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Research Paper Outline – Types, Example, Template

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Research Paper Outline

By creating a well-structured research paper outline, writers can easily organize their thoughts and ideas and ensure that their final paper is clear, concise, and effective. In this article, we will explore the essential components of a research paper outline and provide some tips and tricks for creating a successful one.

Research Paper Outline

Research paper outline is a plan or a structural framework that organizes the main ideas , arguments, and supporting evidence in a logical sequence. It serves as a blueprint or a roadmap for the writer to follow while drafting the actual research paper .

Typically, an outline consists of the following elements:

  • Introduction : This section presents the topic, research question , and thesis statement of the paper. It also provides a brief overview of the literature review and the methodology used.
  • Literature Review: This section provides a comprehensive review of the relevant literature, theories, and concepts related to the research topic. It analyzes the existing research and identifies the research gaps and research questions.
  • Methodology: This section explains the research design, data collection methods, data analysis, and ethical considerations of the study.
  • Results: This section presents the findings of the study, using tables, graphs, and statistics to illustrate the data.
  • Discussion : This section interprets the results of the study, and discusses their implications, significance, and limitations. It also suggests future research directions.
  • Conclusion : This section summarizes the main findings of the study and restates the thesis statement.
  • References: This section lists all the sources cited in the paper using the appropriate citation style.

Research Paper Outline Types

There are several types of outlines that can be used for research papers, including:

Alphanumeric Outline

This is a traditional outline format that uses Roman numerals, capital letters, Arabic numerals, and lowercase letters to organize the main ideas and supporting details of a research paper. It is commonly used for longer, more complex research papers.

I. Introduction

  • A. Background information
  • B. Thesis statement
  • 1 1. Supporting detail
  • 1 2. Supporting detail 2
  • 2 1. Supporting detail

III. Conclusion

  • A. Restate thesis
  • B. Summarize main points

Decimal Outline

This outline format uses numbers to organize the main ideas and supporting details of a research paper. It is similar to the alphanumeric outline, but it uses only numbers and decimals to indicate the hierarchy of the ideas.

  • 1.1 Background information
  • 1.2 Thesis statement
  • 1 2.1.1 Supporting detail
  • 1 2.1.2 Supporting detail
  • 2 2.2.1 Supporting detail
  • 1 2.2.2 Supporting detail
  • 3.1 Restate thesis
  • 3.2 Summarize main points

Full Sentence Outline

This type of outline uses complete sentences to describe the main ideas and supporting details of a research paper. It is useful for those who prefer to see the entire paper outlined in complete sentences.

  • Provide background information on the topic
  • State the thesis statement
  • Explain main idea 1 and provide supporting details
  • Discuss main idea 2 and provide supporting details
  • Restate the thesis statement
  • Summarize the main points of the paper

Topic Outline

This type of outline uses short phrases or words to describe the main ideas and supporting details of a research paper. It is useful for those who prefer to see a more concise overview of the paper.

  • Background information
  • Thesis statement
  • Supporting detail 1
  • Supporting detail 2
  • Restate thesis
  • Summarize main points

Reverse Outline

This is an outline that is created after the paper has been written. It involves going back through the paper and summarizing each paragraph or section in one sentence. This can be useful for identifying gaps in the paper or areas that need further development.

  • Introduction : Provides background information and states the thesis statement.
  • Paragraph 1: Discusses main idea 1 and provides supporting details.
  • Paragraph 2: Discusses main idea 2 and provides supporting details.
  • Paragraph 3: Addresses potential counterarguments.
  • Conclusion : Restates thesis and summarizes main points.

Mind Map Outline

This type of outline involves creating a visual representation of the main ideas and supporting details of a research paper. It can be useful for those who prefer a more creative and visual approach to outlining.

  • Supporting detail 1: Lack of funding for public schools.
  • Supporting detail 2: Decrease in government support for education.
  • Supporting detail 1: Increase in income inequality.
  • Supporting detail 2: Decrease in social mobility.

Research Paper Outline Example

Research Paper Outline Example on Cyber Security:

A. Overview of Cybersecurity

  • B. Importance of Cybersecurity
  • C. Purpose of the paper

II. Cyber Threats

A. Definition of Cyber Threats

  • B. Types of Cyber Threats
  • C. Examples of Cyber Threats

III. Cybersecurity Measures

A. Prevention measures

  • Anti-virus software
  • Encryption B. Detection measures
  • Intrusion Detection System (IDS)
  • Security Information and Event Management (SIEM)
  • Security Operations Center (SOC) C. Response measures
  • Incident Response Plan
  • Business Continuity Plan
  • Disaster Recovery Plan

IV. Cybersecurity in the Business World

A. Overview of Cybersecurity in the Business World

B. Cybersecurity Risk Assessment

C. Best Practices for Cybersecurity in Business

V. Cybersecurity in Government Organizations

A. Overview of Cybersecurity in Government Organizations

C. Best Practices for Cybersecurity in Government Organizations

VI. Cybersecurity Ethics

A. Definition of Cybersecurity Ethics

B. Importance of Cybersecurity Ethics

C. Examples of Cybersecurity Ethics

VII. Future of Cybersecurity

A. Overview of the Future of Cybersecurity

B. Emerging Cybersecurity Threats

C. Advancements in Cybersecurity Technology

VIII. Conclusion

A. Summary of the paper

B. Recommendations for Cybersecurity

  • C. Conclusion.

IX. References

A. List of sources cited in the paper

B. Bibliography of additional resources

Introduction

Cybersecurity refers to the protection of computer systems, networks, and sensitive data from unauthorized access, theft, damage, or any other form of cyber attack. B. Importance of Cybersecurity The increasing reliance on technology and the growing number of cyber threats make cybersecurity an essential aspect of modern society. Cybersecurity breaches can result in financial losses, reputational damage, and legal liabilities. C. Purpose of the paper This paper aims to provide an overview of cybersecurity, cyber threats, cybersecurity measures, cybersecurity in the business and government sectors, cybersecurity ethics, and the future of cybersecurity.

A cyber threat is any malicious act or event that attempts to compromise or disrupt computer systems, networks, or sensitive data. B. Types of Cyber Threats Common types of cyber threats include malware, phishing, social engineering, ransomware, DDoS attacks, and advanced persistent threats (APTs). C. Examples of Cyber Threats Recent cyber threats include the SolarWinds supply chain attack, the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack, and the Microsoft Exchange Server hack.

Prevention measures aim to minimize the risk of cyber attacks by implementing security controls, such as firewalls, anti-virus software, and encryption.

  • Firewalls Firewalls act as a barrier between a computer network and the internet, filtering incoming and outgoing traffic to prevent unauthorized access.
  • Anti-virus software Anti-virus software detects, prevents, and removes malware from computer systems.
  • Encryption Encryption involves the use of mathematical algorithms to transform sensitive data into a code that can only be accessed by authorized individuals. B. Detection measures Detection measures aim to identify and respond to cyber attacks as quickly as possible, such as intrusion detection systems (IDS), security information and event management (SIEM), and security operations centers (SOCs).
  • Intrusion Detection System (IDS) IDS monitors network traffic for signs of unauthorized access, such as unusual patterns or anomalies.
  • Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) SIEM combines security information management and security event management to provide real-time monitoring and analysis of security alerts.
  • Security Operations Center (SOC) SOC is a dedicated team responsible for monitoring, analyzing, and responding to cyber threats. C. Response measures Response measures aim to mitigate the impact of a cyber attack and restore normal operations, such as incident response plans (IRPs), business continuity plans (BCPs), and disaster recovery plans (DRPs).
  • Incident Response Plan IRPs outline the procedures and protocols to follow in the event of a cyber attack, including communication protocols, roles and responsibilities, and recovery processes.
  • Business Continuity Plan BCPs ensure that critical business functions can continue in the event of a cyber attack or other disruption.
  • Disaster Recovery Plan DRPs outline the procedures to recover from a catastrophic event, such as a natural disaster or cyber attack.

Cybersecurity is crucial for businesses of all sizes and industries, as they handle sensitive data, financial transactions, and intellectual property that are attractive targets for cyber criminals.

Risk assessment is a critical step in developing a cybersecurity strategy, which involves identifying potential threats, vulnerabilities, and consequences to determine the level of risk and prioritize security measures.

Best practices for cybersecurity in business include implementing strong passwords and multi-factor authentication, regularly updating software and hardware, training employees on cybersecurity awareness, and regularly backing up data.

Government organizations face unique cybersecurity challenges, as they handle sensitive information related to national security, defense, and critical infrastructure.

Risk assessment in government organizations involves identifying and assessing potential threats and vulnerabilities, conducting regular audits, and complying with relevant regulations and standards.

Best practices for cybersecurity in government organizations include implementing secure communication protocols, regularly updating and patching software, and conducting regular cybersecurity training and awareness programs for employees.

Cybersecurity ethics refers to the ethical considerations involved in cybersecurity, such as privacy, data protection, and the responsible use of technology.

Cybersecurity ethics are crucial for maintaining trust in technology, protecting privacy and data, and promoting responsible behavior in the digital world.

Examples of cybersecurity ethics include protecting the privacy of user data, ensuring data accuracy and integrity, and implementing fair and unbiased algorithms.

The future of cybersecurity will involve a shift towards more advanced technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and quantum computing.

Emerging cybersecurity threats include AI-powered cyber attacks, the use of deepfakes and synthetic media, and the potential for quantum computing to break current encryption methods.

Advancements in cybersecurity technology include the development of AI and machine learning-based security tools, the use of blockchain for secure data storage and sharing, and the development of post-quantum encryption methods.

This paper has provided an overview of cybersecurity, cyber threats, cybersecurity measures, cybersecurity in the business and government sectors, cybersecurity ethics, and the future of cybersecurity.

To enhance cybersecurity, organizations should prioritize risk assessment and implement a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy that includes prevention, detection, and response measures. Additionally, organizations should prioritize cybersecurity ethics to promote responsible behavior in the digital world.

C. Conclusion

Cybersecurity is an essential aspect of modern society, and organizations must prioritize cybersecurity to protect sensitive data and maintain trust in technology.

for further reading

X. Appendices

A. Glossary of key terms

B. Cybersecurity checklist for organizations

C. Sample cybersecurity policy for businesses

D. Sample cybersecurity incident response plan

E. Cybersecurity training and awareness resources

Note : The content and organization of the paper may vary depending on the specific requirements of the assignment or target audience. This outline serves as a general guide for writing a research paper on cybersecurity. Do not use this in your assingmets.

Research Paper Outline Template

  • Background information and context of the research topic
  • Research problem and questions
  • Purpose and objectives of the research
  • Scope and limitations

II. Literature Review

  • Overview of existing research on the topic
  • Key concepts and theories related to the research problem
  • Identification of gaps in the literature
  • Summary of relevant studies and their findings

III. Methodology

  • Research design and approach
  • Data collection methods and procedures
  • Data analysis techniques
  • Validity and reliability considerations
  • Ethical considerations

IV. Results

  • Presentation of research findings
  • Analysis and interpretation of data
  • Explanation of significant results
  • Discussion of unexpected results

V. Discussion

  • Comparison of research findings with existing literature
  • Implications of results for theory and practice
  • Limitations and future directions for research
  • Conclusion and recommendations

VI. Conclusion

  • Summary of research problem, purpose, and objectives
  • Discussion of significant findings
  • Contribution to the field of study
  • Implications for practice
  • Suggestions for future research

VII. References

  • List of sources cited in the research paper using appropriate citation style.

Note : This is just an template, and depending on the requirements of your assignment or the specific research topic, you may need to modify or adjust the sections or headings accordingly.

Research Paper Outline Writing Guide

Here’s a guide to help you create an effective research paper outline:

  • Choose a topic : Select a topic that is interesting, relevant, and meaningful to you.
  • Conduct research: Gather information on the topic from a variety of sources, such as books, articles, journals, and websites.
  • Organize your ideas: Organize your ideas and information into logical groups and subgroups. This will help you to create a clear and concise outline.
  • Create an outline: Begin your outline with an introduction that includes your thesis statement. Then, organize your ideas into main points and subpoints. Each main point should be supported by evidence and examples.
  • Introduction: The introduction of your research paper should include the thesis statement, background information, and the purpose of the research paper.
  • Body : The body of your research paper should include the main points and subpoints. Each point should be supported by evidence and examples.
  • Conclusion : The conclusion of your research paper should summarize the main points and restate the thesis statement.
  • Reference List: Include a reference list at the end of your research paper. Make sure to properly cite all sources used in the paper.
  • Proofreading : Proofread your research paper to ensure that it is free of errors and grammatical mistakes.
  • Finalizing : Finalize your research paper by reviewing the outline and making any necessary changes.

When to Write Research Paper Outline

It’s a good idea to write a research paper outline before you begin drafting your paper. The outline will help you organize your thoughts and ideas, and it can serve as a roadmap for your writing process.

Here are a few situations when you might want to consider writing an outline:

  • When you’re starting a new research project: If you’re beginning a new research project, an outline can help you get organized from the very beginning. You can use your outline to brainstorm ideas, map out your research goals, and identify potential sources of information.
  • When you’re struggling to organize your thoughts: If you find yourself struggling to organize your thoughts or make sense of your research, an outline can be a helpful tool. It can help you see the big picture of your project and break it down into manageable parts.
  • When you’re working with a tight deadline : If you have a deadline for your research paper, an outline can help you stay on track and ensure that you cover all the necessary points. By mapping out your paper in advance, you can work more efficiently and avoid getting stuck or overwhelmed.

Purpose of Research Paper Outline

The purpose of a research paper outline is to provide a structured and organized plan for the writer to follow while conducting research and writing the paper. An outline is essentially a roadmap that guides the writer through the entire research process, from the initial research and analysis of the topic to the final writing and editing of the paper.

A well-constructed outline can help the writer to:

  • Organize their thoughts and ideas on the topic, and ensure that all relevant information is included.
  • Identify any gaps in their research or argument, and address them before starting to write the paper.
  • Ensure that the paper follows a logical and coherent structure, with clear transitions between different sections.
  • Save time and effort by providing a clear plan for the writer to follow, rather than starting from scratch and having to revise the paper multiple times.

Advantages of Research Paper Outline

Some of the key advantages of a research paper outline include:

  • Helps to organize thoughts and ideas : An outline helps to organize all the different ideas and information that you want to include in your paper. By creating an outline, you can ensure that all the points you want to make are covered and in a logical order.
  • Saves time and effort : An outline saves time and effort because it helps you to focus on the key points of your paper. It also helps you to identify any gaps or areas where more research may be needed.
  • Makes the writing process easier : With an outline, you have a clear roadmap of what you want to write, and this makes the writing process much easier. You can simply follow your outline and fill in the details as you go.
  • Improves the quality of your paper : By having a clear outline, you can ensure that all the important points are covered and in a logical order. This makes your paper more coherent and easier to read, which ultimately improves its overall quality.
  • Facilitates collaboration: If you are working on a research paper with others, an outline can help to facilitate collaboration. By sharing your outline, you can ensure that everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goals.

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Table of contents

  • 1 Why Is Research Paper Format Necessary?
  • 2.1 Purpose of research paper outline
  • 2.2 APA outline example
  • 3.1 APA paper outline example
  • 3.2 Introduction:
  • 3.4 Conclusion:
  • 4 The Basic APA Outline Format
  • 5 APA Style Outline Template Breakdown
  • 6.1 APA Research Paper Outline Example
  • 6.2 APA Paper Outline Format Example
  • 7.1 First Paragraph: Hook and Thesis
  • 7.2 Main Body
  • 7.3 Conclusion
  • 7.4 Decimal APA outline format example
  • 7.5 Decimal APA outline format layout
  • 8.1 A definite goal
  • 8.2 Division
  • 8.3 Parallelism
  • 8.4 Coordination
  • 8.5 Subordination
  • 8.6 Avoid Redundancy
  • 8.7 Wrap it up in a good way
  • 8.8 Conclusion

Formatting your paper in APA can be daunting if this is your first time. The American Psychological Association (APA) offers a guide or rules to follow when conducting projects in the social sciences or writing papers. The standard APA fromat a research paper outline includes a proper layout from the title page to the final reference pages. There are formatting samples to create outlines before writing a paper. Amongst other strategies, creating an outline is the easiest way to APA format outline template.

Why Is Research Paper Format Necessary?

Consistency in the sequence, structure, and format when writing a research paper encourages readers to concentrate on the substance of a paper rather than how it is presented. The requirements for paper format apply to student assignments and papers submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed publication. APA paper outline template style may be used to create a website, conference poster, or PowerPoint presentation . If you plan to use the style for other types of work like a website, conference poster, or even PowerPoint presentation, you must format your work accordingly to adjust to requirements. For example, you may need different line spacing and font sizes. Follow the formatting rules provided by your institution or publication to ensure its formatting standards are followed as closely as possible. However, to logically structure your document, you need a research paper outline in APA format. You may ask: why is it necessary to create an outline for an APA research paper?

