Research Paper Outline. A Guide to How to Write an Outline for a Research Paper


Can you imagine preparing your favorite dish for the first time without step-by-step instructions? It is very easy to become disoriented! A writer, like a lost wanderer who can’t find his way out of the woods, needs to know how to write an outline for a research paper. It will keep you from experiencing writer’s block. In this article, we’ll look at what an outline looks like, what its concept and goals are, and look at some vivid examples.

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Concept & Goals of a Research Paper Outline

What exactly is an outline, and why is it important? An outline for a research paper outline written by the author to avoid getting stuck in the middle of the process. It’s referred to as an action plan. This section reveals the study’s main ideas. Once a writer has completed the list of research paper topics to investigate, he or she must devote some time to developing the outline.

What is the distinction between learning how to write a research paper outline and creating a table of contents? An outline, on the other hand, is not that detailed, and there is no need to put page numbers next to each section. An outline enables the study to be combined and reviewed. A writer will not repeat their words; instead, he will follow a logical flow with the assistance of an outline.

The prompt for the assignment may or may not direct you to create an outline. However, if a project is more than 1000 words in length, a professor utilizes a research paper outline by default. A 5-paragraph essay, for example, necessitates an outline. It will not be possible to develop a 10,000-word coursework or dissertation without having a plan. The structure of an outline is determined by the type of academic assignment and its format.

MLA Research Paper Outline

Because MLA is the most common and easiest research paper format, we should begin by explaining how to write an outline for a research paper using this example. This guide was proposed by the Modern Language Association a long time ago. It is used to cite the following works by students and professionals:

  • Comparative literary analysis
  • Cultural studies
  • History & Anthropology
  • English Composition
  • Literature
  • Foreign language & literature
  • Literary criticism

When working on papers in these fields, use an MLA outline. Begin with the primary headings (“Intro” and “Method”), which should be written in upper-case Roman numerals. If the paper is long, with many different subsections, the student should use letters and numbers for the various levels of subheadings.

Arrange the items in the correct order in a draft. Do not get into specifics until you have completed the final version of the research paper outline. This section explains how the writer will come up with other important parts (example: Literature Review).

Use a couple of tips from college professors.

  1. Depending on the tool a writer uses When creating documents, he/she should ensure that the different levels of the outline (II, B, 3, c, j) correspond to the headings in Microsoft Word, as most professors only accept DOC & DOCS format.
  2. MLA changes its writing guide! Before creating an outline for a research paper, check the most recent version of the manual to see if there have been any changes to this research paper format.

Mastering APA Research Paper Outline

When writing a research paper, the most commonly used format is APA, which is more complicated than MLA. It was founded by the American Psychological Association. APA essay format is used by students and professionals in the following fields:

  • Psychology
  • Social sciences
  • Humanities
  • Healthcare & nursing
  • Education

Other fields’ representatives use the APA paper format from time to time as well. We’ve created a tasty infographic with an APA outline example based on the manual’s 6th edition.

Let’s take a closer look at that structure.

A Detailed Outline

There are several critical elements in your research paper that you should consider:

Title/Cover Page

It is the first section in which the major details are introduced. The recommended title is 60 characters long. Overall, pay attention to the following information on the title page:

  • Your full name
  • Professor’s name
  • Peers who took part in the investigation (if any)
  • Submission date


A summary is an essential component of any research paper. It’s referred to as an abstract in college. The length of such a text should not be more than 250-300 words (1/3 of an A4 page), and a student should include the basic findings, their significance, and a brief conclusion.


Experts advise conducting in-depth research into the background of the investigation. Try to explain why the chosen problem requires analysis and discussion. Mention the expected outcomes of the working process, as well as a hypothesis that should be enclosed in the introduction (it would be the thesis). Also, don’t forget to mention your thesis statement or research topic.


List the tools, equipment, and techniques used to conduct a study. This section should allow you to replicate the investigation step by step. The section’s goal is to allow other scientists who are interested in the same research question to continue the investigation.

Results & Discussion (R&D)

Most master paper writers combine results and discussion into a single large section. They are interconnected. Begin by sharing the study’s findings. Continue interpreting the significance of the results for society and provide a brief synopsis of the main components: figures and statistical examinations. Place numbers next to any visual elements for understanding (graphs, images, etc.) to provide details in the final section — Appendix.


  • It is necessary to include the following in the Conclusion section:
  • A summary of the results
  • Paraphrased thesis statement
  • Value of the research paper
  • Ways to implement the findings
  • Some forecasts
  • References

Create a complete list of references based on the paper format you’ve chosen. Each time you cite something, make a note of the source’s information on a separate piece of paper. It will hasten the process in the end.

Things to Remember

  • An outline is similar to an action plan in that it guides you through the writing process.
  • If your assignment is longer than 1000 words, you must create an outline.
  • The outline is divided into three sections: the Introduction, the Body, and the Conclusion.
  • The outline format varies according to the type of academic assignment (MLA, APA).
  • Before creating a research paper outline, read the most recent version of the research paper format manual.

Research Paper Outline Example

Check out this free research paper outline template example: Creating an Eye-Catching Resume! The example is written in accordance with the APA writing style guidelines; the rules of the game may differ in other formats.