Nova A.
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A Comprehensive Guide to Creating a Research Paper Outline

13 min read

Published on: May 7, 2021

Last updated on: Jan 30, 2024

research paper outline

Making a research paper outline is an essential step for writing a research paper. By creating an outline, you can simplify the writing process and ensure that your paper is well-organized and easy to follow.

This blog provides an easy-to-follow guide on how to craft an effective research paper outline. You’ll also get some useful tips and example outlines to help you learn faster.

So let’s dive in!

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What is a Research Paper Outline?

A research paper outline is a plan or blueprint that helps you organize your research paper before you start writing.

In other words, it is the structure of your research that provides a clear and organized roadmap for your paper. It contains several sections, with each section having sub-sections or topics for each paragraph. The outline also contains relevant evidence for each section.

Creating a research paper outline is essential for several reasons. It helps you…

  • Organize your ideas logically,
  • Make sure you include all important points,
  • Ensure that all points are related,
  • Identify any gaps or issues early on.

Structure of Research Paper Outline

Your research paper outline needs to have the following sections:

  • Title of your research
  • Thesis Statement / Main Hypothesis
  • Main Sections
    • Literature Review
    • Research Methodology
    • Main Findings / Main Arguments
    • Supporting Analysis / Discussion
  • Conclusion

Let’s explore this structure and how you can incorporate it into your outline.

Title of the Research

Having a clear title for your research is necessary for the outline. The title reveals the main variables involved in your research and indicates the focus of your study. 

Hypothesis & Research Questions

Your hypothesis is the central claim of your research paper. It should be a concise statement that summarizes the main argument of your research. It should be specific and focused, providing a clear direction for your paper.

Another important part of the outline is your research questions. You should mention the main questions that your research aims to answer in your outline.

Other Major Sections

The main sections of a research paper outline typically include the following:

Literature Review

In this section, you mention all the existing literature you have studied for your research. It could include articles, books, and other scholarly sources that you reviewed during your research. 

Expert Tip

Conducting a literature review is another essential aspect of research. Learn how to write a literature review with our guide.

Research Methodology 

The research methodology section outlines the methods and techniques you will use for your research. 

It should provide a clear description of the research design, data collection methods, and data analysis techniques you will use.

Research Body - Arguments & Related Evidence

Your arguments and discussion forms the main parts of your body paragraphs. In the outline, you can divide the research body into several parts - each part having a specific topic or argument that supports your main hypothesis.

Here is an example of how a research paper outline following the above structure looks like: 


The Impact of Social Media on Mental Health among Young Adults

  • Hypothesis

Increased use of social media among young adults is associated with negative effects on their mental health.

  • Research Questions
  1. What is the relationship between social media use and mental health among young adults?
  2. How does the frequency and intensity of social media use affect mental health among young adults?
  3. What strategies can be implemented to mitigate the negative impact of social media on the mental health of young adults?
  • Research Methodology

- This research will adopt a mixed-methods approach, combining both quantitative and qualitative data collection methods. 

- A sample size of 500 young adults aged between 18 and 25 years will be selected using a purposive sampling technique.

  • Literature Review

- Smith, A. (2019). Social Media and Mental Health: A Comprehensive Analysis. Journal of Social Psychology, 45(2), 120-135.

-Johnson, B. (2020). Social Media Use and Anxiety Levels among Young Adults: A Longitudinal Study. Journal of Adolescent Psychology, 32(4), 550-565.

- Thompson, C. (2021). The Relationship Between Social Media Addiction and Depression in Young Adults. Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 18(3), 210-225.

- Martinez, D. (2022). Social Media and Body Image Dissatisfaction among College Students. Journal of Health Psychology, 55(1), 80-95.

- Davis, L. (2023). The Impact of Social Media on Sleep Quality and Mental Health in Young Adults. Journal of Sleep Medicine, 12(2), 220-235.

  • Research Body
  1. Social Media and it’s Prevalence
  • (Mention relevant arguments, data, evidence, or discussion)
  • …
  • …
  1. Factors Influencing the Relationship Between Social Media Use and Mental Health
  • (Mention relevant arguments, data, evidence, or discussion)
  • …
  • …
  1. Discussion of the Implications of the Findings
  • (Mention relevant arguments, data, evidence, or discussion)
  • …
  • …
  • Conclusion

Now that you know what you have to include in a research paper outline, let’s see how you can write an efficient one in simple steps.

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Steps for Writing Research Paper Outline

Crafting a research paper outline doesn't have to be difficult. By breaking it down into manageable steps, you can create a helpful that will guide your research till it’s finished. 

Here's how to create a research paper outline step-by-step:

Step 1: Identify Your Hypothesis & Research Questions

Before you get started on your outline, you need to have a clear understanding of your hypothesis and research questions. 