Concept & Purposes of Research Paper Outline

A path, direction, or action plan! Writing short essays without a layout may seem easy, but not for 10,000 or more words. Yet, confusing a table of contents with an outline is a major issue. The table of contents is an orderly list of all the chapters’ front matter, primary, and back matter. It includes sections and, often, figures in your work, labeled by page number. On the other hand, a research APA-style paper outline is a proper structure to follow.

Purpose of research paper outline

An outline is a formalized essay in which you give your own argument to support your point of view. And when you write your apa outline template, you expand on what you already know about the topic. Academic writing papers examine an area of expertise to get the latest and most accurate information to work on that topic. It serves various purposes, including:

  • APA paper outline discusses the study’s core concepts.
  • The research paper outlines to define the link between your ideas and the thesis.
  • It provides you with manageable portions that you can handle.
  • The research paper’s APA outline enables the detection of structural faults or gaps.
  • As shown in the example, it must clearly comprehend the subject at hand.

APA outline example

APA outline template

This research paper outline example will guide you in formatting the layout for a clear direction to work on. It eliminates the inconsistency along with lacking proper substance in the paper.

Understanding the APA Outline Format

It would not be wrong to say there is no standard outline format. The official publishing handbook does not give precise guidelines for preparing an outline. But, it requires certain basic guidelines to follow regarding typeface, font size, structure, margins, etc.

APA paper outline example

Moreover, the final shape of your work relies on your instructor’s specifications and your particular preferences for APA citation format. Though, it would be better to follow some standards for formatting your outline, for instance:

Times New Roman is a widely accessible standard typeface for an APA essay format in 12-point font. However, serif and sans serif fonts like Arial and Georgia are acceptable in font size 11pt.

The text of your paper format should be double-spaced.

The primary headlines use Roman and Arabic numerals to write an outline.

Headings & Subheadings

While writing an APA essay, there are particular standards for utilizing headings in your outline: I – Main headings are numbered by Roman numerals like I, II, III, IV A  – Subheadings are numbered with Capital letters (A, B, C, D) 1  – The APA outline uses Arabic numerals (1-9 type numbers) within those subheadings. a  – Below Arabic number subheadings, lower-case letters are used (a, b, a). [1] – Headings below those subheadings use Arabic numbers enclosed in parenthesis.

APA format offers a standard layout for each paper, such as

  • 1-inch margins on the top, bottom, left, and right.
  • The page number on the upper right corner.

The structure of writing an outline consists of three major sections:

  • Introduction

Introduction:

This section highlights crucial background information.

Explain the primary points that support your ideas.

Conclusion:

  • Summarize your key arguments.
  • Explain how these concepts support your ultimate stance, as shown in APA outline example below.

An outline in APA has three common formats that vary in the numeric sequence of all. To make it easier for you, we have compiled all three templates. You can format your document using these examples for added coherence and structure.

The Basic APA Outline Format

APA research paper outline - Basic

APA Style Outline Template Breakdown

Numbering the APA style format follows five levels of headings that use different alphabets and numbers. For instance, I – Headings use Roman numerals like I, II, and III. A – CAPITAL ALPHABETS”, such as A, B, C, etc. 1 – Headings and subheadings use Arabic numbers (1, 2, 3). a – If there are further headings (the fourth level), use lower-case alphabets. [1] – Headings below that (the fifth level) use Arabic numerals enclosed in parentheses, such as [1], [2], [3].

Full Sentence Outline Format

As the name specifies, the full-sentence style outline format requires every line to be a proper sentence. Full-sentence APA style outline is best recommended for essays and speeches. It gives your writing process an idea or a logical path to follow.

APA Research Paper Outline Example

If you are looking for how to write a research paper outline APA in Full Sentence Format, here is an example:

Full Sentence APA format heading utilizes Roman numerals I, II, and III. Every heading must be a full sentence. Here is an APA style paper outline template for the full-sentence format that will clear all your confusion on how to write an outline in full-sentence format.

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APA Paper Outline Format Example

I. Introduction

III. Conclusion

Decimal Outline Format

The decimal outline format for APA research papers differs from other formats. The decimal APA style is simple and uses paragraphs for structure. It contains three main paragraphs, introduction, main body, and conclusion.

First Paragraph: Hook and Thesis

  • The first paragraph is a sentence or two that introduces the central concept of your article.
  • Introduce your topic or subject of study where your research is applicable as a context for further research.
  • Explain why the mentioned issue is essential or relevant to the audience.
  • A thesis statement is a claim that you make throughout your whole essay.
  • The topic phrase is the first point in any writing to support a thesis statement.
  • Give an explanation or provide evidence to support your point.
  • Provide verifiable facts, figures, and/or citations from credible sources in your writing. It helps in the substantiating assertion.
  • Include as many supporting statements and related evidence in your decimal outline.

Finally, when you write an outline, provide a concluding remark to support your claims.

Decimal APA outline format example

1.0 The main heading 1.1 Subheading under the main heading 1.2 Second digit is represented by subheadings under the main headings 1.2.1 Further division adds another digit in decimal format 1.2.2 You can number them as per the number of paragraphs or points, or lines An easy way to write in decimal APA outline format is to remember the structure, i.e.; 1.1.1 = Heading.Paragraph.Sentence/point under paragraph.”

Decimal APA outline format layout

1.0 Main heading 1.1 First paragraph for first heading. 1.2 Second paragraph for first heading. 1.2.1 First point or sentence for the second paragraph. 2.0 Second heading 2.1 Second heading, first paragraph. 2.2 Second heading, second paragraph. 2.2.1 Second, heading, second paragraph, first sentence, or point. 3.0 Decimal working 3.1 You must remember that each digit represents a segment. 3.2 It is easier to remember the placement of numbers. 3.2.1 First digit represents the heading 3.2.2 Second digit represents the paragraph under the main heading <3.2.3 The third digit represents any point or sentence under the paragraph.

Tips for Writing an Outline: Organize Your Ideas

You may feel it is easier to write without outlines, but once you start writing, organizing your ideas or thoughts becomes hard. Even if you have some fantastic ideas, producing an engaging story is practically hard. If you are not first creating an outline or conceptual guides while writing a research paper, you may lose track. A well-written outline is essential in completing your paper and maintaining quality. Establishing your point in paper writing is easy if you create an outline first. You can find an APA research paper outline template that best suits your requirement. Moreover, these tips can help you polish your writing. These tips and sample papers can help you write outstanding outlines without making any hassle.

A definite goal

For better expression, make a list of primary objectives on a title page in a single phrase or less. Your goal should be specific and measurable. If it is too broad or imprecise, you will not achieve anything. If you are working on a large paper format that covers a variety of themes or topics, you may have a more general purpose in mind. But, if you plan to write an essay, the aim should be as specific and clear as possible to be effective.

Breaking things up rather than allowing them to become verbose is known as the division rule. Make sure that each subsection in the document corresponds to its parent heading. If it doesn’t compare to the section, removing it or moving it to another location is better.

Parallelism

It is mainly related to the consistency and structure of the document. It keeps your paper’s layout tidy and also ensures relevancy. For instance, if you begin one heading with a verb, make sure all other headings and subheadings also start with a verb.

Coordination

Having headings aligned is critical to creating a well-organized outline. This rule also applies to subheadings, which is a good thing. If one title is less important than another, consider changing your layout by incorporating it into a subsection instead.

Subordination

Subordination deals with maintaining a connection between your paper’s headings and subheadings. It helps in the proper sequencing of headings and subheadings. Headings should be broad at the outset. At the same time, the subheadings become more particular as they go further into the document.

Avoid Redundancy

While writing a paper outline, look through it many times and cross out any items that aren’t necessary or have no significance. While outlining, make sure to be specific and concise. It will prevent you from adding information that does not supporting your final essay. Remove all the extra information and points while c that weighs you down while you write.

Wrap it up in a good way

Creating an outline does not only help in writing a coherent term paper, but it also helps in ending with precise understanding. Be considerate of your audience’s time and effort when you write an outline in APA, and ensure it serves its purpose. If you still have any doubts about formatting your paper outline, you can use this APA-style research paper outline template to write your document. We have provided Outline Format Example for every style.

People find it hard to write an outline in APA, but if you are aware of the requirements and structure, it’s no breeze. Sometimes, your instructor may alter your paper format by introducing or removing existing sections. As a result, if you come across any templates for an outline in APA, pay close attention to them. If you are looking for a quick answer to how to outline an APA paper, here’s a standard logical sequence of typical parts to include when writing an outline in APA:

  • Thesis statement
  • Techniques employed
  • Body of paper
  • Conclusions section
  • List of references

A well-written outline is an excellent tool for presenting an outstanding paper. Including the key components while writing an outline for a research paper is necessary.

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How to Write a Research Paper in APA Format

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what's an outline for a research paper

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Getting started with your research paper outline

what's an outline for a research paper

Levels of organization for a research paper outline

First level of organization, second level of organization, third level of organization, fourth level of organization, tips for writing a research paper outline, research paper outline template, my research paper outline is complete: what are the next steps, frequently asked questions about a research paper outline, related articles.

The outline is the skeleton of your research paper. Simply start by writing down your thesis and the main ideas you wish to present. This will likely change as your research progresses; therefore, do not worry about being too specific in the early stages of writing your outline.

A research paper outline typically contains between two and four layers of organization. The first two layers are the most generalized. Each layer thereafter will contain the research you complete and presents more and more detailed information.

The levels are typically represented by a combination of Roman numerals, Arabic numerals, uppercase letters, lowercase letters but may include other symbols. Refer to the guidelines provided by your institution, as formatting is not universal and differs between universities, fields, and subjects. If you are writing the outline for yourself, you may choose any combination you prefer.

This is the most generalized level of information. Begin by numbering the introduction, each idea you will present, and the conclusion. The main ideas contain the bulk of your research paper 's information. Depending on your research, it may be chapters of a book for a literature review , a series of dates for a historical research paper, or the methods and results of a scientific paper.

I. Introduction

II. Main idea

III. Main idea

IV. Main idea

V. Conclusion

The second level consists of topics which support the introduction, main ideas, and the conclusion. Each main idea should have at least two supporting topics listed in the outline.

If your main idea does not have enough support, you should consider presenting another main idea in its place. This is where you should stop outlining if this is your first draft. Continue your research before adding to the next levels of organization.

  • A. Background information
  • B. Hypothesis or thesis
  • A. Supporting topic
  • B. Supporting topic

The third level of organization contains supporting information for the topics previously listed. By now, you should have completed enough research to add support for your ideas.

The Introduction and Main Ideas may contain information you discovered about the author, timeframe, or contents of a book for a literature review; the historical events leading up to the research topic for a historical research paper, or an explanation of the problem a scientific research paper intends to address.

  • 1. Relevant history
  • 2. Relevant history
  • 1. The hypothesis or thesis clearly stated
  • 1. A brief description of supporting information
  • 2. A brief description of supporting information

The fourth level of organization contains the most detailed information such as quotes, references, observations, or specific data needed to support the main idea. It is not typical to have further levels of organization because the information contained here is the most specific.

  • a) Quotes or references to another piece of literature
  • b) Quotes or references to another piece of literature

Tip: The key to creating a useful outline is to be consistent in your headings, organization, and levels of specificity.

  • Be Consistent : ensure every heading has a similar tone. State the topic or write short sentences for each heading but avoid doing both.
  • Organize Information : Higher levels of organization are more generally stated and each supporting level becomes more specific. The introduction and conclusion will never be lower than the first level of organization.
  • Build Support : Each main idea should have two or more supporting topics. If your research does not have enough information to support the main idea you are presenting, you should, in general, complete additional research or revise the outline.

By now, you should know the basic requirements to create an outline for your paper. With a content framework in place, you can now start writing your paper . To help you start right away, you can use one of our templates and adjust it to suit your needs.

word icon

After completing your outline, you should:

  • Title your research paper . This is an iterative process and may change when you delve deeper into the topic.
  • Begin writing your research paper draft . Continue researching to further build your outline and provide more information to support your hypothesis or thesis.
  • Format your draft appropriately . MLA 8 and APA 7 formats have differences between their bibliography page, in-text citations, line spacing, and title.
  • Finalize your citations and bibliography . Use a reference manager like Paperpile to organize and cite your research.
  • Write the abstract, if required . An abstract will briefly state the information contained within the paper, results of the research, and the conclusion.

An outline is used to organize written ideas about a topic into a logical order. Outlines help us organize major topics, subtopics, and supporting details. Researchers benefit greatly from outlines while writing by addressing which topic to cover in what order.

The most basic outline format consists of: an introduction, a minimum of three topic paragraphs, and a conclusion.

You should make an outline before starting to write your research paper. This will help you organize the main ideas and arguments you want to present in your topic.

  • Consistency: ensure every heading has a similar tone. State the topic or write short sentences for each heading but avoid doing both.
  • Organization : Higher levels of organization are more generally stated and each supporting level becomes more specific. The introduction and conclusion will never be lower than the first level of organization.
  • Support : Each main idea should have two or more supporting topics. If your research does not have enough information to support the main idea you are presenting, you should, in general, complete additional research or revise the outline.

what's an outline for a research paper

How to create a helpful research paper outline

Last updated

21 December 2023

Reviewed by

You need to structure your research paper in an orderly way that makes it easy for readers to follow your reasoning and supporting data. That's where a research paper outline can help.

Writing a research paper outline will help you arrange your ideas logically and allow your final paper to flow. It will make the entire process more manageable and help you work out which details to include and which are better left out.

  • What is a research paper outline?

Write your research paper outline before starting your first draft. The outline provides a map of how you will structure your ideas throughout the paper. A research paper outline will help you to be more efficient when ordering the sections of your thesis, rather than trying to make structural changes after finishing an entire first draft.

An outline consists of the main topics and subtopics of your paper, listed in a logical order. The main topics will become the sections of your research paper, and the subtopics reveal the content you want to include or discuss under the main topics.

Under each subtopic, you can also jot down items you don't want to forget to include in your research paper, such as:

Topic ideas

Paragraph ideas

Direct quotes

Once you start listing these under your main topics, you can focus your thoughts as you plan and write the research paper using the evidence and data you collected and any additional information.

  • Why use an outline?

If your research paper does not have a clear, logical order, readers may not understand the ideas you're trying to share, or they may lose interest and not bother to read the whole paper. An outline helps you structure your research paper so readers can easily connect the content, ideas, and theories you're trying to prove or maintain.

  • Are there different kinds of research paper outlines?

Different kinds of research paper outlines might seem similar but have different purposes. You can select an outline type that provides a clear road map and thoroughly explores each point. 

Other types will help structure content logically or with a segmented flow and progression of ideas that align closely with the theme of your research.

  • The 3 types of outlines

The three outline formats available to research paper writers are:

Alphanumeric or topic outlines

Sentence or full-sentence outlines

Decimal outlines

Let’s look at the differences between each type and see how one may be more beneficial than another, depending on the nature of your research.

This type of research paper outline allows you to segment main headings and subheadings with an alphanumeric arrangement.

The alphanumeric characters of Roman numerals, capital letters, numbers, and lowercase letters define the hierarchy of main topic headings, subtopic headings, and third- and fourth-tier subtopic headings. (e.g., I, A, 1, a)

This method uses minimal words to describe the main and subtopic headings. You'll mostly use this type of research paper outline to focus on the organization of the content while allowing you to review it for unrelated or irrelevant information.

Full-sentence outlines

You will format this type of research paper outline as an alphanumeric outline, using the same alphanumeric characters. However, it contains complete sentences rather than a few words for each main and subtopic heading.

This formatting method allows the writer to focus on looking for inaccuracies and inconsistencies in each point before starting the first draft.

Instead of using alphanumeric characters to define main headings, subheadings, and third- and fourth-tier subheadings, the decimal outline uses a decimal numbering system.

This system shows a logical progression of the content by using 1.0 for the main section heading (and 2.0, 3.0, etc., for subsequent sections), 1.1 for the subheading, 1.1.1 for a third-tier subheading, and 1.1.1.1 for the fourth-tier subheading.

The headings and subheadings will be just a few words, as in the alphanumerical research paper outline. Decimal outlines allow the writer to focus on the content's overall coherence, increasing your writing efficiency and reducing the time it takes to write your research paper.

  • How to write a research paper outline

Before you begin your research paper outline, you need to determine your topic and gather your information. Let’s look at these steps first, then dive into how to write your outline.

1. Determine your topic

You'll need to establish a topic or the main point you intend to write about.

For example, you may want to research and write about whether influencers are the most beneficial way to promote products in your industry. This topic is the main point around which your essay will revolve.

2. Gather information

You'll need evidence, data, statistics, and facts to prove or disprove that influencers are the best method of promoting products in your industry.

You'll insert any of these things you collect to substantiate your findings into the outline to support your topic.

