Research Paper Outline: Main Rules

We suppose it is high time to discuss an important issue that every student face when having his or her course at college or university. It is time to dig into the topic and find out the best way to write a research paper outline. An outline is basically a draft, and it is an obvious or even an obligatory part that no research paper can go without. Its purpose consists in helping a writer to organize the thoughts and settle them in a set order to make the writing more structured. 

A research paper is a demanding task, and its aim is to present a scientific investigation and prove that a student is responsible for the data he includes in the project. You will ensure that the material is structured properly and that you did not miss any substantial information. This is a great basis for the whole process, and it will serve as a perfect plan to help you stay on track with your work. 

With the help of a consistent approach, you will be in a less hurry and manage to deal with all parts of the research more effectively. You will also be less stressed and worried about the result when you have your things organized. At first, any assignment may seem quite difficult and demanding, but when it is split into coherent parts, the work does not frighten you anymore. This way, you can divide the workload and be calm that you will not dissuade from the path. 

Elaborate on the Structure to Know Where to Start 

When you set your goal to create an outline for a research paper, you should think ahead and consider each and every part of the plan. Take into account that being attentive and careful when designing an outline is mandatory, as this plan will guide you through the whole research paper writing. Thus, you need a well-developed structure to avoid any confusion. 

Keep it in mind that this type of assignment is a very important task that should be performed with great diligence, as it will be evaluated with rigorous scrutiny. When making up an outline, you need to show your interest in the topic and understanding of the key points. This way, you can avoid mistakes in presenting the material. 

If you do not have adequate knowledge but need to create an outline from scratch, here are basic sections that a good outline should include:

  • a well-thought-out and coherent title;
  • thesis statement;
  • a few strong arguments for further in-depth investigation;
  • consistent and successive supporting points to make every argument sound convincing;
  • clear conclusion.

You should take into account the above-mentioned structure, as, despite the topic of your research paper, the sequence of items will be mostly the same. Your main reference point is the structure of the research paper, and you should write an outline in accordance with it. 

However, if you need to write a text from scratch, we advise you to read on and see how to do it correctly. 

Dig Deeper into Details. 

Actually, the research paper consists of the main sections that you cannot forget. These are the following points that will help you to encompass the necessary information and structure it properly. 


This is the beginning of your research, and it aims at giving the reader brief information about the findings and goals that you intend to achieve. This basic Information should constitute no more than 4-5 sentences. Your task is to get the reader acquainted with the main information by providing him or her with the insights. In an abstract, you are supposed to answer what is the topic and subject of your research paper, which methods were used, and who participated in it. 

Make sure to put it in brief and place right after the title of your paper. 

Introduction part 

Another preliminary stage that prepares a reader for the main part. The introduction is thought to present the idea of the text and serves as a hook to grab the attention. Be sure to create an appealing and eye-catchy thesis that you demonstrate in the introductory section. Here you should also explain in a few words what the topic is all about. Additionally, insert here unknown words, terms, or phrases that a reader may be confused about. 

Remember to introduce the aims of your investigation and prove its relevance. 

Body paragraphs 

This part represents the main body of your research paper and should consist of a few subparts. When elaborating on your body paragraphs, keep in mind your thesis statement, and make everything connected. 

The body section is aimed at providing readers with strong arguments. Another point considers including the methodology to show the reader ways that you used to carry out research. 

Literature overview 

In your research, you have stated various theories or hypotheses. A literature overview aims at backing up your words with credible resources. In this part, you can prove your proficiency in working with the terminology, theory, and evidence. 

Data and analysis 

During the survey, you have probably come up with particular findings. Thus, in this section, your task is to present the results of the research. To make the information look more professional, place the data into tables, or use infographics to structure the numbers. 

Do not forget to point out the difficulties that were on your way while investigating the topic. Elaborate on the pros and cons of the process and tell about your expectations in brief. 


The final part serves as a frame to give the reader a cursory overview of what was previously presented in the research paper. In the first place, rephrase the thesis to remind the reader what is the idea of the paper. You also should not introduce any new findings or thoughts. This way, you will only confuse the reader. Your task is to sum up the information and lead the reader to a particular assumption. 

Adhere to the Formats 

Writing a research paper can be challenging, as there are different formats with peculiar ways of presenting the information. Often, inappropriate delivery of information can make the document of lower quality and thus harm the grades. 

To minimize the risk of being underscored, you should always consult the requirements given in the task. Usually, there is appropriate information on how to format the text. There are two main formats used in academic writing. These are MLA and APA formats. Let’s consider each of them and see what their peculiar features of use are.

MLA style requirements 

When you work with MLA format, you should follow these rules to have the text written properly:

  • you should put your name and the name of a professor on the first page;
  • make sure to include the information considering your class and the date on the first page as well;
  • at the upper right corner of the page there should be page numbers;
  • titles and mandatory emphases are to be italicized;
  • the list of endnotes should be compiled and performed before cited works;
  • make sure to mark your subheadings using the Arabic system of numbers. 

Try to be careful when citing the sources, like the way you should perform. It depends on the type of literature you work with. It can be a book, journal, article, video, etc. Omit the title page when working with MLA format, unless your professor has another opinion. Even if you are sure of your success, never hesitate to check the requirements and see whether you cover every point correctly or not. 

APA style requirements 

If the required format is APA, you should carry out the next requirements:

  • pay attention to the cover page and separate it from the whole paper;
  • title, your name and the name of the university, as well as the running head, should be put onto the cover page;
  • every other page features a header with number and title;
  • with APA format you need to include Abstract with the keywords, however, check it in your professor before writing, if you have doubts;
  • name your list of cited works as “References.”