You can choose any hypothesis related to your field of research. Just make sure that it is specific, focused, clear, and concise. Similarly, you need to have research questions in mind which will guide your overall research. 

Step 2: Choose a Methodology & Gather Relevant Information 

Once you have identified your hypothesis, the next step is to choose your research methodology and the type of research you want to do. 

This includes choosing whether you want to use a qualitative, quantitative or mixed-methods approach. Moreover, you need to decide whether to conduct primary or secondary research.

Expert Tip

Want to learn more about ways of conducting research? Read our guide about types of research methodologies.

You also need to gather relevant sources and information. This means reading and reviewing established research to gather evidence and data that will be useful for your paper. Note down your sources and any information in there that you find useful and relevant. 

Step 3: Make a List of Your Main and Sub-Points - H3

The next step is to make a list of points and sub-points that you want to make in your research paper.

This is the brainstorming stage. The research framework you established and the literature you read previously will help you come up with relevant ideas. Jot down any relevant sections, sub-sections, or topics that you think you need to cover in your research.

Step 4: Organize Your Points, Sub-Points, & Evidence 

Now that you have your evidence, topics, and points, you need to arrange them in a logical manner.

You can start by organizing your main points into sections, and then breaking down those sections into sub-points. This will help you create a hierarchy of information that flows logically throughout your paper.

For example, 

If your research paper is about the impact of social media on mental health, you might have a section on the negative effects of social media. 

Under the negative effects section, you might have sub-points about cyberbullying, addiction, and the comparison game.

Once you have your main points and sub-points organized, you can start adding in the evidence you gathered during Step 2. This can include quotes from research articles, statistics, or other relevant data that supports your main points and sub-points.

Step 5: Review and Revise the Outline -H3

The final step in creating your research paper outline is to review and revise it. This is an important step because it ensures that your outline is clear, concise, and logical.

Take a step back and review your outline with fresh eyes. Does it make sense? Are there any gaps in the information? Do you have enough evidence to support your main points and sub-points?

Make any necessary revisions to your outline until you feel confident that it accurately represents the flow and content of your research paper.

Here’s a short video about writing research paper outline that you can watch for additional help:

Research Paper Outline Format- H2

The outline provides a structure for your paper - but it can be formatted in different ways. You could use any format for your outline as long as it is clear, easy, and useful for you.

Here are some popular ways of formatting your outline:

Alphanumeric Point-by-Point Outline - H3

The most common type of outline used in academic writing is an alphanumeric one. It organizes various sections, parts, and points of your outline using alphabets and Roman or Arabic numerals. 

Each part of the outline is described using headings, sub-headings, and short notes. 

Here is an example of a point-by-point research paper outline:

Renewable Energy

I. Introduction

  1. Definition of Renewable Energy
  2. Importance of Renewable Energy

II. Types of Renewable Energy Sources

A. Solar Energy

  1. Photovoltaic (PV) Solar Energy
  2. Concentrated Solar Power (CSP)

B. Wind Energy

  1. Onshore Wind Energy
  2. Offshore Wind Energy

C. Hydropower

  1. Run-of-River Hydropower
  2. Pumped Storage Hydropower

D. Geothermal Energy

  1. Dry Steam Power Plants
  2. Flash Steam Power Plants

III. Advantages and Disadvantages of Renewable Energy

A. Advantages

  1. Reduced Carbon Emissions
  2. Energy Security
  3. Cost-Effective

B. Disadvantages

  1. Intermittency
  2. High Initial Costs
  3. Land and Resource Constraints

IV. Renewable Energy Policies and Regulations

  1. National Renewable Energy Targets
  2. Feed-in Tariffs
  3. Net Metering

V. Challenges and Opportunities in the Renewable Energy Sector

  1. Energy Storage
  2. Grid Modernization
  3. Renewable Energy in Developing Countries

VI. Conclusion

  1. Recap of Key Points
  2. Future of Renewable Energy.

Full-Sentence Outline 

A full-sentence outline uses complete sentences to define the sections and points in the outline instead of headings. 

This type of outline is more detailed. It is helpful when you need to present a detailed overview of the topics and arguments in your research outline.

Here is a basic research paper outline in full-sentence format.

I. The importance of proper hydration for overall health

A. Hydration plays a critical role in the proper functioning of the human body.

  1. Water makes up more than half of the human body and is essential for numerous bodily functions.
  2. Proper hydration ensures that our organs function efficiently and that our body temperature stays within a healthy range.

II. The signs of dehydration are following.

A. Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluid than it takes in.

  1. Symptoms of dehydration can range from mild to severe.
  2. Early signs of dehydration include thirst, dry mouth, and headache.