3. Determine the type of essay you'll be writing

There are many types of essays or research papers you can write. The kinds of essays include:

Argumentative: Builds logic and support for an argument

Cause and effect: Explains relationships between specific conditions and their results

Analytical: Presents a claim on what is being analyzed

Interpretive: Informative and persuasive explanations on how something is perceived

Experimental: Reports on experimental results and the reasoning behind the results

Review: Offers an understanding and analysis of primary sources on a given topic

Definition: Defines what a term or concept means

Persuasive: Uses logic and reason to show that one idea is more justified than another

Narrative: Tells a story of personal experience from the author’s point of view

Expository: Shows an objective view of a subject by exploring various angles

Descriptive: Describes objects, people, places, experiences, emotions, situations, etc.

Once you understand the essay format you are writing, you'll know how to structure your outline. 

4. Include basic sections

You'll begin to structure your outline using basic sections. Your main topic headings for these sections may include an introduction, multiple body paragraph sections, and a conclusion.

Once you establish the sections, you can insert the subtopics under each main topic heading.

5. Organize your outline

For example, if you're writing an argumentative essay taking the position that brand influencers (e.g., social media stars on Instagram or TikTok) are the best way to promote products in your industry, you will argue for that particular position.

You'll organize your argumentative essay outline with a main topic section supporting the position. The subtopics will include the reasoning behind your arguments, and the third-tier subtopics will contain the supporting evidence and data you gathered during your research.

You'll add another main topic section to counter and respond to any opposing arguments. Once you've organized and included all the information in this way, this will provide the structure to start your argumentative essay draft.

6. Consider compare-and-contrast essays

A compare-and-contrast essay is a form of essay that analyzes the differences between two opposing theories or subjects. If you have multiple subjects that are the same or different in just one aspect, you can write a point-by-point outline exploring each subject in terms of this characteristic.

The main topic headings will list that one characteristic, and the subtopic headings will list the subjects or items that are the same or different in relation to this characteristic.

Conversely, if you have multiple items to compare, but they have many characteristics that are similar or different, you can write a block method outline. The main topic headings will contain the items to be compared, while the subtopic headings will contain the aspects in which they are similar or different.

7. Consider advanced organizers for longer essays

An advanced organizer is a sentence that introduces new topics by connecting already-known information to new information. It can also prepare the reader for what they may expect to learn from the entire essay, or each section or paragraph.

Incorporating advanced organizers makes it easier for the reader to process and understand the information you are trying to convey. If you choose to use advanced organizers, depending on how often you want to use them throughout your paper, you can add them to your outline at the end of the introduction, the beginning of a section, or the beginning of each paragraph. 

  • Do outlines need periods (full stops)?

If you're constructing alphanumerical or decimal topic outlines, they do not need periods because the entries are usually not complete sentences. However, outlines containing full sentences will need to be punctuated as any sentence is, including using periods.

  • An example research paper outline

Here is an example of an alphanumerical outline that argues brand influencers are the best method of promoting products in a particular industry:

I.  Introduction

    A.  Background information about the issue and the position being argued.

    B.  Thesis statement: Influencers are the best way to promote products in this industry.

II.  Reasons that support the thesis statement

    A.  Reason or argument #1

           1.  Supporting evidence

           2.  Supporting evidence

    B.  Reason or argument #2

    C.  Reason or argument #3

          1.  Supporting evidence

          2.  Supporting evidence

III. Counterarguments and responses

       A.  Arguments from the other point of view

       B.  Rebuttals against those arguments

IV.  Conclusion

  • How long is a thesis outline?

There is no set length for a research paper outline or thesis outline. Your outline can be as long as it needs to be to organize your thoughts constructively.

You can start with a short outline containing an introduction , background, methodology, data and analysis, and conclusion. Or you can break these sections into more specific segments according to the content you want to share.

Why make writing a research paper more complicated than it needs to be? Knowing the elements of an outline and how to insert them into a cohesive structure will make your final paper understandable and interesting to the reader.

Understanding how to outline a research paper will make the writing process more efficient and less time-consuming.

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research paper outline

How to Write a Research Paper Outline (with Examples)

Writing a research paper is an essential part of an academic career. However, the task can be quite challenging especially for early career researchers unfamiliar with the nuances of academic research and writing. Creating an impactful research paper demands meticulous attention to detail, an in depth understanding of the topic and research methodology, and the ability to communicate the findings in an accurate and easy to understand way. This is where a research paper outline becomes useful. Writing a research paper can be made simpler and more efficient with a well-organized plan. A well-structured research paper outline offers the fundamental foundation on which researchers can construct their narratives logically, ensuring that the study report is well-presented and interesting for readers.   

Table of Contents

This article takes a look now at the benefits of having a good research paper outline and also provides guidance on creating one.  

4 steps to create a well-structured research paper outline    

List the key components  .

To begin with, researchers must list down the key components that should be included in the research paper outline . Start with identifying your research question. Organize your key ideas and thoughts so that you are able to clearly convey the various aspects of your research question or thesis statement. Create separate points for the introduction, literature review, methodology, results, significance of your research along with its limitations. These sections will help you organize your thoughts and ensure that all relevant information is included in your research manuscript.  

Structure the outline logically  

As you create your outline, make sure that there is logical flow of ideas and arguments. Think through the sequence in which you will present your topic and ideas. Structure the research paper outline in a way that allows a clear and continuous narrative that is easy to understand. For example, the introduction must be concise and engaging and must clearly introduce the research topic. The main paragraphs must focus on the research problem and arguments with supporting evidence. Experts suggest using headings and sub-heads to help organize ideas and data into sub-groups. The concluding section should have a summary of your study’s main points and key takeaways with recommendations for future research.   

Provide supporting evidence  

It is important to provide adequate supporting evidence and examples that underpin your key idea or argument. This helps to fit your study into the larger context of your subject area. It may be a good idea to collect all your data and relevant sources right from the start. Experts suggest providing at last three supporting evidences for each of your main ideas and including appropriate and accurate citations in the research paper outline .  

Review and edit  

Finally, take time to review the outline and make necessary modifications as you come across new data and information. To do so, you must have sufficient knowledge of the existing and current literature on the topic. Make sure that your ideas are in a logical order, and you have not missed out anything from your research notes.  

3 tips to draft a great research paper outline   

  • Be concise and clear: Avoid adding unnecessary details to your research paper outline . Try instead, to focus only on the key ideas, information and supporting evidence for your study. Experts suggest avoiding the use of lengthy sentences and recommend the use of short phrases, sub-heads, and bullet points to outline ideas.  
  • Stay consistent with formatting: To ensure consistency in formatting, researchers can choose from different kinds of research paper outline templates. The most commonly used ones are:
  • The alpha-numerical template where the points are written as short sentences,   
  • The full sentence format where whole sentences are written with specific points   
  • The decimal format where the main point is presented as a whole number (1, 2) and sub-points are given as decimal points (1.1, 1.2).   
  • Seek feedback from supervisors: Once you have completed the outline, it is a good idea to share it with your supervisors and mentors and seek their insights. Their inputs will help ensure that your research paper outline is on track.   

Research paper outline example

Given below is a research paper outline example that you can use as a starting point.

I. Introduction

  • Background and context of the research topic
  • Problem statement and research question  
  • Significance of the study

II. Literature Review

  • Overview of relevant literature  
  • Discussion of previous research and findings  
  • Identification of gaps and areas for further exploration  

III. Methodology 

  • Explanation of the research design  
  • Description of data collection methods  
  • Discussion of data analysis techniques

IV. Results

  • Presentation of research findings  
  • Data visualization (tables, graphs, charts, etc.)  
  • Explanation of key results

V. Discussion

  • Interpretation of the results  
  • Comparison with existing literature  
  • Addressing limitations and implications of the study

VI. Conclusion

  • Summary of the research paper  
  • Final remarks and suggestions for future research   

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How to Write an Outline in APA Format

Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

what's an outline for a research paper

Amanda Tust is a fact-checker, researcher, and writer with a Master of Science in Journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

what's an outline for a research paper

  • Before Starting Your Outline
  • How to Create an Outline

Writing a psychology paper can feel like an overwhelming task. From picking a topic to finding sources to cite, each step in the process comes with its own challenges. Luckily, there are strategies to make writing your paper easier—one of which is creating an outline using APA format .

Here we share what APA format entails and the basics of this writing style. Then we get into how to create a research paper outline using APA guidelines, giving you a strong foundation to start crafting your content.

At a Glance

APA format is the standard writing style used for psychology research papers. Creating an outline using APA format can help you develop and organize your paper's structure, also keeping you on task as you sit down to write the content.

APA Format Basics

Formatting dictates how papers are styled, which includes their organizational structure, page layout, and how information is presented. APA format is the official style of the American Psychological Association (APA).

Learning the basics of APA format is necessary for writing effective psychology papers, whether for your school courses or if you're working in the field and want your research published in a professional journal. Here are some general APA rules to keep in mind when creating both your outline and the paper itself.

Font and Spacing

According to APA style, research papers are to be written in a legible and widely available font. Traditionally, Times New Roman is used with a 12-point font size. However, other serif and sans serif fonts like Arial or Georgia in 11-point font sizes are also acceptable.

APA format also dictates that the research paper be double-spaced. Each page has 1-inch margins on all sides (top, bottom, left, and right), and the page number is to be placed in the upper right corner of each page.

Both your psychology research paper and outline should include three key sections:

  • Introduction : Highlights the main points and presents your hypothesis
  • Body : Details the ideas and research that support your hypothesis
  • Conclusion : Briefly reiterates your main points and clarifies support for your position

Headings and Subheadings

APA format provides specific guidelines for using headings and subheadings. They are:

  • Main headings : Use Roman numerals (I, II, III, IV)
  • Subheadings: Use capital letters (A, B, C, D)

If you need further subheadings within the initial subheadings, start with Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3), then lowercase letters (a, b, c), then Arabic numerals inside parentheses [(1), (2), (3)]

Before Starting Your APA Format Outline

While APA format does not provide specific rules for creating an outline, you can still develop a strong roadmap for your paper using general APA style guidance. Prior to drafting your psychology research paper outline using APA writing style, taking a few important steps can help set you up for greater success.

Review Your Instructor's Requirements

Look over the instructions for your research paper. Your instructor may have provided some type of guidance or stated what they want. They may have even provided specific requirements for what to include in your outline or how it needs to be structured and formatted.

Some instructors require research paper outlines to use decimal format. This structure uses Arabic decimals instead of Roman numerals or letters. In this case, the main headings in an outline would be 1.0, 1.2, and 1.3, while the subheadings would be 1.2.1, 1.2.2, 1.2.3, and so on.

Consider Your Preferences

After reviewing your instructor's requirements, consider your own preferences for organizing your outline. Think about what makes the most sense for you, as well as what type of outline would be most helpful when you begin writing your research paper.

For example, you could choose to format your headings and subheadings as full sentences, or you might decide that you prefer shorter headings that summarize the content. You can also use different approaches to organizing the lettering and numbering in your outline's subheadings.

Whether you are creating your outline according to your instructor's guidelines or following your own organizational preferences, the most important thing is that you are consistent.

Formatting Tips

When getting ready to start your research paper outline using APA format, it's also helpful to consider how you will format it. Here are a few tips to help:

  • Your outline should begin on a new page.
  • Before you start writing the outline, check that your word processor does not automatically insert unwanted text or notations (such as letters, numbers, or bullet points) as you type. If it does, turn off auto-formatting.
  • If your instructor requires you to specify your hypothesis in your outline, review your assignment instructions to find out where this should be placed. They may want it presented at the top of your outline, for example, or included as a subheading.

How to Create a Research Paper Outline Using APA

Understanding APA format basics can make writing psychology research papers much easier. While APA format does not provide specific rules for creating an outline, you can still develop a strong roadmap for your paper using general APA style guidance, your instructor's requirements, and your own personal organizational preferences.

Typically you won't need to turn your outline in with your final paper. But that doesn't mean you should skip creating one. A strong paper starts with a solid outline. Developing this outline can help you organize your writing and ensure that you effectively communicate your paper's main points and arguments. Here's how to create a research outline using APA format.

Start Your Research

While it may seem like you should create an outline before starting your research, the opposite is actually true. The information you find when researching your psychology research topic will start to reveal the information you'll want to include in your paper—and in your outline.

As you research, consider the main arguments you intend to make in your paper. Look for facts that support your hypothesis, keeping track of where you find these facts so you can cite them when writing your paper. The more organized you are when creating your outline, the easier it becomes to draft the paper itself.

If you are required to turn in your outline before you begin working on your paper, keep in mind that you may need to include a list of references that you plan to use.

Draft Your Outline Using APA Format

Once you have your initial research complete, you have enough information to create an outline. Start with the main headings (which are noted using Roman numerals I, II, III, etc.). Here's an example of the main headings you may use if you were writing an APA format outline for a research paper in support of using cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for anxiety :

  • Introduction
  • What CBT Is
  • How CBT Helps Ease Anxiety
  • Research Supporting CBT for Anxiety
  • Potential Drawbacks of CBT for Anxiety and How to Overcome Them

Under each main heading, list your main points or key ideas using subheadings (as noted with A, B, C, etc.). Sticking with the same example, subheadings under "What CBT Is" may include:

  • Basic CBT Principles
  • How CBT Works
  • Conditions CBT Has Been Found to Help Treat

You may also decide to include additional subheadings under your initial subheadings to add more information or clarify important points relevant to your hypothesis. Examples of additional subheadings (which are noted with 1, 2, 3, etc.) that could be included under "Basic CBT Principles" include:

  • Is Goal-Oriented
  • Focuses on Problem-Solving
  • Includes Self-Monitoring

Begin Writing Your Research Paper

The reason this step is included when drafting your research paper outline using APA format is that you'll often find that your outline changes as you begin to dive deeper into your proposed topic. New ideas may emerge or you may decide to narrow your topic further, even sometimes changing your hypothesis altogether.

All of these factors can impact what you write about, ultimately changing your outline. When writing your paper, there are a few important points to keep in mind:

  • Follow the structure that your instructor specifies.
  • Present your strongest points first.
  • Support your arguments with research and examples.
  • Organize your ideas logically and in order of strength.
  • Keep track of your sources.
  • Present and debate possible counterarguments, and provide evidence that counters opposing arguments.

Update Your Final Outline

The final version of your outline should reflect your completed draft. Not only does updating your outline at this point help ensure that you've covered the topics you want in your paper, but it also gives you another opportunity to verify that your paper follows a logical sequence.

When reading through your APA-formatted outline, consider whether it flows naturally from one topic to the next. You wouldn't talk about how CBT works before discussing what CBT is, for example. Taking this final step can give you a more solid outline, and a more solid research paper.

American Psychological Association. About APA Style .

Purdue University Online Writing Lab. Types of outlines and samples .

Mississippi College. Writing Center: Outlines .

American Psychological Association. APA style: Style and Grammar Guidelines .

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

How to Do Research: A Step-By-Step Guide: 4b. Outline the Paper

  • Get Started
  • 1a. Select a Topic
  • 1b. Develop Research Questions
  • 1c. Identify Keywords
  • 1d. Find Background Information
  • 1e. Refine a Topic
  • 2a. Search Strategies
  • 2d. Articles
  • 2e. Videos & Images
  • 2f. Databases
  • 2g. Websites
  • 2h. Grey Literature
  • 2i. Open Access Materials
  • 3a. Evaluate Sources
  • 3b. Primary vs. Secondary
  • 3c. Types of Periodicals
  • 4a. Take Notes
  • 4b. Outline the Paper
  • 4c. Incorporate Source Material
  • 5a. Avoid Plagiarism
  • 5b. Zotero & MyBib
  • 5c. MLA Formatting
  • 5d. MLA Citation Examples
  • 5e. APA Formatting
  • 5f. APA Citation Examples
  • 5g. Annotated Bibliographies

Why Outline?

For research papers, a formal outline can help you keep track of large amounts of information.

Sample Outline

Thesis: Federal regulations need to foster laws that will help protect wetlands, restore those that have been destroyed, and take measures to improve the damage from overdevelopment.

I. Nature's ecosystem

   A. Loss of wetlands nationally

   B. Loss of wetlands in Illinois

      1. More flooding and poorer water quality

      2. Lost ability to prevent floods, clean water and store water

II. Dramatic floods

   A, Cost in dollars and lives

      1. 13 deaths between 1988 and 1998

      2. Cost of $39 million per year

   B. Great Midwestern Flood of 1993

      1. Lost wetlands in IL

      2. Devastation in some states

   C. Flood Prevention

      1. Plants and Soils

      2. Floodplain overflow

III. Wetland laws

   A. Inadequately informed legislators

      1. Watersheds

      2. Interconnections in natural water systems

   B. Water purification

IV. Need to save wetlands

   A. New federal definition

   B. Re-education about interconnectedness

      1. Ecology at every grade level

      2. Education for politicians and developers

      3. Choices in schools and people's lives

Example taken from The Bedford Guide for College Writers (9th ed).

