.

Don’t forget to watch this helpful video on MLA style essay format.

MLA Format Example

MLA style can be tricky to handle. The best technique is to follow the instructions of the professor. At times, he may give you some guidelines for proper formatting. Have a look at the example below to get a better understanding.

Can You Use Abbreviations in your MLA Format Paper?

Abbreviations are mainly put to use in many source types inclusive of books, websites, posts, blogs, and journal articles. It is alright to use abbreviations in all of these sources. However, when it comes to school and research assignments the Modern Language Association suggests against using them.

Spelling out abbreviations into their full words and meaning is recommended. This ensures understanding and avoids any confusion. Instead of coming across choppy abbreviations, readers can follow the natural flow of the language in the paper.

Many students also use an MLA format generator or citation generator to generate their citations but that may end up causing more trouble than it’s worth.

Although using an automated tool may be simpler and faster, it can also lead to incorrect citations which are not something you want in your paper! So, getting help from an expert is a better option.

To wrap it up, understanding the MLA format is an essential skill. This guide has provided you with a thorough overview o the things to keep in mind while formatting a paper in MLA style.

So let our guidelines and tips help you and start applying them to your work today!

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mla format for research paper outline

Use an APA or MLA template to start a paper online

It's quick and easy to get started on a paper like this while you're online.

APA Paper template

Choose an APA template or MLA template , or other college-related template and open it in Word for the web to make it yours.

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As you work on the paper, you'll probably want to rename it and edit the header with a running head of your own. When you cite sources, you'll want to add footnotes , and then compile your list of references (bibliography). Be sure also to include a table of contents that can update automatically. That way, you won't have to re-type page numbers every time you make changes that affect page breaks.

Work with others on your paper

If you're working with others, or even if you just want some feedback, you can easily share a link to the paper. People with the link can leave comments for you in the document.

When more than one person is editing in Word for the web, everyone will see each other's updates in the document. For more about how this works, see Work together on a document in Word for the web .

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When you're finished, print out your paper to turn it in. You can do this with the paper still open in Word for the web. No need to save it first (that's already done for you).

To print, press Ctrl+P, and wait for the Print dialog.

Note:  If you don't see a Print dialog box, click the link for opening a PDF version of your paper. From there, use the PDF program's Print command.


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Home / Guides / Writing Guides / Parts of a Paper / How to Write an Essay Outline

How to Write an Essay Outline

It’s 11 p.m., your paper is due tomorrow, and you’re only about halfway done. You’re typing along and when you realize that, wait…you’re actually not a huge fan of your argument or the supporting examples you’re using. Your options are to haphazardly keep writing or to backtrack and rehash what you’ve already done. Ugh. Unsurprisingly, both options aren’t great.

This scenario is scary, but totally avoidable! Though it’s tempting to just start writing, one of the best steps you can take before you type a single word is to create an outline for your paper. By taking the time to write a paper outline, you can prevent the scenario above and make your writing process a cinch!

Guide Overview

What is a paper outline, why it’s worth writing an outline.

  • Step 1: gather your relevant materials
  • Step 2: create your thesis
  • Step 3: find examples
  • Step 4: analyze your examples
  • Step 5: arrange your examples

A paper outline is a skeletal version of your paper. Another way to think about an outline is to view it as a roadmap. An outline helps you organize and streamline your thoughts ahead of time. By front loading this work, you allow the eventual writing process to be much easier: instead of having to backtrack and see if your paper makes sense, you can refer to your outline and be rest assured that you’re on the right track.

It’s understandable if you think it’s not worth the time to write an outline. After all, writing a paper in itself is a lot of work – why add an extra step?

Here’s the secret: creating an outline and then writing your paper takes about the same amount of time as jumping straight into writing your paper. Why? By immediately writing, you run the risk of having to go back and see if the flow of your paper makes sense. Backtracking takes up a lot of time: having to go back and revise your paper because you missed a point can be a pain.

