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

A research paper outline is a useful tool to aid in the writing process, providing a structure to follow with all information to be included in the paper clearly organized.

A research paper outline can also give your teacher an early idea of the final product.

Research paper outlines can consist only of notes or be extremely detailed. Your teacher might provide guidance as to the kind of outline they wish to see; if not, choose what works best for you. Example: Measles and the vaccination debate

    1. Definition of measles
    2. Rise in cases in recent years in places the disease was previously eliminated or had very low rates of infection
    3. Figures: Number of cases per year on average, number in recent years. Relate to immunization
    1. Symptoms and timeframes of disease
    2. Risk of fatality, including statistics
    3. How measles is spread
    1. Immunization procedures in different regions
    2. The immunization debate, addressing two sides: why immunization is recommended and why there are groups questioning its validity
      1. Different regions, focusing on the arguments from those against immunization
    1. Outbreaks in USA, Australia, Thailand
      1. Immunization figures in affected regions
    2. High number of cases in non-immunizing regions
    1. Dangers presented by measles as linked to other diseases
      1. Illnesses that can result from measles virus
      2. Fatal cases of other illnesses after patient contracted measles
    1. Summary of arguments of different groups
    2. Summary of figures and relationship with recent immunization debate
    3. Concluding statement based on gathered data
      1. Which side of the argument appears to be correct?
To create an outline:
  1. Place your thesis statement at the beginning.
  2. List the major points that support your thesis. Label them in Roman Numerals (I, II, III, etc.).
  3. List supporting ideas or arguments for each major point. …
  4. If applicable, continue to sub-divide each supporting idea until your outline is fully developed.

How to Outline & Organize a Research Paper or Writing Assignment

How to write a research paper outline

After identifying a topic, determine the type of research paper youll be writing. Common formats include descriptive essays, are argumentative essays and comparative essays. Fortunately, the structures for all three are very similar. Below, are several steps that will help you craft an outline.

Why use an outline?

Outlines are visual aids that assist writers in organizing essays. Most outlines contain the key points of each paragraph, the thesis, topic sentences, and supporting sentences, quotes or citations. Writers use outlines to visualize the elements of their essay and see how they fit together. While many high school and college research papers are five paragraphs in length, longer papers are often variations on this format. Consequently, familiarity with the five-paragraph essay should ease the transition to longer papers.

Example research paper outlines

In most cases, you wont turn in your outline. As such, Its okay to modify it as often as necessary. While a well-crafted outline using parallel structure looks nice, its most important function is to help you write. Maintaining a consistent style and format is less important than using the elements most helpful to you.

Research outline example one

The example below provides a basic template for five paragraph research papers.

I. Introduction

A. Introductory sentence

B. Supporting sentence, citation or quote

C. Supporting sentence, citation, or quote

D. Thesis

II. Body Paragraph I

A. Topic sentence related to first point of thesis

B. Supporting sentence 1 or quote with explanation

C. Supporting sentence 2 or quote with explanation

D. Supporting sentence 3 or quote with explanation

III. Body Paragraph II

A. Topic sentence related to second point of thesis

B. Supporting sentence 1 or quote with explanation

C. Supporting sentence 2 or quote with explanation

D. Supporting sentence 3 or quote with explanation

IV. Body Paragraph III

A. Topic sentence related to third point of thesis

B. Supporting sentence 1 or quote with explanation

C. Supporting sentence 2 or quote with explanation

D. Supporting sentence 3 or quote with explanation

V. Conclusion

A. Restate thesis in a new way

B. Supporting sentence 1

C. Supporting sentence 2

D. Final thoughts, including ideas for future research or additional questions

Research outline example 2

The example below is for a paper that makes the argument that using a ketogenic diet may reduce the incidence of certain disease. In this case, certain topics may be expanded into separate paragraphs. It uses a full sentence, parallel structure.

I. Introductory paragraph

A. In the United States, health experts have increasingly looked at diet as a causal factor in diseases such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimers, and diabetes.

B. The prevalence of diabetes, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis in the United States is increasing. (Journal of Health statistics)

C. The ketogenic diet is a high fat, moderate protein, low carbohydrate diet.

a. carbohydrates

b. fat

c. protein

D. Thesis

II. Body Paragraph I

A. The ketogenic diet successfully helps adherents control blood sugar.

B. Increased carbohydrate intake negatively affects blood sugar, insulin and correlates with certain disease.

C. Restricting carbohydrate intake improves measures of fasting blood sugar, insulin response and appears to reduce the instance of certain disease.

D. Several studies have examined the effects of the ketogenic diet, blood sugar, and disease severity.

III. Body Paragraph II

A. In addition to possible disease-modifying benefits of blood sugar control, the ketogenic diet may prevent disease by reducing adherents consumption of processed food.