How to Create an Outline

To create an outline:

  • Place your thesis statement at the beginning.
  • List the major points that support your thesis. Label them in Roman numerals (I, II, III, etc.).
  • List supporting ideas or arguments for each major point. Label them in capital letters (A, B, C, etc.).
  • If applicable, continue to sub-divide each supporting idea until your outline is fully developed. Label them 1, 2, 3, etc., and then a, b, c, etc.

NOTE: EasyBib has a function that will help you create a clear and effective outline.

How to Structure an Outline

  • << Previous: 4a. Take Notes
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Writing research papers is an extensive, time-consuming, and complicated task. Forming a research paper outline does, however, simplify this process. It helps organize your thoughts, create a logical flow, and give structure to otherwise haphazardly arranged information. 

As your academic editors and proofreaders , we have provided you with all the necessary resources such as an outline for a research paper template, plenty of research paper outline examples, and tips and tricks to construct your research paper outline. Our goal is to help you write a well-structured, clear, and succinct research paper outline.  

Ensure flawless formatting for your research paper. Get started

What is a paper outline?

A research paper outline is a skeleton or a guideline for your final paper. It is typically created after the thesis statement is formatted but before the first draft is written. In this process, you group information into appropriate headers, sub-headers, points, and sub-points.

It is easier to make changes during the outlining stage rather than streamlining the first draft. You can easily identify and remove redundant information and also incorporate essential information in the outline, which is helpful while writing your first draft.

Why create a research paper outline?

An outline is a helpful tool that acts as a roadmap for organizing your information and ideas. It serves as a visual representation of the flow and structure of your content. 

As a student, it can be hard to understand the flow that is expected out of your paper. A college research paper outline allows you to see how the information fits together and how you can arrange it while writing. By creating an outline, you can also get a clearer understanding of the relationships between different topics. 

How to write a research paper outline

When writing a research paper, the length and detail of the outline may vary depending on the guidelines set by the academic institution. However, the core structure of the outline remains the same and consists of three key parts: introduction, body, and conclusion.

Introduction: Introduces the topic of your research paper and provides background information to set the context for your study.

Body: Divides your research into manageable sections and provides detailed information and analysis on each section.

Conclusion: Summarizes your findings and presents conclusions based on the evidence you have presented in the body of the paper.

By following this basic structure, you can ensure that your research paper outline is comprehensive and organized. This way, it can serve as a useful guide while writing your paper.

Here are some additional tips to keep in mind when writing a research paper outline:    

1. Pick a topic of your interest. Make sure the scope of the topic is not too broad or too narrow.

2. Formulate a thesis statement.

3. Gather all relevant ideas that give support to your thesis statement.

4. Group related ideas into subsections.

5. Arrange the subsections into a structured format.   

6. Frame appropriate headings and subheadings for these subsections.

Types of formats for research paper outline

After doing your necessary research and forming your thesis statement, it is a good idea to start building your outline. The type of outline you use depends on the type of research article you write.

There are a number of formats you can use to build your outlines, but the alphanumeric, decimal and full-sentence formats are the most popular. Let’s take a closer look at these formats with the help of a few research paper outline examples.   

Alphanumeric outline 

The alphanumeric format is the most widely recognized of the three formats. The structure for this format is as follows:

  • Headings: Roman numbers (I, II, III)
  • Subheading: Capital letters (A, B, C)
  • Points: Arabic numerals
  • Sub-points: Lowercase letters

Information in this format is written in short blurbs rather than full sentences. This allows for a short and succinct outline. However, it is difficult to convey detailed information. Here’s an alphanumeric outline example for a research paper:

Do standardized tests improve teen education?

1. Introduction

A. Standardized tests history

B. Standardized tests types

1. Achievement tests

2. Aptitude tests

3. Diagnostic tests

C. Standardized tests uses

A. Student performance pre-standardized tests

B. Student performance post-standardized tests

3. Conclusion

A. Results restated

B. Provide evidence supporting or contradicting the topic of the research paper outline

The decimal format does away with the use of uppercase letters and Roman numerals and  uses Arabic numerals with increasing decimal points to categorize information. The structure for this format is as follows.

  • Headings- Whole number (1.0, 2,0…)
  • Subheadings- Single decimal  (1.1, 1.2…)
  • Points- Double decimal (1.1.1, 1.1.2)
  • Subpoints- Triple decimal/lowercase letters (1.1.1.1, 1.1.1.2)

Similar to the alphanumeric outline, the decimal outline uses short blurbs to categorize information. The decimal format is the most detailed and precise but can get complicated. It is recommended for detailed outlines with multiple headings and subheadings. Let’s understand this better with the help of a research paper outline example: 

The Matrix commentary on the perception of reality

1.1. Summary

2.1. Influences

2.1.1. The brain in a vat

2.1.2. Plato’s cave

2.1.3. The oracle of Delphi 

2.1.4. Jean Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation

2.1.5. Marxist allegories

2.1.6. Meditations on First Philosophy by René Descartes

2.2. Reception and impact

Note : In the case of multiple subheadings, we recommend using lowercase letters instead of increasing decimal points.

Full-sentence

As the name suggests, the full sentence outline uses incomplete sentences instead of blurbs, for arranging information. Although it is more extensive and takes longer to write, it is also more specific and easy to understand. It can follow either the alphanumeric or the decimal method of organization. Here’s a full-sentence research outline example. 

Impact of the Inactivated Poliovirus Vaccine on the eradication of polio

1. Introduction 

A. History of polio and its adverse effect on society.

B. The effectiveness of various initiatives implemented for the eradication of polio.

C. Thesis statement: The advent and distribution of the inactivated poliovirus vaccine led to the eradication of polio.

2. Risks associated with polio

A. Signs and symptoms.

B. Infection and mortality rates with statistics.

C. Methods of contamination.

3. Diagnosis and prevention

A. How polio is diagnosed.

B. What are preventative measures taken once diagnosed?

1. Diagnosis before the advent of the inactivated poliovirus vaccine.

2. Diagnosis after the advent of the inactivated poliovirus vaccine.

C. Effect of preventative measures along with statistics.

4. The advent of inactivated poliovirus vaccine

A. Creation and spread of vaccine.

B. Effects of the vaccine on the eradication of polio.

C. Statistics comparing the spread of polio and its adverse effect on people before and after the vaccine.

1. Statistics before the advent of the inactivated polio vaccine.

2. Statistics after the advent of the inactivated polio vaccine. 

Thesis statement restructured: From the above data we can conclude that the advent and distribution of the inactivated poliovirus vaccine has almost eradicated the disease.

Outline for a research paper template

In order to simplify your paper writing journey, our experts have drafted this research paper outline template to help you create your own research paper outline. 

It will help you categorize important ideas into smaller pieces of information. We have crafted this template taking inspiration from sources provided by several renowned universities and educational institutions. 

You will find the three main headings of introduction, body, and conclusion along with multiple subheadings, points, and sub-points. We’ve included an alphanumeric outline for a research paper template.

Google Docs | PDF  | Microsoft Word

If you need any help refining your paper, you can always consider working with a research paper editing service .

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Frequently Asked Questions

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How to Write a Research Paper Outline with Examples

what's an outline for a research paper

You sometimes have to submit an essay outline or a research proposal checklist for a research project before you do most of the actual research to show that you have understood the assignment, defined a good research question or hypothesis, and contemplated the structure of your research paper. You can find various templates and examples for such outlines, which usually begin with “put your thesis statement/research question at the top” and then ask you to decide whether to add your supporting ideas/points in “alphanumeric,” “decimal,” or “full-sentence” style. 

That is certainly one useful (if not overly formalized) way of using outlining to prepare to draft an academic text. But here we want to talk about how to make an outline after you have done a research project or thesis work and are not quite sure how to put everything together into a written thesis to hand in or a research paper manuscript to submit to a journal.

What is a research paper outline?

Creating a research project outline entails more than just listing bullet points (although you can use bullet points and lists in your outline). It includes how to organize everything you have done and thought about and want to say about your work into a clear structure you can use as the basis for your research paper. 

There are two different methods of creating an outline: let’s call these “abstract style” and “paper style.” These names reflect how briefly you summarize your work at this initial point, or show how extensive and complicated the methods and designs you used and the data you collected are. The type of outline you use also depends on how clear the story you want to tell is and how much organizing and structuring of information you still need to do before you can draft your actual paper. 

research paper outline, scaffolding image

Table of Contents:

  • Abstract-Style Outline Format
  • Paper-Style Outline Format

Additional Tips for Outlining a Research Paper in English

Abstract-style research paper outline format.

A research paper outline in abstract style consists, like the abstract of a research paper , of short answers to the essential questions that anyone trying to understand your work would ask.

  • Why did you decide to do what you did?
  • What exactly did you do?
  • How did you do it?
  • What did you find?
  • What does it mean?
  • What should you/we/someone else do now?

These questions form the structure of not only a typical research paper abstract but also a typical article manuscript. They will eventually be omitted and replaced by the usual headers, such as Introduction/Background, Aim, Methods, Results, Discussion, Conclusions, etc. Answering these key questions for yourself first (with keywords or short sentences) and then sticking to the same structure and information when drafting your article will ensure that your story is consistent and that there are no logical gaps or contradictions between the different sections of a research paper . 

If you draft this abstract outline carefully, you can use it as the basis for every other part of your paper. You reduce it even more, down to the absolute essential elements, to create your manuscript title ; you choose your keywords on the basis of the summary presented here; and you expand it into the introduction , methods , results , and discussion sections of your paper without contradicting yourself or losing the logical thread. 

Research Paper Outline Example (Abstract style)

Let’s say you did a research project on the effect of university online classes on attendance rates and create a simple outline example using these six questions:

1. Why did you decide to do what you did?

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many university courses around the world have been moved online, at least temporarily. Since students have been saving time on commuting, I wondered if attendance rates have increased overall.

2. What exactly did you do?

I compared attendance scores for courses that were taught both before (offline) and during (online) the COVID-19 pandemic at my university.

3. How did you do it?

I selected five popular subjects (business, law, medicine, psychology, art & design) and one general course per subject; then I contacted the professors in charge and asked them to provide me with anonymized attendance scores.

4. What did you find?

Attendance did not significantly change for medicine and law, but slightly dropped for the other three subjects. I found no difference between male and female students.  

5. What does it mean?

Even though students saved time on traveling between their homes and the campus during the COVID-19 pandemic, they did not attend classes more consistently; in some subjects, they missed more classes than before.

6. What should you/we/someone else do now?

Since I do not have any other information about the students, I can only speculate on potential explanations. Next, I will put together a questionnaire to assess how students have been coping with online classes and how the experiences from this time can benefit university teaching and learning in general.

Note that you could have made the same outline using just keywords instead of full sentences. You could also have added more methodological details or the results of your statistical analysis. However, when you can break everything down to the absolute essentials like this, you will have a good foundation upon which to develop a full paper. 

However, maybe your study just seems too complicated. So you look at these questions and then at your notes and data and have no idea how to come up with such simple answers. Or maybe things went in a completely different direction since you started writing your paper, so now you are no longer sure what the main point of your experiments was and what the main conclusion should be. If that is how you feel right now, then outlining your paper in “paper style” might be the right method for you.

Paper-Style Research Paper Outline Format 

The purpose of a paper-style outline is the same as that of an abstract-style outline: You want to organize your initial thoughts and plans, the methods and tools you used, all the experiments you conducted, the data you collected and analyzed, as well as your results, into a clear structure so that you can identify the main storyline for your paper and the main conclusions that you want the reader to take from it. 

First, take as much space as you need and simply jot down everything in your study you planned to do, everything you did, and everything you thought about based on your notes, lab book, and earlier literature you read or used. Such an outline can contain all your initial ideas, the timeline of all your pilots and all your experiments, the reasons why you changed direction or designed new experiments halfway through your study, all the analyses you ever did, all the feedback and criticism you already got from supervisors and seniors or during conference presentations, and all the ideas you have for future work. If this is your thesis or your first publication, then your first outline might look quite messy – and that is exactly why you need to structure your paper before trying to write everything up. 

So you have finally remembered all you have done in your study and have written everything down. The next step is to realize that you cannot throw all of this at the reader and expect them to put it together. You will have to create a story that is clear and consistent, contains all the essential information (and leaves out any that is not), and leads the reader the same way the abstract outline does, from why over what and how to what you found and what it all means . 

This does not mean you should suppress results that did not come out as intended or try to make your study look smoother. But the reader does not really need to know all the details about why you changed your research question after your initial literature search or some failed pilots. Instead of writing down the simple questions we used for the abstract outline, to organize your still messy notes, write down the main sections of the manuscript you are trying to put together. Additionally, include what kinds of information needs to go where in your paper’s structure.

1. Introduction Section:  

What field is your research part of?

What other papers did you read before deciding on your topic?

Who is your target audience and how much information do your readers need to understand where you are coming from? 

Can you summarize what you did in two sentences?

Did you have a clear hypothesis? If not, what were the potential outcomes of your work?

2. Methods Section: 

List all the methods, questionnaires, and tests you used.

Are your methods all standard in the field or do you need to explain them?

List everything chronologically or according to topics, whatever makes more sense. Read more about writing the Methods section if you need help with this important decision.

3. Results Section: 

Use the same timeline or topics you introduced in the method section.

Make sure you answer all the questions you raised in the introduction.

Use tables, graphs, and other visualizations to guide the reader.

Don’t present results of tests/analyses that you did not mention in the methods.

4. Discussion/Conclusion Section: 

Summarize quickly what you did and found but don’t repeat your results.

Explain whether your findings were to be expected, are new and surprising, are in line with the existing literature, or are contradicting some earlier work. 

Do you think your findings can be generalized? Can they be useful for people in certain professions or other fields?  

Does your study have limitations? What would you do differently next time? 

What future research do you think should be done based on your findings?

5. Conclusion Statement/Paragraph: 

This is your take-home message for the reader. Make sure that your conclusion is directly related to your initial research question.

Now you can simply reorganize your notes (if you use computer software) or fill in the different sections and cross out information on your original list. When you have used all your jotted notes, go through your new outline and check what is still missing. Now check once more that your conclusion is related to your initial research question. If that is the case, you are good to go. You can now either break your outline down further and shorten it into an abstract, or you can expand the different outline sections into a full article.

If you are a non-native speaker of English, then you might take notes in your mother language or maybe in different languages, read literature in your mother language, and generally not think in English while doing your research. If your goal is to write your thesis or paper in English, however, then our advice is to only use your mother language when listing keywords at the very beginning of the outlining process (if at all). As soon as you write down full sentences that you want to go into your paper eventually, you can save yourself a lot of work, avoid mistakes later in the process, and train your brain (which will help you immensely the next time you write an academic text), if you stick to English.

Another thing to keep in mind is that starting to write in full sentences too early in the process means that you might need to omit some passages (maybe even entire paragraphs) when you later decide to change the structure or storyline of your paper. Depending on how much you enjoy (or hate) writing in English and how much effort it costs you, having to throw away a perfectly fine paragraph that you invested a lot of time in can be incredibly frustrating. Our advice is therefore to not spend too much time on writing and to not get too attached to exact wording before you have a solid outline that you then only need to fill in and expand into a full paper.

Once you have finished drafting your paper, consider using professional proofreading and English editing service to revise your paper and prepare it for submission to journals. Wordvice offers a paper editing service , manuscript editing service , dissertation editing service , and thesis editing service to polish and edit your research work and correct any errors in style or formatting.

And while you draft your article, make use of Wordvice AI, a free AI Proofreader that identifies and fixes errors in punctuation, spelling, and grammar in any academic document. 

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Research Paper: A step-by-step guide: 3. Thesis Statement & Outline

  • 1. Getting Started
  • 2. Topic Ideas
  • 3. Thesis Statement & Outline
  • 4. Appropriate Sources
  • 5. Search Techniques
  • 6. Taking Notes & Documenting Sources
  • 7. Evaluating Sources
  • 8. Citations & Plagiarism
  • 9. Writing Your Research Paper

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About Thesis Statements

Qualities of a thesis statement.

Thesis statements:

  • state the subject matter and main ideas of a paper.
  • appear in the first paragraph and announces what you will discuss in your paper.
  • define the scope and focus of your essay, and tells your reader what to expect.  
  • are not a simple factual statement.  It is an assertion that states your claims and that you can prove with evidence.
  • should be the product of research and your own critical thinking.
  • can be very helpful in constructing an outline for your essay; for each point you make, ask yourself whether it is relevant to the thesis.

Steps you can use to create a thesis statement

1. Start out with the main topic and focus of your essay.

youth gangs + prevention and intervention programs

2. Make a claim or argument in one sentence.  It can be helpful to start with a question which you then turn into an argument

Can prevention and intervention programs stop youth gang activities?  How?  ►►►  "Prevention and intervention programs can stop youth gang activities by giving teens something else to do."

3. Revise the sentence by using specific terms.

"Early prevention programs in schools are the most effective way to prevent youth gang involvement by giving teens good activities that offer a path to success."