Taking the time to outline your paper gives you the space to see what arguments work, which examples to include, and more. Doing this prep work ahead of time prevents you from having to do it while in the middle of your paper. Your completed outline serves as a solid reference as you write your assignment. In an ideal world, your outline should be so thorough that the writing process is essentially just you converting your bullet points into sentences that flow together!

How to outline a paper

Step 1: gather your relevant materials.

The first step to take when outlining a paper is to gather all your relevant materials. If you’re writing a paper about a book you’re reading in class, start thinking about which passages from the book are relevant to your prompt. If you’re writing a paper about a broader topic, identify what sources you’ll need to construct your argument.

Pro tip: Avoid plagiarism and keep track of the sources you’re using at! Easily create an APA or MLA format citation , try out our Chicago citation generator , and find help for other citation styles.

Step 2: Create your thesis

After you’ve compiled your materials, start thinking about your thesis statement. Revisit your assignment prompt, peruse your materials, and determine what your viewpoint is regarding the prompt.

Step 3: Find examples

Once you have your thesis, come up with ways to support it. Identify the quotes you need or the arguments you want to utilize in order to bolster your thesis.

Step 4: Analyze Your Examples

Write 3-4 bullet points connecting your examples to your thesis. The analysis part of your paper is the meat of your paper, so feel free to take as much time as you want during this step.

Step 5: Arrange Your Examples

Now that you have your examples and analysis, arrange them in a logical way that helps you develop and support your thesis. This is the step in which you can start copying and pasting your notes into an outline that mimics the flow of your paper. By the end of this step, you should have a solid outline!

Here’s a template for a five paragraph essay you can use for your papers moving forward:

Paper outline example

Before you jump into writing your paper, it might pay to take a quick look at our EasyBib grammar guides . Discover what an abstract noun is, read a determiner definition , see the difference between regular and irregular verbs , and get familiar with other parts of speech.

EasyBib Writing Resources

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  • Writing an Outline
  • Writing a Summary

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Writing with MLA Style

Congratulations to the students whose essays were selected for the 2023 edition of Writing with MLA Style! Essays were selected as examples of excellent student writing that use MLA style for citing sources. Essays have been lightly edited. 

If your institution subscribes to MLA Handbook Plus , you can access annotated versions of the essays selected in 2022 and 2023. 

Writing with MLA Style: 2023 Edition

The following essays were selected for the 2023 edition of Writing with MLA Style. The 2023 selection committee was composed of Ellen C. Carillo, University of Connecticut (chair); Rachel Ihara, Kingsborough Community College, City University of New York; and Tarshia L. Stanley, Wagner College.

Caroline Anderson (Pepperdine University)

“ L’Appel du Vide : Making Spaces for Sinful Exploration in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde ”

Hunter Daniels (University of South Carolina, Aiken)

“Biblical Legalism and Cultural Misogyny in The Tragedy of Mariam ”

Aspen English (Southern Utah University)

“Putting the ‘Comm’ in Comics: A Communication-Theory-Informed Reading of Graphic Narratives”

Raul Martin (Lamar University)

“The Book-Object Binary: Access and Sustainability in the Academic Library”

Grace Quasebarth (Salve Regina University)

“Finding a Voice: The Loss of Machismo Criticisms through Translation in Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits ”

Writing with MLA Style: 2022 Edition

The following essays were selected for the 2022 edition of Writing with MLA Style. The 2022 selection committee was composed of Ellen C. Carillo, University of Connecticut; Jessica Edwards, University of Delaware (chair); and Deborah H. Holdstein, Columbia College Chicago.

Kaile Chu (New York University, Shanghai)

“Miles Apart: An Investigation into Dedicated Online Communities’ Impact on Cultural Bias”

Sietse Hagen (University of Groningen)

“The Significance of Fiction in the Debate on Dehumanizing Media Portrayals of Refugees”

Klara Ismail (University of Exeter)

“Queering the Duchess: Exploring the Body of the Female Homosexual in John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi ”

Yasmin Mendoza (Whittier College)

“Banning without Bans”

Niki Nassiri (Stony Brook University)

“Modern-Day US Institutions and Slavery in the Twenty-First Century”

Samantha Wilber (Palm Beach Atlantic University)

“‘Pero, tu no eres facil’: The Poet X as Multicultural Bildungsroman”

Writing with MLA Style: 2019 Edition

The following essays were selected for the 2019 edition of Writing with MLA Style. The 2019 selection committee was composed of Jessica Edwards, University of Delaware; Deborah H. Holdstein, Columbia College Chicago (chair); and Liana Silva, César E. Chavez High School, Houston, Texas.