B. Without proper intervention, severe dehydration can be life-threatening.

  1. Symptoms of severe dehydration include confusion, dizziness, and low blood pressure.
  2. In extreme cases, dehydration can lead to seizures or organ failure.

III. Tips for staying properly hydrated

A. The best way to stay hydrated is to drink enough water.

  1. The recommended daily intake of water is eight 8-ounce glasses.
  2. Other hydrating options include sports drinks, coconut water, and herbal tea.

B. Consuming water-rich foods can also help maintain proper hydration.

  1. Fruits and vegetables such as watermelon, cucumber, and celery have high water content.
  2. Avoiding excessive caffeine and alcohol intake can also contribute to better hydration.

IV. Conclusion

A. Staying properly hydrated is essential for overall health and well-being.

  1. Proper hydration can improve bodily functions, mental clarity, and mood.
  2. Recognizing the signs of dehydration and taking steps to prevent it is critical for good health.

Decimal Outline 

The decimal outline is similar to the alphanumeric point-by-point outline. It just uses a different system to enumerate the outline. 

It uses numbers and decimals to denote main sections, sub-sections, and other points. This outline is easier to understand for most people, as it uses clear, understandable numbers for each part.

Here is an example:

1. Introduction
1.1 Hook
1.2 Background
1.3 Thesis Statement

2. Body Paragraph 1
2.1. Point 1
   2.1.1. Evidence 1
   2.1.2. Evidence 2

2.2 Point 2
   2.2.1. Evidence 1
   2.2.2. Evidence 2

3. Body Paragraph 2
3.1 …..
   3.1.1. ……
3.2 ……
3.3 ……

4. Body Paragraph 3
4.1 …..
   4.1.1. ……
4.2 ……
4.3 ……

5. Conclusion

Research Paper Outline Example

We have gathered some examples that will help you understand research outlines better. Check these out. 

Tips for Writing a Better Research Paper Outline

You are now ready to get started on writing your research paper outline. But before you do, here are three tips that will help you make an even better and more effective outline for your paper.

Keep it Consistent and Parallel

Make sure that your headings and subheadings are consistent throughout your outline. Use the same level of detail for each section and avoid mixing different types of headings.

Moreover, ensure that the structure of your outline is parallel. Each section should have a similar structure, with headings and subheadings that follow the same format. This will help to create a sense of balance and clarity in your outline.

Maintain Coherence: Coordination and Subordination

Ensure that your ideas flow logically from one section to the next. Ensure that each section builds upon the previous one.

You can do this by making each section of your outline coordinate with the overall topic of your research paper. Each section should relate to the central theme of your paper, and each subtopic should support the main argument.

In other words, each subtopic should be subordinate to the main topic of your paper. Each subtopic should be more specific than the main topic, while the supporting evidence should be even more specific.

Divide it into Sections

Ensure that your outline divides your research paper into distinct sections. Each section should have its own theme and be supported by specific evidence.

With these tips, your outline will become even clearer and better. It would come in handy when you start writing your actual research paper, making the process a lot easier.

To Wrap Up

Creating a research paper outline is an important step in producing a high-quality academic paper. A well-structured outline helps to organize your ideas, arguments, and research findings logically and coherently, making it easier for you to write your paper. 

With our essay writer, you can develop an outline that will help enhance the quality of your paper.

However, if you find the task of creating a research paper outline too challenging or time-consuming, you can always rely on! 

We are a professional research paper writing service that provides top-notch research paper outlines and other writing services. Our experienced writers can develop a customized outline that meets your specific requirements and guidelines. 

So don't hesitate to contact us today and take advantage of our professional essay writing. Order your research paper outline now!

Frequently Asked Questions

How long should a research paper outline be?

A typical research paper outline is about one to two pages in length. However, there is no fixed length for a research paper outline, as it depends on the scope and complexity of the research topic.

Can I modify my research paper outline once I start writing my paper?

Yes, you can modify your research paper outline as you write your paper. It is common to revise your outline as you uncover new information or change your research focus. However, make sure that your outline remains coherent and well-structured.

Should I include citations in my research paper outline?

Yes. When you include evidence in your outline that you gathered through research, you should cite its reference. You can add a separate page for the “References” or “Works Cited” section below the outline. 


Nova A.


Nova A. (Literature, Marketing)

As a Digital Content Strategist, Nova Allison has eight years of experience in writing both technical and scientific content. With a focus on developing online content plans that engage audiences, Nova strives to write pieces that are not only informative but captivating as well.

As a Digital Content Strategist, Nova Allison has eight years of experience in writing both technical and scientific content. With a focus on developing online content plans that engage audiences, Nova strives to write pieces that are not only informative but captivating as well.

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