4. Further revise the sentence to cover the scope of your essay and make a strong statement.

"Among various prevention and intervention efforts that have been made to deal with the rapid growth of youth gangs, early school-based prevention programs are the most effective way to prevent youth gang involvement, which they do by giving teens meaningful activities that offer pathways to achievement and success."

5. Keep your thesis statement flexible and revise it as needed. In the process of researching and writing, you may find new information or refine your understanding of the topic.

You can view this short video for more tips on how to write a clear thesis statement.

An outline is the skeleton of your essay, in which you list the arguments and subtopics in a logical order. A good outline is an important element in writing a good paper. An outline helps to target your research areas, keep you within the scope without going off-track, and it can also help to keep your argument in good order when writing the essay.  Once your outline is in good shape, it is much easier to write your paper; you've already done most of the thinking, so you just need to fill in the outline with a paragraph for each point.

To write an outline: The most common way to write an outline is the list format.  List all the major topics and subtopics with the key points that support them. Put similar topics and points together and arrange them in a logical order.    Include an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. 

A list outline should arrange the main points or arguments in a hierarchical structure indicated by Roman numerals for main ideas (I, II, III...), capital letters for subtopics (A, B, C...), Arabic numerals for details (1,2,3...), and lower-case letters for fine details if needed (a,b,c...). This helps keep things organized.  

Here is a shortened example of an outline:

Introduction: background and thesis statement

I. First topic

1. Supporting evidence 2. Supporting evidence

II. Second Topic

III. Third Topic

I. Summarize the main points of your paper II. Restate your thesis in different words III. Make a strong final statement

You can see examples of a few different kinds of outlines and get more help at the Purdue OWL .

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Enago Academy

How Can You Create a Well Planned Research Paper Outline

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You are staring at the blank document, meaning to start writing your research paper . After months of experiments and procuring results, your PI asked you to write the paper to publish it in a reputed journal. You spoke to your peers and a few seniors and received a few tips on writing a research paper, but you still can’t plan on how to begin!

Writing a research paper is a very common issue among researchers and is often looked upon as a time consuming hurdle. Researchers usually look up to this task as an impending threat, avoiding and procrastinating until they cannot delay it anymore. Seeking advice from internet and seniors they manage to write a paper which goes in for quite a few revisions. Making researchers lose their sense of understanding with respect to their research work and findings. In this article, we would like to discuss how to create a structured research paper outline which will assist a researcher in writing their research paper effectively!

Publication is an important component of research studies in a university for academic promotion and in obtaining funding to support research. However, the primary reason is to provide the data and hypotheses to scientific community to advance the understanding in a specific domain. A scientific paper is a formal record of a research process. It documents research protocols, methods, results, conclusion, and discussion from a research hypothesis .

Table of Contents

What Is a Research Paper Outline?

A research paper outline is a basic format for writing an academic research paper. It follows the IMRAD format (Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion). However, this format varies depending on the type of research manuscript. A research paper outline consists of following sections to simplify the paper for readers. These sections help researchers build an effective paper outline.

1. Title Page

The title page provides important information which helps the editors, reviewers, and readers identify the manuscript and the authors at a glance. It also provides an overview of the field of research the research paper belongs to. The title should strike a balance between precise and detailed. Other generic details include author’s given name, affiliation, keywords that will provide indexing, details of the corresponding author etc. are added to the title page.

2. Abstract

Abstract is the most important section of the manuscript and will help the researcher create a detailed research paper outline . To be more precise, an abstract is like an advertisement to the researcher’s work and it influences the editor in deciding whether to submit the manuscript to reviewers or not. Writing an abstract is a challenging task. Researchers can write an exemplary abstract by selecting the content carefully and being concise.

3. Introduction

An introduction is a background statement that provides the context and approach of the research. It describes the problem statement with the assistance of the literature study and elaborates the requirement to update the knowledge gap. It sets the research hypothesis and informs the readers about the big research question.

This section is usually named as “Materials and Methods”, “Experiments” or “Patients and Methods” depending upon the type of journal. This purpose provides complete information on methods used for the research. Researchers should mention clear description of materials and their use in the research work. If the methods used in research are already published, give a brief account and refer to the original publication. However, if the method used is modified from the original method, then researcher should mention the modifications done to the original protocol and validate its accuracy, precision, and repeatability.

It is best to report results as tables and figures wherever possible. Also, avoid duplication of text and ensure that the text summarizes the findings. Report the results with appropriate descriptive statistics. Furthermore, report any unexpected events that could affect the research results, and mention complete account of observations and explanations for missing data (if any).

6. Discussion

The discussion should set the research in context, strengthen its importance and support the research hypothesis. Summarize the main results of the study in one or two paragraphs and show how they logically fit in an overall scheme of studies. Compare the results with other investigations in the field of research and explain the differences.

7. Acknowledgments

Acknowledgements identify and thank the contributors to the study, who are not under the criteria of co-authors. It also includes the recognition of funding agency and universities that award scholarships or fellowships to researchers.

8. Declaration of Competing Interests

Finally, declaring the competing interests is essential to abide by ethical norms of unique research publishing. Competing interests arise when the author has more than one role that may lead to a situation where there is a conflict of interest.

Steps to Write a Research Paper Outline

  • Write down all important ideas that occur to you concerning the research paper .
  • Answer questions such as – what is the topic of my paper? Why is the topic important? How to formulate the hypothesis? What are the major findings?
  • Add context and structure. Group all your ideas into sections – Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion/Conclusion.
  • Add relevant questions to each section. It is important to note down the questions. This will help you align your thoughts.
  • Expand the ideas based on the questions created in the paper outline.
  • After creating a detailed outline, discuss it with your mentors and peers.
  • Get enough feedback and decide on the journal you will submit to.
  • The process of real writing begins.

Benefits of Creating a Research Paper Outline

As discussed, the research paper subheadings create an outline of what different aspects of research needs elaboration. This provides subtopics on which the researchers brainstorm and reach a conclusion to write. A research paper outline organizes the researcher’s thoughts and gives a clear picture of how to formulate the research protocols and results. It not only helps the researcher to understand the flow of information but also provides relation between the ideas.

A research paper outline helps researcher achieve a smooth transition between topics and ensures that no research point is forgotten. Furthermore, it allows the reader to easily navigate through the research paper and provides a better understanding of the research. The paper outline allows the readers to find relevant information and quotes from different part of the paper.

Research Paper Outline Template

A research paper outline template can help you understand the concept of creating a well planned research paper before beginning to write and walk through your journey of research publishing.

1. Research Title

A. Background i. Support with evidence ii. Support with existing literature studies

B. Thesis Statement i. Link literature with hypothesis ii. Support with evidence iii. Explain the knowledge gap and how this research will help build the gap 4. Body

A. Methods i. Mention materials and protocols used in research ii. Support with evidence

B. Results i. Support with tables and figures ii. Mention appropriate descriptive statistics

C. Discussion i. Support the research with context ii. Support the research hypothesis iii. Compare the results with other investigations in field of research

D. Conclusion i. Support the discussion and research investigation ii. Support with literature studies

E. Acknowledgements i. Identify and thank the contributors ii. Include the funding agency, if any

F. Declaration of Competing Interests

5. References

Download the Research Paper Outline Template!

Have you tried writing a research paper outline ? How did it work for you? Did it help you achieve your research paper writing goal? Do let us know about your experience in the comments below.

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what's an outline for a research paper

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Why and How to Create a Useful Outline

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Why create an outline? There are many reasons, but in general, it may be helpful to create an outline when you want to show the hierarchical relationship or logical ordering of information. For research papers, an outline may help you keep track of large amounts of information. For creative writing, an outline may help organize the various plot threads and help keep track of character traits. Many people find that organizing an oral report or presentation in outline form helps them speak more effectively in front of a crowd. Below are the primary reasons for creating an outline.

  • Aids in the process of writing
  • Helps you organize your ideas
  • Presents your material in a logical form
  • Shows the relationships among ideas in your writing
  • Constructs an ordered overview of your writing
  • Defines boundaries and groups

How do I create an outline?

  • Determine the purpose of your paper.
  • Determine the audience you are writing for.
  • Develop the thesis of your paper.
  • Brainstorm : List all the ideas that you want to include in your paper.
  • Organize : Group related ideas together.
  • Order : Arrange material in subsections from general to specific or from abstract to concrete.
  • Label : Create main and sub headings.

Remember: creating an outline before writing your paper will make organizing your thoughts a lot easier. Whether you follow the suggested guidelines is up to you, but making any kind of outline (even just some jotting down some main ideas) will be beneficial to your writing process.

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  • Step 2: Plan and organize

Sample Detailed Outline

what's an outline for a research paper

"Organize. Organize. Organize." —U.S. Vice President and Nobel Peace Prize-winner Al Gore

Below is an example of a detailed outline. (It is for a research paper, but the principles and structure apply to any paper.) Notice the hierarchical use of the roman numeral system . Such a hierarchy is key to organizing your thinking and your argument and keeping track of the relationships between your ideas.

Introduction

quote from movie like Independence Day to get readers’ attention SOURCE: IMDB.com

world preparing to welcome with festivities and open arms the aliens coming to Earth from Andromeda galaxy

Thesis (complete sentence!): Although the aliens seem friendly and say they come in peace, Earth’s number one priority should be to build a defense shield before they arrive.

On March 15, 2016, we discovered not alone in universe: irregular but repeating signal discovered from nearby Andromeda. SOURCE: NYTimes , 3/16/16

Different scientists have decoded the message differently

Commonly accepted interpretation friendly:

“Greetings, people of Earth. We have detected and watched your reports (e.g., The Big Bang Theory ) documenting typical life on Earth. We are currently on our way to Earth to begin our friendship and will arrive in Earth year 2020. Prepare yourselves for a glorious future [unclear signals].” (SOURCE: Michaels, “Aliens Are Our Friends,” People )

still parts of the message undecoded (SOURCE?

all scientists agree: Aliens arriving in 2020 (Source: Fredericks, Wall Street Journal )

Argument: there are signs that message is a warning and that aliens are planning to attack

Prof. Alan Guthman, Harvard Center for Astrophysics, makes case (SOURCE: Guthman, “We Do Not Come in Peace”)

With only one message to work with, we have little clue of tone of message

If we interpret three different patterns in signal differently, tone much different: “Attention, Earthlings. We have observed your unusual lives. We are coming to Earth to…[unclear]. Prepare yourselves for life under our control.”

With all the videos we broadcast into space, an alien race would assume that we are hostile and act accordingly

Logic: Even if these aliens are friendly, it is better to be safe than sorry and protect ourselves

FIND: Estimates of the number of intelligent races in the nearby universe and the probability that at least one of them is hostile and technologically advanced

Argument: Estimates show that workable shield surrounding Earth can be constructed by 2020

If nations of Earth collaborate, we can build shield that will block incoming ships and weapons fire (SOURCE. Teller, “Shielding the Earth,” Physics Rev. Letters )

Will cost huge amounts of $$, but:

if spread out among many countries, affordable FIND. Estimates of costs

We can’t afford NOT to build it

Argument: Building shield will both stimulate global economy and result in very useful new technologies

FIND! Evidence on how previous projects—moon landing, the International Space Station, emergency stimulus packages—created

jobs –find stats!

new products & companies

FIND! I don’t have concrete evidence for this, but I remember hearing how the moon landing and international space station resulted in the creation of new, useful technologies

Counterargument: If we build shield and they detect it, it could signal that we are hostile and provoke the aliens to attack

Missile defense shields on Earth have often provoked international tensions. SOURCE: M. Pritchard, “If You Build It, They Will Attack.” ( Boston Globe )

FIND source that shows that

such tensions do not necessarily lead to attack and

any intelligent race will understand need for others to be prepared to defend themselves.

Counterargument: We are probably not able to build shield that would work against such a technologically advanced race

non-sequitor. fact that it may not work does not mean that it won’t and that we should not try to protect ourselves.

Conclusion.

We have no way of knowing the intensions of a group we have never met on the basis of one message.

The only sensible approach is to try to defend ourselves, especially when there will be benefits for trying such as jobs and new technologies.

  • As I learned in Las Vegas, “Never risk what you cannot afford to lose.” Can we afford to risk our children’s lives?

Click here to create a detailed outline from your freewrite/brainstorm using GoogleDocs.

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How to Write a Research Paper: Developing an Outline for Your paper

  • Getting Started
  • Defining Your Topic
  • Finding Background Information
  • Creating a Thesis Statement
  • Developing an Outline for Your paper
  • Writing the Paper
  • Editing and Revising the Paper
  • Writing Style Guides and Citing Sources
  • Annotated Bibliographies

Outline Basics

An outline may be formal or informal, as needed.  The purpose of the outline is to organize your approach to the paper, as well as to be sure that you don't leave any part of your argument or developing your thesis as you write.

The Online Writing Lab of Purdue University has an excellent description of the  Four Main Components for Effective Outlines and a sample outline as well.

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  • Next: Writing the Paper >>
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Writing a Research Paper

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The creation of an outline is an invaluable tool in the process of writing a research paper. It will give structure to the fledgling paper and allow you to better imagine what you will need to write. Breaking the paper down into small sections also makes the process of writing far less overwhelming.

After choosing an appropriate topic and writing a thesis statement, you will need to brainstorm to get ideas on how to best support your thesis. The length of your paper will determine the level of detail you should pursue in your supporting content. When you have honed the results of your brainstorming down to a suitable number of subtopics, you can arrange them in the order you feel would be most effective in arguing your thesis statement.

1. Introduction

      A. Introductory Statement

      B. Thesis Statement

      A. First Subtopic

        a. supporting evidence

      B. Second Subtopic

      C. Third Subtopic

3.  Conclusion

      A Restatement of Thesis

      B. Compelling Conclusion

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Online Guide to Writing and Research

The research process, explore more of umgc.

  • Online Guide to Writing

Planning and Writing a Research Paper

Why Outline?

It can be difficult to start from scratch when you begin a draft. An outline is very beneficial in the beginning stage of your writing. Here are a few ways an outline can help: 

organize your ideas  

present your material in a logical form 

show the relationships among your ideas  

construct an ordered overview of the topic 

How to Create an Outline

Begin by brainstorming. Write down a few main ideas about the text or assignment and then narrow them down into two or three main points. From these main ideas, you will get a sense of what you are going to write about. This is called a thesis, the central statement or argument of an essay: the purpose of your paper. You will need supporting evidence to uphold your main ideas or argument. Once you have these components, you will be able to create an effective essay.  

For a sample outline, visit this page:  Online Guide Sample Outline Chapter Two

Outlines can be very beneficial to the overall writing process.  If you are struggling at all with your research paper, try writing an outline and see if that helps.  

Here is another link to a great resource about outlines: Prewriting and Outlining   

Key Takeaways

  • As you manage your research project, keep the dynamic character of outlining in mind.
  • Outlines can be very beneficial to the overall writing process.

Mailing Address: 3501 University Blvd. East, Adelphi, MD 20783 This work is licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License . © 2022 UMGC. All links to external sites were verified at the time of publication. UMGC is not responsible for the validity or integrity of information located at external sites.

Table of Contents: Online Guide to Writing

Chapter 1: College Writing

How Does College Writing Differ from Workplace Writing?

What Is College Writing?

Why So Much Emphasis on Writing?

Chapter 2: The Writing Process

Doing Exploratory Research

Getting from Notes to Your Draft

Introduction

Prewriting - Techniques to Get Started - Mining Your Intuition

Prewriting: Targeting Your Audience

Prewriting: Techniques to Get Started

Prewriting: Understanding Your Assignment

Rewriting: Being Your Own Critic

Rewriting: Creating a Revision Strategy

Rewriting: Getting Feedback

Rewriting: The Final Draft

Techniques to Get Started - Outlining

Techniques to Get Started - Using Systematic Techniques

Thesis Statement and Controlling Idea

Writing: Getting from Notes to Your Draft - Freewriting

Writing: Getting from Notes to Your Draft - Summarizing Your Ideas

Writing: Outlining What You Will Write

Chapter 3: Thinking Strategies

A Word About Style, Voice, and Tone

A Word About Style, Voice, and Tone: Style Through Vocabulary and Diction

Critical Strategies and Writing

Critical Strategies and Writing: Analysis

Critical Strategies and Writing: Evaluation

Critical Strategies and Writing: Persuasion

Critical Strategies and Writing: Synthesis

Developing a Paper Using Strategies

Kinds of Assignments You Will Write

Patterns for Presenting Information

Patterns for Presenting Information: Critiques

Patterns for Presenting Information: Discussing Raw Data

Patterns for Presenting Information: General-to-Specific Pattern

Patterns for Presenting Information: Problem-Cause-Solution Pattern

Patterns for Presenting Information: Specific-to-General Pattern

Patterns for Presenting Information: Summaries and Abstracts

Supporting with Research and Examples

Writing Essay Examinations

Writing Essay Examinations: Make Your Answer Relevant and Complete

Writing Essay Examinations: Organize Thinking Before Writing

Writing Essay Examinations: Read and Understand the Question

Chapter 4: The Research Process

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Ask a Research Question

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Cite Sources

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Collect Evidence

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Decide Your Point of View, or Role, for Your Research

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Draw Conclusions

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Find a Topic and Get an Overview

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Manage Your Resources

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Outline

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Survey the Literature

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Work Your Sources into Your Research Writing

Research Resources: Where Are Research Resources Found? - Human Resources

Research Resources: What Are Research Resources?