Catherine Charlton (University of King’s College, Nova Scotia)

“‘Coal Is in My Blood’: Public and Private Representations of Community Identity in Springhill, Nova Scotia”

Alyiah Gonzales (California Polytechnic State University)

“Disrupting White Normativity in Langston Hughes’s ‘I, Too’ and Toni Morrison’s ‘Recitatif’”

Meg Matthias (Miami University, Ohio)

“Prescriptions of (Living) Historical Happiness: Gendered Performance and Racial Comfort in Reenactment”

Jennifer Nguyen  (Chaminade University of Honolulu)

“The Vietnam War, the American War: Literature, Film, and Popular Memory”

Emily Schlepp (Northwest University)

“A Force of Love: A Deconstructionist Reading of Characters in Dickens’s  Great Expectations ”


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    How to write an Outline of a Research paper in MLA Style? 16 Oct 2021 Quick Navigation Thesis Statement Of Research MLA Paper Outline Headings And Subheadings Of Research MLA Paper Outline Check-list Of a Good MLA Outline For A Research Paper The Template of MLA Research Paper Outline Alphanumeric outline example Decimal outline example

  2. PDF Formatting a Research Paper

    The most common formatting is presented in the sections below: Margins Text Formatting Heading and Title Running Head with Page Numbers Placement of the List of Works Cited Tables and Illustrations Paper and Printing Corrections and Insertions on Printouts Binding a Printed Paper Electronic Submission Margins

  3. MLA Sample Paper

    Purdue OWL Research and Citation MLA Style MLA Formatting and Style Guide MLA Sample Paper MLA Sample Paper This resource contains a sample MLA paper that adheres to the 2016 updates. To download the MLA sample paper, click this link. Cite your source automatically in MLA Cite Using citation machines responsibly Powered by

  4. How to write an outline in MLA format

    An outline in MLA format should have the following: 1-inch margins, with double spacing 12-point font, left-aligned text center-aligned title with capitalized words using headline case For help writing your essay, , or other project, check out these Features of an outline Following are the basic elements that need to be included in any outline.

  5. General Format

    General Guidelines Type your paper on a computer and print it out on standard, white 8.5 x 11-inch paper. Double-space the text of your paper and use a legible font (e.g. Times New Roman). Whatever font you choose, MLA recommends that the regular and italics type styles contrast enough that they are each distinct from one another.

  6. How to Create a Structured Research Paper Outline

    A research paper outline is a useful tool to aid in the writing process, providing a structure to follow with all information to be included in the paper clearly organized. A quality outline can make writing your research paper more efficient by helping to: Organize your thoughts Understand the flow of information and how ideas are related

  7. MLA Formatting and Style Guide

    Here is an overview of the process: When deciding how to cite your source, start by consulting the list of core elements. These are the general pieces of information that MLA suggests including in each Works Cited entry. In your citation, the elements should be listed in the following order: Author. Title of source. Title of container,

  8. MLA Format

    Knowledge Base MLA Style MLA format for academic papers and essays MLA Format | Complete Guidelines & Free Template Published on December 11, 2019 by Raimo Streefkerk . Revised on June 16, 2022 by Jack Caulfield. The MLA Handbook provides guidelines for creating MLA citations and formatting academic papers.

  9. MLA Formatting

    Formatting a Research Paper. The following formatting rules can be found in the MLA Style Center.. Format your paper with 1 inch margins on all sides.; Select an easily readable font (e.g. 12 point, Times New Roman); Double-space the entire paper. This should include text and the list of works cited.