B. The ketogenic diet reduces consumption of processed food

C. There is a correlation between consuming processed food and multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and Alzheimers.

D. Replacing processed food with unprocessed food leads to a decrease in the prevalence of certain diseases (Journal of Diabetes and Weight Management, 2016)

IV. Body Paragraph III

A. Finally, the ketogenic diet may reduce the occurrence of disease by reducing the overconsumption of protein.

B. Excess protein consumption may contribute to disease.

C. The ketogenic diet moderates protein consumption.

D. Studies find there are benefits of decreased protein consumption on disease.

V. Conclusion

A. In conclusion, the ketogenic diet may reduce disease through its roles in reducing carbohydrate and protein intake, as well as aiding in blood sugar management.

B. Summarize research on how the following contribute to disease:

C. Review how ketogenic diet may be beneficial because it:

D. Research appears to suggest that there is a relationship between a ketogenic diet and a decrease in variables that may contribute to Alzheimers, diabetes, or multiple sclerosis.

Research outline example 3

This example is a brief, topical outline of reasons why schools should use technology for educational purposes.

I. Introduction

A. The increasing role of technology in careers

B. The need for technologically literate citizens

C. The role of educators to prepare students must include technology literacy

D. The benefits of technology for students include

II. Body paragraph one

A. Technology allows for simulations, games, and programming

B. Examples of simulation

C. Examples of games

D. Examples of programming

III. Body paragraph two

A. Technology allows for distance learning

B. Examples of remote learning

C. Example of hybrid learning

D. Examples of remote collaborations

IV. Body paragraph three

A. Technology is an important part of many careers

B. Technology prevalence in work (cite Johnson, et. al., 2018)

C. Examples of school projects that mimic work projects (STEM Camp, Boulder Schools, 2012)

D. Examples of schools using technology for problem-solving

V. Conclusion

A. Three reasons to encourage technology in school

B. Summary of innovative uses of technology

C. Summary of support for using technology in schools

D. Ideas for future research

a. Using technology as an intervention for struggling students

Research paper outline example 4

The following example is for a five-paragraph compare and contrast essay on driving vs using public transportation. It uses the full sentence structure. Research could investigate the specific costs of each type of transportation, their environmental impact, and the value of convenience.

I. Introduction

A. Many people use both private and public transportation.

B. Most large cities have busses, subways, and elevated trains that travel within walking distance of many city centers.

C. There are millions of cars on the road, attesting to their popularity.

D. This paper will examine the similarities and differences between public and private transportation.

II. Body paragraph one (similarities)

A. There are several similarities between public and private automobile transportation.

B. Both have direct and indirect costs.

C. Both get you where you need to be.

D. Both mostly burn fossil fuels.

III. Body paragraph two (differences)

A. There are several differences between public and private automobile transportation.

B. The daily costs of maintaining an automobile are higher.

C. The net environmental impact of using public transportation is less, therefore it is better for the environment.

D. Public transportation requires adhering to the public transportation schedule.

E. Private transportation is more convenient, allowing for greater freedom.

IV. Summary of findings

A. While public transportation does have advantages, driving is superior.

B. Driving allows for greater freedom.

C. Driving is more convenient

D. Driving accommodates those with special physical needs

E. Driving saves time

V. Conclusions

A. This paper examined the similarities and differences between using private and public transportation.

B. Advantages of public transportation include cost and environmental considerations.

C. Advantages of private transportation include convenience, speed, time savings.

a. Reduce environmental impact by buying an electric car, carpooling, or ride-sharing.

b. Reduce the cost of driving by ride-sharing, buying a reliable used car, driving infrequently.

D. In conclusion, both types of transportation have their respective advantages and disadvantages; for reasons outlined above, however, I believe driving is preferable to public transportation.


What is included in a research paper outline?

An outline is a basement of your research paper from which you build up the whole paper. Each outline consists of three main parts the Introduction, the Body, and the Conclusion. For a successful and high-quality research paper, however, the more detailed outline you use the better.

What are the three 3 research formats outlines?

There are three different kinds of research paper outline: alphanumeric, full-sentence and decimal outlines.

What are the 7 guidelines in writing an outline?

  • Craft your premise.
  • Roughly sketch scene ideas.
  • Interview your characters.
  • Explore your settings.
  • Write your complete outline.
  • Condense your outline.
  • Put your outline into action.

What are the 5 parts of research paper?

There are five MAJOR parts of a Research Report:
  • Introduction.
  • Review of Literature.
  • Methods.
  • Results.
  • Discussion.

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