Research Resources: Where Are Research Resources Found?

Research Resources: Where Are Research Resources Found? - Electronic Resources

Research Resources: Where Are Research Resources Found? - Print Resources

Structuring the Research Paper: Formal Research Structure

Structuring the Research Paper: Informal Research Structure

The Nature of Research

The Research Assignment: How Should Research Sources Be Evaluated?

The Research Assignment: When Is Research Needed?

The Research Assignment: Why Perform Research?

Chapter 5: Academic Integrity

Academic Integrity

Giving Credit to Sources

Giving Credit to Sources: Copyright Laws

Giving Credit to Sources: Documentation

Giving Credit to Sources: Style Guides

Integrating Sources

Practicing Academic Integrity

Practicing Academic Integrity: Keeping Accurate Records

Practicing Academic Integrity: Managing Source Material

Practicing Academic Integrity: Managing Source Material - Paraphrasing Your Source

Practicing Academic Integrity: Managing Source Material - Quoting Your Source

Practicing Academic Integrity: Managing Source Material - Summarizing Your Sources

Types of Documentation

Types of Documentation: Bibliographies and Source Lists

Types of Documentation: Citing World Wide Web Sources

Types of Documentation: In-Text or Parenthetical Citations

Types of Documentation: In-Text or Parenthetical Citations - APA Style

Types of Documentation: In-Text or Parenthetical Citations - CSE/CBE Style

Types of Documentation: In-Text or Parenthetical Citations - Chicago Style

Types of Documentation: In-Text or Parenthetical Citations - MLA Style

Types of Documentation: Note Citations

Chapter 6: Using Library Resources

Finding Library Resources

Chapter 7: Assessing Your Writing

How Is Writing Graded?

How Is Writing Graded?: A General Assessment Tool

The Draft Stage

The Draft Stage: The First Draft

The Draft Stage: The Revision Process and the Final Draft

The Draft Stage: Using Feedback

The Research Stage

Using Assessment to Improve Your Writing

Chapter 8: Other Frequently Assigned Papers

Reviews and Reaction Papers: Article and Book Reviews

Reviews and Reaction Papers: Reaction Papers

Writing Arguments

Writing Arguments: Adapting the Argument Structure

Writing Arguments: Purposes of Argument

Writing Arguments: References to Consult for Writing Arguments

Writing Arguments: Steps to Writing an Argument - Anticipate Active Opposition

Writing Arguments: Steps to Writing an Argument - Determine Your Organization

Writing Arguments: Steps to Writing an Argument - Develop Your Argument

Writing Arguments: Steps to Writing an Argument - Introduce Your Argument

Writing Arguments: Steps to Writing an Argument - State Your Thesis or Proposition

Writing Arguments: Steps to Writing an Argument - Write Your Conclusion

Writing Arguments: Types of Argument

Appendix A: Books to Help Improve Your Writing

Dictionaries

General Style Manuals

Researching on the Internet

Special Style Manuals

Writing Handbooks

Appendix B: Collaborative Writing and Peer Reviewing

Collaborative Writing: Assignments to Accompany the Group Project

Collaborative Writing: Informal Progress Report

Collaborative Writing: Issues to Resolve

Collaborative Writing: Methodology

Collaborative Writing: Peer Evaluation

Collaborative Writing: Tasks of Collaborative Writing Group Members

Collaborative Writing: Writing Plan

General Introduction

Peer Reviewing

Appendix C: Developing an Improvement Plan

Working with Your Instructor’s Comments and Grades

Appendix D: Writing Plan and Project Schedule

Devising a Writing Project Plan and Schedule

Reviewing Your Plan with Others

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Writing a Research Paper Introduction | Step-by-Step Guide

Published on September 24, 2022 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on March 27, 2023.

Writing a Research Paper Introduction

The introduction to a research paper is where you set up your topic and approach for the reader. It has several key goals:

  • Present your topic and get the reader interested
  • Provide background or summarize existing research
  • Position your own approach
  • Detail your specific research problem and problem statement
  • Give an overview of the paper’s structure

The introduction looks slightly different depending on whether your paper presents the results of original empirical research or constructs an argument by engaging with a variety of sources.

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Table of contents

Step 1: introduce your topic, step 2: describe the background, step 3: establish your research problem, step 4: specify your objective(s), step 5: map out your paper, research paper introduction examples, frequently asked questions about the research paper introduction.

The first job of the introduction is to tell the reader what your topic is and why it’s interesting or important. This is generally accomplished with a strong opening hook.

The hook is a striking opening sentence that clearly conveys the relevance of your topic. Think of an interesting fact or statistic, a strong statement, a question, or a brief anecdote that will get the reader wondering about your topic.

For example, the following could be an effective hook for an argumentative paper about the environmental impact of cattle farming:

A more empirical paper investigating the relationship of Instagram use with body image issues in adolescent girls might use the following hook:

Don’t feel that your hook necessarily has to be deeply impressive or creative. Clarity and relevance are still more important than catchiness. The key thing is to guide the reader into your topic and situate your ideas.

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This part of the introduction differs depending on what approach your paper is taking.

In a more argumentative paper, you’ll explore some general background here. In a more empirical paper, this is the place to review previous research and establish how yours fits in.

Argumentative paper: Background information

After you’ve caught your reader’s attention, specify a bit more, providing context and narrowing down your topic.

Provide only the most relevant background information. The introduction isn’t the place to get too in-depth; if more background is essential to your paper, it can appear in the body .

Empirical paper: Describing previous research

For a paper describing original research, you’ll instead provide an overview of the most relevant research that has already been conducted. This is a sort of miniature literature review —a sketch of the current state of research into your topic, boiled down to a few sentences.

This should be informed by genuine engagement with the literature. Your search can be less extensive than in a full literature review, but a clear sense of the relevant research is crucial to inform your own work.

Begin by establishing the kinds of research that have been done, and end with limitations or gaps in the research that you intend to respond to.

The next step is to clarify how your own research fits in and what problem it addresses.

Argumentative paper: Emphasize importance

In an argumentative research paper, you can simply state the problem you intend to discuss, and what is original or important about your argument.

Empirical paper: Relate to the literature

In an empirical research paper, try to lead into the problem on the basis of your discussion of the literature. Think in terms of these questions:

  • What research gap is your work intended to fill?
  • What limitations in previous work does it address?
  • What contribution to knowledge does it make?

You can make the connection between your problem and the existing research using phrases like the following.

Although has been studied in detail, insufficient attention has been paid to . You will address a previously overlooked aspect of your topic.
The implications of study deserve to be explored further. You will build on something suggested by a previous study, exploring it in greater depth.
It is generally assumed that . However, this paper suggests that … You will depart from the consensus on your topic, establishing a new position.

Now you’ll get into the specifics of what you intend to find out or express in your research paper.

The way you frame your research objectives varies. An argumentative paper presents a thesis statement, while an empirical paper generally poses a research question (sometimes with a hypothesis as to the answer).

Argumentative paper: Thesis statement

The thesis statement expresses the position that the rest of the paper will present evidence and arguments for. It can be presented in one or two sentences, and should state your position clearly and directly, without providing specific arguments for it at this point.

Empirical paper: Research question and hypothesis

The research question is the question you want to answer in an empirical research paper.

Present your research question clearly and directly, with a minimum of discussion at this point. The rest of the paper will be taken up with discussing and investigating this question; here you just need to express it.

A research question can be framed either directly or indirectly.

  • This study set out to answer the following question: What effects does daily use of Instagram have on the prevalence of body image issues among adolescent girls?
  • We investigated the effects of daily Instagram use on the prevalence of body image issues among adolescent girls.

If your research involved testing hypotheses , these should be stated along with your research question. They are usually presented in the past tense, since the hypothesis will already have been tested by the time you are writing up your paper.

For example, the following hypothesis might respond to the research question above:

The final part of the introduction is often dedicated to a brief overview of the rest of the paper.

In a paper structured using the standard scientific “introduction, methods, results, discussion” format, this isn’t always necessary. But if your paper is structured in a less predictable way, it’s important to describe the shape of it for the reader.

If included, the overview should be concise, direct, and written in the present tense.

  • This paper will first discuss several examples of survey-based research into adolescent social media use, then will go on to …
  • This paper first discusses several examples of survey-based research into adolescent social media use, then goes on to …

Full examples of research paper introductions are shown in the tabs below: one for an argumentative paper, the other for an empirical paper.

  • Argumentative paper
  • Empirical paper

Are cows responsible for climate change? A recent study (RIVM, 2019) shows that cattle farmers account for two thirds of agricultural nitrogen emissions in the Netherlands. These emissions result from nitrogen in manure, which can degrade into ammonia and enter the atmosphere. The study’s calculations show that agriculture is the main source of nitrogen pollution, accounting for 46% of the country’s total emissions. By comparison, road traffic and households are responsible for 6.1% each, the industrial sector for 1%. While efforts are being made to mitigate these emissions, policymakers are reluctant to reckon with the scale of the problem. The approach presented here is a radical one, but commensurate with the issue. This paper argues that the Dutch government must stimulate and subsidize livestock farmers, especially cattle farmers, to transition to sustainable vegetable farming. It first establishes the inadequacy of current mitigation measures, then discusses the various advantages of the results proposed, and finally addresses potential objections to the plan on economic grounds.

The rise of social media has been accompanied by a sharp increase in the prevalence of body image issues among women and girls. This correlation has received significant academic attention: Various empirical studies have been conducted into Facebook usage among adolescent girls (Tiggermann & Slater, 2013; Meier & Gray, 2014). These studies have consistently found that the visual and interactive aspects of the platform have the greatest influence on body image issues. Despite this, highly visual social media (HVSM) such as Instagram have yet to be robustly researched. This paper sets out to address this research gap. We investigated the effects of daily Instagram use on the prevalence of body image issues among adolescent girls. It was hypothesized that daily Instagram use would be associated with an increase in body image concerns and a decrease in self-esteem ratings.

The introduction of a research paper includes several key elements:

  • A hook to catch the reader’s interest
  • Relevant background on the topic
  • Details of your research problem

and your problem statement

  • A thesis statement or research question
  • Sometimes an overview of the paper

Don’t feel that you have to write the introduction first. The introduction is often one of the last parts of the research paper you’ll write, along with the conclusion.

This is because it can be easier to introduce your paper once you’ve already written the body ; you may not have the clearest idea of your arguments until you’ve written them, and things can change during the writing process .

The way you present your research problem in your introduction varies depending on the nature of your research paper . A research paper that presents a sustained argument will usually encapsulate this argument in a thesis statement .

A research paper designed to present the results of empirical research tends to present a research question that it seeks to answer. It may also include a hypothesis —a prediction that will be confirmed or disproved by your research.

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Research Paper Outline Template

The most daunting part of writing a research paper is staring at a blank page and wondering where to start. A research paper outline helps you structure all the contents of your paper so you can get started, remain organized, and not leave anything out. Typically, writers create an outline before they write their first draft and after they come up with a thesis and find a research source. This article reviews how to use and format a Research Paper Outline Template to help you write a comprehensive research paper.

A research paper outline is a writing tool that highlights all the topics of a research paper in the order in which they will appear in the final document. The topics are divided into paragraphs and accompanied by additional details, such as research sources and subtopics. Essentially, the outline helps the writer organize their paper so that it makes sense and answers the thesis question. It is a more efficient tool for making structural changes than the first draft because it allows you to cut out unnecessary parts before you even write about them and add those that work for your paper.

What Is a Research Paper Outline Template?

A research paper outline template is a precontrived guideline that helps you create an outline for your paper. It is divided into the necessary sections and paragraphs with enough space for you to fill in the contents of your outline. Simply put, it is a document containing the prerequisite outline format that prevents you from writing your outline from scratch.

Are there Different Types of Research Paper Outlines?

Yes. There are several types of research paper outlines, but the following three are the most popular. Your choice of an outline format will depend on the type of paper you are writing, your writing style, the team you are working with, and more. Here is a look at your options:

  • Alphanumeric Outline. The alphanumeric outline format is the most popular research paper outline. It uses Roman numerals to list the topics of a paper, capital letters for the subtopics, Arabic numerals for the points in each subtopic, and lowercase letters for subsequent sections. In this format, the information is presented in short phrases, not complete sentences.
  • Decimal Outline. The decimal format is the most comprehensive research paper outline and is more common for long papers with technical aspects. It lists items using numbers with increasing decimal points. Usually, the main topics are whole numbers (1, 2, 1.0, 2.0), while the subtopics contain one decimal point (1.1, 2.1). Subsequent sections have more decimal points (1.1.1 2.1.2). Like in the alphanumeric format, the information is written in phrases or blurbs.
  • Full-Sentence Outline. As the name suggests, this format presents information in complete sentences instead of short phrases. It provides a clearer way of sharing information and is more common when a group is writing a paper. In every other way, it is similar to the alphanumeric format.

Why Is Research Paper Outline Necessary?

A research paper outline lays out all the aspects of a paper that you need to explore to prove your thesis. It tells you what ideas you need to brainstorm and develop to reach a conclusion. Consequently, an outline helps you organize your thoughts so you can create the proper research protocols and achieve the intended results of your paper. It connects all your ideas to create a flow of information. This then creates a smooth transition from one point to the next, ensuring you do not leave anything out. Moreover, it helps the reader navigate and understand your research.

Essential Elements of a Research Paper Outline Template

The assignment requirements for your research paper will usually determine its content. However, research paper outlines are organized in the IMRAD format, which means they begin with an introduction followed by Methods, Results, and Discussion. These sections should be preceded by a title page and an abstract, which is a summary of the entire paper. The other sections are:

  • Introduction: This brief background statement sets up the paper’s hypothesis and the research’s approach and context. It should contain the problem statement.
  • Methods: Also called Experiments or Materials and Methods, this section outlines all the research methods used to write the paper.
  • Results: The results part of the outline usually contains statistics and tables that summarize the findings of the research.
  • Discussion: Here, the writer puts the research into perspective and supports their hypothesis in one or two paragraphs elaborating how their findings fit in the grand scheme of things.
  • Acknowledgments: This is where you mention all the people or sources that helped you write your research paper.

Things to Consider When Outlining a Research Paper

What you include in your research paper outline and how you write it will ultimately depend on several factors. The type of paper you are writing can influence which format you choose. For instance, an outline for every paragraph makes sense if you are writing a formal research paper but might be excessive for a college paper. Here are some factors to consider when outlining your paper:

  • The Assignment. What is the assignment? How complex is it? How long should it be? Before you start outlining your paper, you should consider what it requires. A simple research paper will do with a simple outline, while a more advanced thesis may require something more complex, such as the decimal outline format.
  • Thesis and Sources. Speaking of the thesis, you should always choose one and find evidential sources for it before creating an outline. The thesis of your paper is basically what the paper is about. You should collect enough data to determine what your paper should say.
  • The Topics. Next, you should review your research material and create topics, subtopics, and supporting points that relate to your thesis. Make sure every section is directly related to the thesis and is not tangential.
  • The Structure and Sequence. Finally, consider how you want the topics to follow each other. You need to find a sequence that allows you to present your argument and the reader to understand it. If a reader is unfamiliar with a topic, what do they need to know before they move on to the next section?

Final Thoughts

Writing a research paper outline can seem like extra and unnecessary work, but it can save you a lot of time in the long run. The document breaks down all your ideas in their intended order, allowing you to organize your paper properly. But if writing one from scratch seems like a hassle, and it can be, you can always use a Research Paper Outline Template as a guide.

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How to Write a Good Conclusion: Outline and Examples

How to Write a Good Conclusion: Outline and Examples

Writing a well-structured and insightful concluding paragraph is akin to putting the final cherry on top of a delicious cake – it completes the experience and leaves a lasting impression. Whether you are crafting a paper, a report, or research, creating a persuasive closing paragraph can significantly enhance your work’s influence. This guide delineates the specifics of how to write a conclusion, explores the essential elements of a closure, offers strategies for writing one that resonates, and shares practical tips to sidestep common errors. Read on if writing a summative and logical ending seems challenging to you.

What is a Conclusion Paragraph and Why is it Important?

At its core, a paragraph conclusion serves to recap the major points of your paper and synthesize your primary argument. It serves as a final opportunity to make a memorable impact on your audience. Crafting a logical closure requires skillfully integrating key elements to reinforce the main argument and connect with the wider significance explored in the essay.

