How to Write an Outline for a Research Paper: A Beginner’s Guide

Any writing a project requires a solid research paper outline from ideation to fruition. The process that involves a series of steps, each essential to the success of the article. To some people, it begins with data collection, literature review, and then creating a research paper outline.

Research Paper Outline
Research Paper Outline

To others, outlining a research paper may not seem that essential, and it’s a step they skip. This begs the question, how does using an outline help you organize your work? What are the parts of a research paper outline? What is an APA outline format like? These are just a few questions our guide on how to write an outline for a research paper will address.

What is a Research Paper Outline?

You cannot learn how to write an outline for a research paper or even understand how does using an outline help you organize your work if you don’t know what it is first. That said, a research essay outline is defined as a formal system used to establish the structure of a larger project.

 It’s like a to-do list for the research paper and provides a means to keep project ideas organized in a hierarchical format. The college research paper outline is structured to cover all subheadings in a research paper.

Why Invest Time in Writing a Research Paper Outline

There are two types of students, those who master how to write an outline for a research paper and enthusiastically use it as a research paper writing tool. Then some hate outlining a research paper and will only do so when necessary, for instance, when their professor puts it as a requirement for their project. Whichever camp you belong to; here’s why a college research paper outline is of the essence;

1.    Helps You Organize Your Ideas Coherently

All readers, whether they are experts on the topic you are writing about or non-experts interested in the topic, want to read through a paper that flows naturally from one part to another. If you have great research paper ideas but they’re not organized coherently, you risk boring your reader. A college research paper outline helps ensure this doesn’t happen. It helps you organize your points in terms of relevance, so the reader stays engaged from the word go to the end.

In other words, whenever you’re wondering how does using an outline help you organize your work, think of it as a jigsaw puzzle. Each piece must be in its respectful place so you can see the complete picture.

2.    Helps Improve the Quality of your Research Paper

An outline, be it a science research paper outline or a psychology research paper outline, is the framework for a research paper. In outlining a research paper, you get an overview of the ideas you will use to write your essay. Based on what you’ve come up with you can;

  • Identify relevant ideas.
  • Identify and address gaps in your research paper.  
  • Determine ideas that are not backed up by any legit sources and omit them.

3.    Keeps You Motivated

Want to enjoy the writing process? Create a research paper outline template. Outlining a research paper gives you a sense of direction. This keeps you on track because your efforts are channeled to writing instead of trying to guess what the next step should be.

How to Write an Outline?

Outlining a research paper is no rocket science, but it’s a task students find rather challenging. You can make it a tad easier by following the steps below;

Step 1: Select the Ideal Topic

Want to enjoy writing any of the parts of a research paper outline or the research paper itself? Select a good topic. Your instructor may offer you a list of questions to select from or give you a specific topic to work on. If this is the case, then it makes your work easier, and you may just skip to the next step below.

But if you’ve not been assigned a topic, you need to choose one. Given that writing parts in a research paper is a lot of work, the last thing you need is to be stuck with a topic you’ve never found interesting. It’ll make even outlining a special kind of torture.

Step 2: State Your Thesis Statement

After you’ve chosen your topic, the next step in writing a college research paper outline is creating a thesis statement. Go through existing research on that particular topic and come up with an argument that’ll provoke meaningful discussions, is of the essence to individuals in your field of study, and ensure there’s enough supporting evidence for it.

 In other words, the thesis statement of your research paper should be easily identifiable. Note, the thesis statement is usually under the introduction subheading in a research paper outline.

Step 3: List Down Your Main Points

With your thesis statement ready, the next step in crafting a practical science or psychology research paper outline is listing your arguments, starting with your strongest point. This way, anyone who reviews your outline and compares it to your research paper can quickly tell how does using an outline help you organize your work.

Step 4: Write Down Supporting Points

For each argument, you listed above, now go back and list down the supporting points. Outline the sources, facts, and examples, so when you do write the research paper, all you’ll need to do is build on the argument using these resources.