  10. Formatting Your Research Project

    Formatting Your Research Project. To learn how to set up your research project in MLA format, visit our free sample chapter on MLA Handbook Plus , the only authorized subscription-based digital resource featuring the MLA Handbook, available for unlimited simultaneous users at subscribing institutions. To learn how to set up your research ...

  11. How to Write a Research Paper in MLA Format with Examples

    Home Blog Research paper Learn How to Write a Research Paper in MLA Format with Samples Updated 19 May 2023 This guide will help you learn how to format and structure your research paper based on MLA format guidelines. We shall focus on general formatting guidelines and essential MLA research paper structure.

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    Formatting an MLA paper Formatting a Chicago paper Frequently asked questions about research paper formatting Formatting an APA paper The main guidelines for formatting a paper in APA Style are as follows: Use a standard font like 12 pt Times New Roman or 11 pt Arial. Set 1 inch page margins. Apply double line spacing.

  13. Outlining

    There are no APA or MLA rules about how to structure and format the outline itself. Outlines can be structured in different ways—very detailed or less detailed; Roman numerals, Arabic numerals, bullet points, or a combination of these. ... General Content & Structure for a Research Paper Outline. The following is one way an outline can be ...

  14. How to Write an Outline in MLA Format

    Blog How to Write an Outline in MLA Format Posted by Sandra Every outline contains the main idea of a certain research paper or assignment. You will need to write an outline in two cases: 1) if you want to present work which has been already written, or 2) if you are starting work on a research paper and need to plan its contents and structure.

  15. MLA Format: Everything You Need to Know Here

    MLA research paper format requires that the entire research paper or MLA format essay includes double-spaced lines. Double-spaced lines should be found in between the written body of the work, in the heading, and also on the MLA reference page. ... If your teacher asks you to create an MLA outline, we recommend using roman numerals, capital and ...

  16. Types of Outlines

    Select the "Sample Outlines" PDF in the Media Box above to download the sample of this outline. Decimal Outlines The decimal outline is similar in format to the alphanumeric outline. The added benefit is a system of decimal notation that clearly shows how every level of the outline relates to the larger whole.

  17. PDF Sample Outline for an MLA Paper (Orlov)

    This sample follows the style guidelines in the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 7th ed. (2009). Sample Outline for an MLA Paper (Orlov) Marginal annotations indicate MLA-style formatting and effective writing. ... Outline uses standard format and is written in complete sentences. Source: Hacker/Sommers (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin ...

  18. MLA Format

    However, before you start, we have added some helpful MLA research paper formatting tips below: Use 8 ½ x 11" paper, white in color; Keep 1-inch margins on all four sides of the paper; ... MLA Format Outline. MLA 8th edition does not have definite guidelines for the MLA format outline. If the teacher asks for one, use:

  19. 38 Free MLA Format Templates (+MLA Essay Format)

    It's the official website dedicated to the MLA style of writing. On it, you can get the chance to submit questions of your own. You can share your insights about the MLA style. You can also view some sample research paper templates. Aside from this, you can also read the instructions on formatting MLA style papers.

  20. Outline of a Research Paper in MLA Style

    Creating an outline is for the writer's comfort and the reader's benefit; it ensures you write an information-rich paper. The MLA format is one of the popular paper writing formats for colleges - the others include APA and Chicago formats. This article will help you understand what an MLA research paper outline is and how to create one.

  21. Use an APA or MLA template to start a paper online

    Choose an APA template or MLA template, or other college-related template and open it in Word for the web to make it yours. You'll be on the Templates for Word page. In the list of categories, click College Tools. As you work on the paper, you'll probably want to rename it and edit the header with a running head of your own.

  22. How to Write an Essay Outline

    Why it's worth writing an outline. How to outline a paper. Step 1: gather your relevant materials. Step 2: create your thesis. Step 3: find examples. Step 4: analyze your examples. Step 5: arrange your examples. An example.

  23. Writing with MLA Style

    Congratulations to the students whose essays were selected for the 2023 edition of Writing with MLA Style! Essays were selected as examples of excellent student writing that use MLA style for citing sources. Essays have been lightly edited. If your institution subscribes to MLA Handbook Plus, you can access annotated versions of the essays selected …