Types of concluding paragraphs include:

  • Summative Conclusion : This kind of closing paragraph briefly sums up the central points of the composition or report without adding new details.
  • Synthetic Closure : In this paragraph, the wrap-up statement goes beyond summarization to discuss the more extensive implications or relevance of the concepts expressed.
  • Final Comment : This type of summation, often used in persuasive or argumentative papers, makes a final appeal or recommendation based on the claims presented.

Different kinds of ending paragraphs fulfill various purposes, each aimed at making a strong impression on the reader. For additional assistance with essay writing, let’s say, generating ideas on how to start a conclusion paragraph, consider exploring AI tools such as the Aithor essay generator, available at https://aithor.com/ai-essay-generator .

Conclusion Paragraph Outline

Concluding paragraphs play a vital role in wrapping up an essay or report effectively. If you are wondering how to write a conclusion paragraph, follow our instructions: recap your central idea and major arguments, adding insight. A carefully constructed summation typically consists of three key elements:

  • Thesis Restatement : Begin writing your final paragraph by paraphrasing your central idea in a slightly different way than you did in the intro to reaffirm it.

Example : In a composition advocating for the significance of renewable energy, the summary statement may begin with: "Throughout history, energy sources have been central in shaping societies..."

  • Summary of Key Points : Next, recap the prime points or views earlier discussed in the body sections. This highlights the thesis and briefly reminds the audience of the path taken through your writing.

Example : From solar and wind to hydroelectric power, each renewable energy source offers distinct benefits in mitigating environmental change and reducing dependence on mineral fuels.

  • Final Comment : End your paper with a sentence that leaves a lasting impression or motivates the reader to act, based on the essay's purpose.

Example : As we look ahead to a sustainable future, utilizing sustainable energy not only helps the environment but also boosts the economy and enhances energy security.

To master writing a well-rounded conclusion, remember these essential steps. This conclusion paragraph structure effectively wraps up your paper, reinforces your primary ideas, and leaves an insight.

Strategies for Writing an Effective Conclusion

Crafting a captivating concluding section that resonates with your readers, is crucial for leaving a long-lasting impression. When writing your closing paragraph, consider employing these strategies:

Circle Back to the Intro : Referencing a key phrase or reasons from your opening paragraph can create a sense of cohesion and closure.

Example : If your introduction highlighted a current environmental crisis, your final paragraph could explore how renewable energy could offer a solution to this crisis.

Pose a Thought-Provoking Query : Encourage deeper contemplation by posing an intriguing question related to your essay topic.

Example : How can people and governments work together to speed up using renewable energy technologies?

Offer a Prediction or Recommendation : Based on your central points, suggest what might happen over time or recommend a course of action.

Example : Investing in renewable energy now can pave the way for a more sustainable and cleaner planet for prospective generations.

Connect to a Broader Context: Relate your paper’s topic to a larger issue or ongoing discussion to underscore its significance and relevance.

Example: The shift to renewable energy is not just about reducing emissions; it's part of a global movement towards sustainable development and ecological stewardship.

Avoid Overly Emotional Call-to-Action: While urging action, maintain a balanced tone to avoid coming across as overly emotional or sensational.

Example: Let's come together to adopt renewable energy and forge a more promising tomorrow for future generations.

By employing these techniques, make sure that your ending paragraph not only recaps your central arguments smoothly but also leaves a sense of purpose and inspiration to your readers.

What to Avoid While Writing a Conclusion

When composing your final paragraph, it's crucial to avoid typical pitfalls that may weaken your closing remarks. Consider some common errors:

Adding Fresh Details : Avoid presenting completely new thoughts or examples that haven’t been addressed in the body parts.

Example : In brief, whereas renewable energy has many benefits, nuclear power remains a controversial alternative.

Overusing Clichés or Generalizations : Keep your language fresh and related to your essay’s topic. Avoid clichéd phrases like "In conclusion," as they add unnecessary redundancy to the text.

Example : In essence, it is obvious that renewable energy is the path of the future.

Undermining Your Efforts : The essay’s last paragraph should assert the validity of the thesis, not undermine it.

Example : While my research has limitations, I believe renewable energy is still a practical alternative.

Overly Emotive Call-to-Action: Balance emotional appeal and confidence and avoid being overly dramatic while encouraging action.

Example: We must act now to embrace renewable energy for a sustainable future.

Confusing Summary with Analysis: Differentiate between recapping key points and providing deeper analysis. Reflect on your insights rather than repeating facts.

Example: Briefly, renewable energy benefits the environment and promotes economic stability.

Avoiding such pitfalls ensures – your closing statements contribute positively to the quality of your assignment. How to write a conclusion paragraph efficiently? Stay concentrated, specific, and assertive to generate an insightful closure that enhances your paper's impact.

Useful Phrases When Starting the Conclusion

Transitioning smoothly into your recap can enhance the influence and clarity of your final comments. Check out some useful phrases categorized by their purpose:

1.       Summarizing : "To sum up,...", "In summary,..."

2.       Reaffirming : "It is evident that...", "This reinforces the notion that..."

3.       Reflecting : "Considering these arguments,...", "Taking this into account,..."

4.   Looking Forward : "Considering the future,...", "Moving forward,..."

By using these connectors, you will write a paragraph that coherently wraps up your ideas and leaves stimulating thoughts.

Conclusion Samples with Explanation

Ending your composition and highlighting your focal points is essential to effectively generate a solid final paragraph. Here are two A-level samples, each crafted for different assignment types:

  • Summative Conclusion : To sum up, the investigation of renewable energy sources underscores their key role in addressing environmental change and lessening our reliance on limited resources. Solar, hydroelectric, and wind power – each provide distinct benefits that contribute to sustainability.

Explanation : This closing paragraph summarizes the central points discussed throughout the paper highlighting the paper’s thesis, without presenting new details.

  • Final Comment : As global energy requirements continue to rise, embracing renewable energy not only addresses environmental concerns but also opens avenues for financial prosperity and energy self-sufficiency. By putting resources into renewable technologies today, we set the stage for a more promising future for coming generations.

Explanation : This paragraph goes beyond summarization to underscore the wider implications and prospects specific to the main idea in the final part.

These conclusion examples illustrate how to create a memorable impression by briefly repeating key points and emphasizing broader implications.

In a nutshell, a meticulously crafted summary paragraph comprises three essential elements that elevate the essay’s impact and overall coherence. A well-structured conclusion paragraph outline involves skillfully recapping the central points, reaffirming your thesis, and forming a strong final impression. Also, the assignment’s ending represents your final occasion to provide insight, so make it count. By avoiding typical errors and employing effective tactics, you can guarantee that the closure not only ties your writing together but also resonates with the audience.

Now that you've learned the secrets of writing a closing paragraph, this guide has equipped you with the essential tools to navigate the process, ensuring your piece is succinct, coherent, and insightful. By adhering to these principles, your finale not only serves to reinforce the topic’s relevance but also inspires thoughtful reflection on its critical role in shaping a brighter future for upcoming generations.

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Examples

Literature Review Outline

Ai generator.

what's an outline for a research paper

Literature Review. We all been there, especially those who are currently in high school or college. We get to review different types of literary pieces ranging from short stories , poem , and novels just to name a few. It can be confusing when you have a lot of ideas but you have no idea how to formulate them into one clean thought. It can also be quite frustrating if you have to start from the beginning or back to square one if you forgot a single part of the whole, but don’t worry, here are some literature review outline examples you can download to help you with your problems. Let’s check them out.

What is a Literature Review Outline?

A literature review outline is a structured framework that organizes and summarizes existing research on a specific topic. It helps identify key themes, gaps, and methodologies in the literature. The outline typically includes sections such as introduction, major themes, sub-themes, methodologies, and conclusions, facilitating a clear and comprehensive review of the literature.

Literature Review Format

A literature review is a comprehensive summary of previous research on a topic. It includes a systematic examination of scholarly article , book , and other sources relevant to the research area. Here’s a guide to structuring a literature review effectively:

Introduction

  • Explain the purpose of the literature review.
  • Define the scope of the review – what is included and what is excluded.
  • State the research question or objective .
  • Provide context or background information necessary to understand the literature review.
  • Highlight the significance of the topic.
  • Organize the literature review by themes, trends, or methodological approaches rather than by individual sources.
  • Use headings and subheadings to categorize different themes or topics.
  • For each theme or section, summarize the key findings of the relevant literature.
  • Highlight major theories, methodologies, and conclusions.
  • Note any significant debates or controversies.
  • Critically evaluate the sources.
  • Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the existing research.
  • Identify gaps or inconsistencies in the literature.
  • Compare and contrast different sources.
  • Synthesize the information to provide a coherent narrative.
  • Show how the different studies are related to one another.
  • Summarize the main findings from the literature review.
  • Highlight the most important insights and their implications.
  • Identify any gaps in the existing research that require further investigation.
  • Suggest areas for future research.
  • Discuss the overall significance of the literature review.
  • Explain how it contributes to the field of study and the specific research question.
  • List all the sources cited in the literature review.
  • Follow the appropriate citation style (APA, MLA , Chicago, etc.) as required by your academic institution.

Research Literature Review Outline Example

I. Introduction Background Information: Provide context and background on the research topic. Explain the importance of the topic in the current research landscape. Purpose of the Review: State the main objectives of the literature review. Clarify the research questions or hypotheses guiding the review. Scope of the Review: Define the scope, including time frame, types of studies, and key themes. Explain any limitations or boundaries set for the review. II. Search Strategy Databases and Sources: List the databases and other sources used to find relevant literature. Keywords and Search Terms: Detail the specific keywords and search terms employed. Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria: Describe the criteria for including or excluding studies. III. Theoretical Framework Relevant Theories: Introduce and explain the key theories and models related to the research topic. Application of Theories: Discuss how these theories provide a foundation for understanding the literature. IV. Review of Literature Thematic Organization: Organize the literature into themes or categories based on common findings or approaches. Example Structure: Theme 1: Impact of Rising Temperatures Summarize key studies and findings. Compare and contrast different research approaches. Theme 2: Changing Precipitation Patterns Highlight significant studies and their results. Discuss any conflicting findings or perspectives. Theme 3: Socioeconomic Factors Review literature focusing on socioeconomic impacts. Analyze how these factors interact with environmental changes. V. Critical Analysis Strengths and Weaknesses: Evaluate the strengths and limitations of the reviewed studies. Discuss the reliability and validity of the methodologies used. Methodological Critique: Assess the methodologies for potential biases and gaps. VI. Discussion and Synthesis Integration of Findings: Synthesize the findings from the literature into a cohesive narrative. Highlight common themes, trends, and gaps. Research Gaps: Identify areas where further research is needed. Suggest potential future research directions. VII. Conclusion Summary of Main Findings: Summarize the key insights and conclusions drawn from the literature review. Importance of the Topic: Reiterate the significance of the research topic. Implications for Future Research: Outline the implications of the findings for future research. VIII. References Citation List: Provide a complete list of all sources cited in the literature review. Follow a specific citation style (e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago). IX. Appendices (if applicable) Supplementary Material: Include tables, charts, or detailed methodological information that supports the review but is too extensive for the main text.

Thematic Literature Review Outline Example

I. Introduction Background Information: Provide context and background on the research topic. Explain the importance of the topic in the current research landscape. Purpose of the Review: State the main objectives of the literature review. Clarify the research questions or hypotheses guiding the review. Scope of the Review: Define the scope, including time frame, types of studies, and key themes. Explain any limitations or boundaries set for the review. II. Search Strategy Databases and Sources: List the databases and other sources used to find relevant literature. Keywords and Search Terms: Detail the specific keywords and search terms employed. Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria: Describe the criteria for including or excluding studies. III. Thematic Review of Literature Theme 1: Impact of Rising Temperatures Summary of Key Studies: Summarize the findings of major studies related to rising temperatures. Example: “Smith et al. (2020) found that increasing temperatures have led to a 5% decline in crop yields globally.” Comparison of Research Approaches: Compare different methodologies and approaches used in the studies. Example: “While Jones (2018) used a longitudinal study, Brown (2019) employed a cross-sectional analysis.” Theme 2: Changing Precipitation Patterns Summary of Key Studies: Highlight significant studies and their results. Example: “Lee and Wang (2021) reported that altered precipitation patterns have increased the frequency of droughts.” Discussion of Conflicting Findings: Discuss any contradictory findings or differing perspectives. Example: “Contrary to Lee and Wang, Garcia (2020) found minimal impact of precipitation changes on crop health.” Theme 3: Socioeconomic Factors Summary of Key Studies: Review literature focusing on the socioeconomic impacts of climate change. Example: “Davis (2017) highlighted the disproportionate effects on small-scale farmers.” Analysis of Interactions: Analyze how socioeconomic factors interact with environmental changes. Example: “Economic instability exacerbates the vulnerability to climate impacts (Green, 2018).” IV. Critical Analysis Strengths and Weaknesses: Evaluate the strengths and limitations of the reviewed studies. Example: “Many studies provide robust data but often lack consideration of regional variability.” Methodological Critique: Assess the methodologies for potential biases and gaps. Example: “There is a notable reliance on regional data, limiting the generalizability of findings.” V. Discussion and Synthesis Integration of Findings: Synthesize the findings from the literature into a cohesive narrative. Example: “The review indicates a clear trend of climate change negatively impacting agriculture, though the extent varies regionally.” Identification of Gaps: Identify areas where further research is needed. Example: “There is a gap in research on adaptive farming practices and their effectiveness.” VI. Conclusion Summary of Main Findings: Summarize the key insights and conclusions drawn from the literature review. Example: “Overall, rising temperatures and changing precipitation patterns are significantly affecting agricultural productivity.” Importance of the Topic: Reiterate the significance of the research topic. Example: “Understanding these impacts is crucial for developing effective adaptation strategies.” Implications for Future Research: Outline the implications of the findings for future research. Example: “Future research should focus on adaptive measures to mitigate the adverse effects on agriculture.” VII. References Citation List: Provide a complete list of all sources cited in the literature review. Example: Smith, J. et al. (2020). Impact of Rising Temperatures on Global Crop Yields . Journal of Environmental Studies, 45(3), 234-250. Lee, S. & Wang, H. (2021). Precipitation Patterns and Drought Frequency . Climate Research Journal, 29(2), 98-115. VIII. Appendices (if applicable) Supplementary Material: Include tables, charts, or detailed methodological information that supports the review but is too extensive for the main text. Example: “Appendix A includes a table of regional crop yield changes from 2000 to 2020.”

Literature Review Outline Example in APA Format

1. Title Page Title of the Review Author’s Name Institutional Affiliation Course Name and Number Instructor’s Name Due Date 2. Abstract Summary of the Literature Review Brief overview of the main points Research question or thesis Key findings Implications 3. Introduction Introduction to the Topic General introduction to the subject area Importance of the topic Purpose of the Review Specific objectives of the literature review Research Questions or Hypotheses Main research question(s) or hypotheses guiding the review Organization of the Review Brief outline of the structure of the literature review 4. Theoretical Framework Relevant Theories and Models Description of key theories and models relevant to the topic Application of Theories Explanation of how these theories are applied to the research problem 5. Review of the Literature Historical Context Background and historical development of the research topic Current Research Summary of recent studies and their findings Methodologies Used Overview of research methods used in the studies Themes and Patterns Common themes and patterns identified in the literature Contradictions and Gaps Conflicting findings and gaps in the literature 6. Critical Analysis Evaluation of Key Studies Critical analysis of the most influential studies Strengths and limitations of these studies Comparison of Different Approaches Comparative analysis of different perspectives and methodologies 7. Synthesis of Findings Integration of Theories and Results How the findings integrate with the theoretical framework Overall Trends Summary of the major trends in the literature Gaps in the Research Identification of gaps and areas for further research 8. Conclusion Summary of Main Findings Recap of the most significant findings from the review Implications for Future Research Suggestions for future research directions Practical Applications Implications for practice or policy 9. References Complete Citation of Sources Proper APA format for all sources cited in the literature review 10. Appendices (if necessary) Additional Material Any supplementary material such as tables, figures, or questionnaires

Literature Review Outline Templates & Samples in PDF

1. literature review template.

Literature Review Template

3. Literature Review Outline Template

Literature Review Outline Template

6. Preliminary Outline of Literature Review

Preliminary Outline of Literature Review

7. Literature Review Outline Example

Literature Review Outline Example

8. Printable Literature Review Outline

Printable Literature Review Outline

Types of Literature Review

A literature review is an essential part of academic research, providing a comprehensive summary of previous studies on a particular topic. There are various types of literature reviews, each serving a different purpose and following a unique structure. Here, we explore the main types:

1. Narrative Review

A narrative review, also known as a traditional or descriptive review, provides a comprehensive synthesis of the existing literature on a specific topic. It focuses on summarizing and interpreting the findings rather than conducting a systematic analysis.