Structure of a Research Essay Outline

Now that you know how to write an outline and understand how does using an outline help you organize your work, how do you structure it? Well, while it comes down to the type of college research paper outline in question, most academic facilities require students to use the APA outline format.  That said, a typical APA outline format has almost similar subheadings in a research paper, and usually consists of the following parts;

The Introduction

Just as with subheadings in a research paper, the first subheading in an APA outline format is the introduction. In the research paper, the introduction tells the reader what they should expect to find in the rest of the paper.

The introduction to a research paper should be brief and engaging yet informative without giving the reader too much detail so they can continue reading your article. To come up with an introduction that meets this description, you need to outline it as well.

How to Outline Your Scientific Research Paper

Usually, outlining a research paper introduction involves crafting a clear and concise thesis statement, defining the basic terms, and highlighting the significance of your study. Here’s an introduction to a science research paper outline to show you what we mean;

Title: The Causes and Effects of Abortion

Thesis statement: Abortion; Primary Causes and Impact

  1. Introduction
  2. Brief background of abortion
  3. Define relevant terms
  4. The significance of the study on abortion

The Body  

The body is the central part in a research essay outline.

Since it represents the remaining subheadings in a research paper, the body section of an outline, whether a psychology research paper outline, a science research paper outline, has no volume limitations.

In other words, this is where a research essay outline gets to play its role accordingly. To make it easy to identify how your ideas flow when you write down the actual parts of a research paper, divide the body section of your outline using the same subheadings in a research paper. So, essentially, the body of your research essay outline should contain the following subsections;

  • The literature review
  • The methodology
  •  The findings
  • The discussion

The Conclusion

The conclusion part of a research paper summarizes the main points of your project. It tells the reader you’re coming to the end of your article and gives them your stand on the research question. Similarly, the conclusion of your outline should also summarize your main points. You should also state your thesis statement again. So, your APA outline format conclusion should;

  • Reword your thesis statement
  • Have an analytical summary
  • Give a concluding statement and recommendations.

Here’s an example of a psychology research paper outline to give you an idea of how to outline your conclusion;

  1. Conclusion
  2. Analysis of points in the body section
  3. Thesis restatement
  4. Recommendations

Research Outline Template

To help create a vivid picture of how to use all our psychology and science research paper outline pointers in action, we took the liberty to put together a research paper outline template you can use below;

Research Paper Outline Template #1

Science research paper outline sample

Title: The Causes and Effects of Abortion

Thesis statement: Abortion; Primary Causes and Impact

  1. Introduction
  2. Brief background of abortion
  3. Define relevant terms
  4. The significance of the study on abortion
  5. Main Body
  6. Primary causes of abortion
  7. The opinions and views of the church regarding abortion
  8. Consequences of abortion using scientific-backed sources
  9. Available alternatives
  10. Pros and Cons of abortion
  11. Conclusion
  12. Analysis of facts in the body of the research paper outline template above.
  13. Rephrase thesis
  14. Existing gaps in research
  15. Recommendations

Research Paper Outline Template #2

Psychology Research Paper Outline Sample

Title: Prejudice and Social Influence

Thesis statement: Prejudice can arise due to the traditional values of people within a particular social group or society in general

  1. Introduction
  2. Brief historical context of Prejudice
  3. The impact of Prejudice on society
  4. Define terms
  5. Body
  6. Types of Prejudice in our society (racial, cultural, gender-based, etc.)
  7. When Does Prejudice develop
  8. Types of solutions (for instance psychodynamic therapy)
  9. Conclusion
  10. Analysis of points in the body section
  11. Thesis restatement
  12. Recommendations

Outline Your Research to Excellence

At this point, we’re confident you know how to write an outline for a research paper. However, if you feel you don’t have what it takes to handle on your own, our team of proficient writers is only a click away.

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