2. Systematic Review

A systematic review follows a rigorous and predefined methodology to collect, analyze, and synthesize all relevant studies on a particular research question. It aims to minimize bias and provide reliable findings.

3. Meta-Analysis

A meta-analysis is a subset of systematic reviews that statistically combines the results of multiple studies to arrive at a single conclusion. It provides a higher level of evidence by increasing the sample size and improving the precision of the results.

4. Scoping Review

A scoping review aims to map the existing literature on a broad topic, identify key concepts, theories, and sources, and clarify research gaps. It is often used to determine the scope of future research.

5. Critical Review

A critical review evaluates the quality and validity of the existing literature, often questioning the methodology and findings. It provides a critical assessment and aims to present a deeper understanding of the topic.

6. Theoretical Review

A theoretical review focuses on analyzing and synthesizing theories related to a specific topic. It aims to understand how theories have evolved over time and how they can be applied to current research.

7. Integrative Review

An integrative review synthesizes research on a topic in a more holistic manner, combining perspectives from both qualitative and quantitative studies. It aims to generate new frameworks and perspectives.

8. Annotated Bibliography

An annotated bibliography provides a summary and evaluation of each source in a list of references. It includes a brief description of the content, relevance, and quality of each source.

9. Rapid Review

A rapid review streamlines the systematic review process to provide evidence in a timely manner. It is often used in healthcare and policy-making to inform decisions quickly.

10. Umbrella Review

An umbrella review, or overview of reviews, synthesizes the findings of multiple systematic reviews on a particular topic. It provides a high-level summary and identifies broader patterns and trends.

Purpose of a Literature Review

A literature review is a critical component of academic research, serving multiple important purposes. It provides a comprehensive overview of existing knowledge on a topic, helps identify research gaps, and sets the context for new research. Here are the key purposes of a literature review:

1. Summarizing Existing Research

A literature review summarizes and synthesizes the findings of previous studies related to a specific topic. This helps researchers understand what is already known and what remains to be explored.

2. Identifying Research Gaps

By reviewing existing literature, researchers can identify gaps or inconsistencies in the current knowledge. This allows them to pinpoint areas where further investigation is needed and justify the need for their research.

3. Providing Context and Background

A literature review sets the context for new research by providing background information. It helps readers understand the broader landscape of the topic and how the current study fits into it.

4. Establishing the Theoretical Framework

Literature reviews often involve discussing various theories and models relevant to the topic. This helps establish a theoretical framework for the research, guiding the study’s design and methodology.

5. Demonstrating Researcher Knowledge

Conducting a thorough literature review demonstrates that the researcher is knowledgeable about the field. It shows that they are aware of the key studies, debates, and trends in their area of research.

6. Justifying Research Questions and Methodology

A literature review helps justify the research questions and methodology of a study. By showing how previous studies were conducted and what their limitations were, researchers can argue for their chosen approach.

7. Avoiding Duplication

Reviewing existing literature ensures that researchers do not duplicate previous studies unnecessarily. It helps them build on existing work rather than repeating it.

8. Highlighting Key Findings and Trends

A literature review highlights significant findings and trends in the research area. This helps researchers understand the development of the field and identify influential studies and seminal works.

9. Informing Practice and Policy

In applied fields, literature reviews can inform practice and policy by summarizing evidence on what works and what doesn’t. This helps practitioners and policymakers make evidence-based decisions.

10. Facilitating a Comprehensive Understanding

Overall, a literature review facilitates a comprehensive understanding of the topic. It integrates various perspectives, findings, and approaches, providing a well-rounded view of the research area.

Components of a Literature Review

A well-structured literature review is essential for providing a clear and comprehensive overview of existing research on a particular topic. The following components are typically included in a literature review:

1. Introduction

The introduction sets the stage for the literature review. It provides background information on the topic, explains the review’s purpose, and outlines its scope.

Example: “Over the past decade, research on climate change’s impact on agriculture has proliferated. This literature review aims to synthesize these studies, focusing on the effects of rising temperatures and changing precipitation patterns on crop yields.”

2. Search Strategy

The search strategy describes how the literature was identified. This includes the databases and search engines used, search terms and keywords, and any inclusion or exclusion criteria.

Example: “The literature search was conducted using databases such as PubMed, Google Scholar, and JSTOR. Keywords included ‘climate change,’ ‘agriculture,’ ‘crop yields,’ and ‘precipitation patterns.’ Studies published between 2000 and 2023 were included.”

3. Theoretical Framework

The theoretical framework presents the theories and models relevant to the research topic. This section provides a foundation for understanding the studies reviewed.

Example: “This review utilizes the Sustainable Livelihoods Framework to analyze the impact of climate change on agricultural communities, focusing on how environmental changes affect economic stability and food security.”

4. Review of Literature

The core of the literature review, this section summarizes and synthesizes the findings of the selected studies. It is often organized thematically, chronologically, or methodologically.

Example: “Studies from the early 2000s focused on temperature changes, while recent research has shifted to examining precipitation patterns. Common findings include a general decline in crop yields, with significant regional variations.”

5. Critical Analysis

A critical analysis evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of the existing research. This involves assessing the methodology, data, and conclusions of the studies reviewed.

Example: “Many studies used longitudinal data to track changes over time, but few incorporated socioeconomic factors. Additionally, the reliance on regional data limits the generalizability of some findings.”

6. Discussion and Synthesis

The discussion and synthesis section integrates the findings from the literature review, highlighting common themes, trends, and gaps. It connects the reviewed studies to the current research question.

Example: “The literature consistently shows that rising temperatures negatively affect crop yields. However, there is a gap in understanding the role of adaptive farming practices, suggesting a need for further research in this area.”

7. Conclusion

The conclusion summarizes the main findings of the literature review. It reiterates the importance of the research topic and outlines the implications for future research.

Example: “In summary, climate change poses a significant threat to agricultural productivity. Future research should focus on adaptive strategies to mitigate these effects and ensure food security.”

8. References

The references section lists all the sources cited in the literature review. It should follow a specific citation style, such as APA, MLA, or Chicago.

  • Smith, J. (2021). Climate Change and Crop Yields . Journal of Environmental Science, 12(3), 45-60.
  • Brown, A., & Jones, B. (2019). Precipitation Patterns and Agriculture . Climate Research, 8(2), 34-48.

9. Appendices (if applicable)

Appendices may include supplementary material that is relevant to the literature review but would disrupt the flow of the main text. This could include tables, charts, or detailed methodological information.

Example: “Appendix A includes a table of regional crop yield changes from 2000 to 2020. Appendix B provides a detailed description of the data collection methods used in the reviewed studies.”

How to Write a Literature Review

How to Write a Literature Review

Writing a literature review involves several steps to ensure that you provide a comprehensive, critical, and coherent summary of existing research on a specific topic. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you write an effective literature review:

1. Define Your Topic and Scope

  • Identify your research question or thesis.
  • Decide on the scope (broad topic or specific aspect, time frame, types of studies).

2. Conduct a Comprehensive Literature Search

  • Identify key sources (use academic databases like PubMed, Google Scholar, JSTOR).
  • Use relevant keywords to search for literature.
  • Select relevant studies by reviewing abstracts.

3. Organize the Literature

  • Group studies by themes (methodology, findings, theoretical perspective).
  • Create an outline to structure your review.

4. Summarize and Synthesize the Literature

  • Summarize key findings for each study.
  • Synthesize information by comparing and contrasting studies.

5. Write the Literature Review

  • Introduce the topic.
  • Explain the purpose of the review.
  • Outline the scope.
  • Discuss literature thematically or chronologically.
  • Present summaries and syntheses.
  • Highlight patterns, contradictions, and gaps.
  • Evaluate methodologies and findings.
  • Discuss strengths and weaknesses of studies.
  • Summarize main findings.
  • Reiterate the importance of the topic.

6. Cite Your Sources

  • Use a consistent citation style (APA, MLA, Chicago).

7. Review and Revise

  • Proofread for grammatical errors and clarity.
  • Revise for coherence and logical flow.

How do I start a literature review?

Begin by defining your research question and scope, then conduct a comprehensive search for relevant literature using academic databases.

What is the purpose of a theoretical framework?

It provides a foundation for understanding the literature and guides the analysis of existing studies.

How should I organize the literature review?

Organize it thematically, chronologically, or methodologically, depending on what best suits your research question.

How do I choose which studies to include?

Use inclusion and exclusion criteria based on relevance, publication date, and quality of the studies.

What is the difference between a thematic and chronological organization?

Thematic organization groups studies by topics or themes, while chronological organization arranges them by the date of publication.

How do I critically analyze the literature?

Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each study, assess methodologies, and discuss biases or gaps.

What should be included in the introduction?

Provide background information, state the purpose of the review, and outline its scope.

How can I synthesize findings from different studies?

Integrate the results to highlight common themes, trends, and gaps, providing a cohesive narrative.

Why are references important in a literature review?

References provide evidence for your review, ensure academic integrity, and allow readers to locate the original sources.

What role do appendices play in a literature review?

Appendices include supplementary material like tables or detailed methodologies that support the review but are too extensive for the main text.

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  1. How to Create a Structured Research Paper Outline

    A decimal outline is similar in format to the alphanumeric outline, but with a different numbering system: 1, 1.1, 1.2, etc. Text is written as short notes rather than full sentences. Example: 1 Body paragraph one. 1.1 First point. 1.1.1 Sub-point of first point. 1.1.2 Sub-point of first point.

  2. Research Paper Outline

    Research Paper Outline. Research paper outline is a plan or a structural framework that organizes the main ideas, arguments, and supporting evidence in a logical sequence. It serves as a blueprint or a roadmap for the writer to follow while drafting the actual research paper. Typically, an outline consists of the following elements:

  3. APA Research Paper Outline [Examples + Template]

    If you are looking for how to write a research paper outline APA in Full Sentence Format, here is an example: A. For subheadings, you use capital alphabets A, B, C. B. Subheadings must complement, lead, or link to the paper's main idea. 1. Arabic numerals are used for headings under subheadings like 1, 2, and 3. 2.

  4. How to write a research paper outline

    The outline is the skeleton of your research paper. Simply start by writing down your thesis and the main ideas you wish to present. This will likely change as your research progresses; therefore, do not worry about being too specific in the early stages of writing your outline. Organize your papers in one place. Try Paperpile.

  5. How to Create a Research Paper Outline: Tips and Examples

    1. Determine your topic. You'll need to establish a topic or the main point you intend to write about. For example, you may want to research and write about whether influencers are the most beneficial way to promote products in your industry. This topic is the main point around which your essay will revolve. 2.

  6. How to Write a Research Paper Outline (with Examples)

    Think through the sequence in which you will present your topic and ideas. Structure the research paper outline in a way that allows a clear and continuous narrative that is easy to understand. For example, the introduction must be concise and engaging and must clearly introduce the research topic. The main paragraphs must focus on the research ...

  7. How To Write a Research Paper Outline (With Examples and Tips)

    Write down all the ideas you want to include or discuss. 3. Gather information. Gather notes, resources and references that you will need to support your content. Also, complete any necessary research or investigations. Each main idea should have two or more supporting topics.

  8. How to Write an Outline in APA Format

    Both your psychology research paper and outline should include three key sections: Introduction: Highlights the main points and presents your hypothesis. Body: Details the ideas and research that support your hypothesis. Conclusion: Briefly reiterates your main points and clarifies support for your position.

  9. 4b. Outline the Paper

    For research papers, a formal outline can help you keep track of large amounts of information. Sample Outline Thesis: Federal regulations need to foster laws that will help protect wetlands, restore those that have been destroyed, and take measures to improve the damage from overdevelopment.

  10. Research Paper Outline: Templates & Examples

    A research paper outline is a skeleton or a guideline for your final paper. It is typically created after the thesis statement is formatted but before the first draft is written. In this process, you group information into appropriate headers, sub-headers, points, and sub-points.

  11. How to Write a Research Paper Outline with Examples

    3. Results Section: Use the same timeline or topics you introduced in the method section. Make sure you answer all the questions you raised in the introduction. Use tables, graphs, and other visualizations to guide the reader. Don't present results of tests/analyses that you did not mention in the methods. 4.

  12. 3. Thesis Statement & Outline

    An outline is the skeleton of your essay, in which you list the arguments and subtopics in a logical order. A good outline is an important element in writing a good paper. An outline helps to target your research areas, keep you within the scope without going off-track, and it can also help to keep your argument in good order when writing the ...

  13. How to Write an Essay Outline

    An essay outline is a way of planning the structure of your essay before you start writing. It involves writing quick summary sentences or phrases for every point you will cover in each paragraph, giving you a picture of how your argument will unfold. You'll sometimes be asked to submit an essay outline as a separate assignment before you ...

  14. How to Create a Research Paper Outline (With Template & Examples)

    A research paper outline is a basic format for writing an academic research paper. In this article, we would like to discuss writing an outline with a structured research paper outline template, which will assist a researcher in writing their research paper effectively! Enago Academy - Learn. Share. Discuss. Publish.

  15. How to Outline

    For research papers, an outline may help you keep track of large amounts of information. For creative writing, an outline may help organize the various plot threads and help keep track of character traits. Many people find that organizing an oral report or presentation in outline form helps them speak more effectively in front of a crowd. Below ...

  16. Sample Detailed Outline

    Sample Detailed Outline. "Organize. Organize. Organize." —U.S. Vice President and Nobel Peace Prize-winner Al Gore. Below is an example of a detailed outline. (It is for a research paper, but the principles and structure apply to any paper.) Notice the hierarchical use of the roman numeral system. Such a hierarchy is key to organizing your ...

  17. How to Write a Research Paper: Developing an Outline for Your paper

    The purpose of the outline is to organize your approach to the paper, as well as to be sure that you don't leave any part of your argument or developing your thesis as you write. The Online Writing Lab of Purdue University has an excellent description of the Four Main Components for Effective Outlines and a sample outline as well.

  18. How to Write an Outline for a Research Paper

    In doing so, you actually erect a kind of scaffolding for the paper. To write the rough draft, you simply transcribe from the outline, fill in the blanks, insert transitions and connectives—and you have a research paper. The main entries of a sentence outline should be the topic sentences of various paragraphs.

  19. Arrendale Library: Writing a Research Paper: Creating an Outline

    The creation of an outline is an invaluable tool in the process of writing a research paper. It will give structure to the fledgling paper and allow you to better imagine what you will need to write. Breaking the paper down into small sections also makes the process of writing far less overwhelming. After choosing an appropriate topic and ...

  20. PDF How To: Outlining a Research Paper

    three level outline is made up of headings for sections, subsections, and paragraphs of a paper. Paragraph headings should provide the topic sentence (or phrase) that all sentences in the paragraph will support. The structure of a three-level outline is shown below: Introduction. Motivation to study this topic.

  21. Outlining

    An outline is a tool used to organize your written ideas about a topic into a logical order. It is meant to help you establish a structure for a paper you are going to write. It is a way for you to demonstrate the main argument (thesis), main points (topic sentences), and main pieces of evidence you are going to present in a paper before ...

  22. Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Outline

    How to Create an Outline. Begin by brainstorming. Write down a few main ideas about the text or assignment and then narrow them down into two or three main points. From these main ideas, you will get a sense of what you are going to write about. This is called a thesis, the central statement or argument of an essay: the purpose of your paper.

  23. Writing a Research Paper Introduction

    Step 1: Introduce your topic. Step 2: Describe the background. Step 3: Establish your research problem. Step 4: Specify your objective (s) Step 5: Map out your paper. Research paper introduction examples. Frequently asked questions about the research paper introduction.

  24. PDF The Basic Outline of a Paper

    The following outline shows a basic format for most academic papers. No matter what length the paper needs to be, it should still follow the format of having an introduction, body, and conclusion. Read over what typically goes in each section of the paper. Use the back of this handout to outline information for your specific paper.

  25. Free Research Paper Outline Template

    A research paper outline template is a precontrived guideline that helps you create an outline for your paper. It is divided into the necessary sections and paragraphs with enough space for you to fill in the contents of your outline. Simply put, it is a document containing the prerequisite outline format that prevents you from writing your ...

  26. How to Write a Research Paper Introduction in 4 Steps

    Research paper readers need this kind of warmup, too. A good introduction, or intro, lives up to its name—it introduces readers to the topic. ... The outline functions like a skeleton. It provides a structure for the details that make up your introduction like muscles and other tissues. It helps you make sure you don't miss any important ...

  27. How to Write a Good Conclusion: Outline and Examples

    Writing a well-structured and insightful concluding paragraph is akin to putting the final cherry on top of a delicious cake - it completes the experience and leaves a lasting impression. Whether you are crafting a paper, a report, or research, creating a persuasive closing paragraph can significantly enhance your work's influence.

  28. Literature Review Outline

    A literature review outline is a structured framework that organizes and summarizes existing research on a specific topic. It helps identify key themes, gaps, and methodologies in the literature. The outline typically includes sections such as introduction, major themes, sub-themes, methodologies, and conclusions, facilitating a clear and ...