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How to write a research paper outline: top things to keep in mind

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John Milovich
John Milovich
ScamFighter Expert
Former college customer turned freelance writer, shares insider insights on the essay industry.

So, you need to create an excellent research paper outline. What is the best point to start? Which features should it have? Many students face serious issues when composing a proper paper structure. Well, we are here to help you cope with this challenge in an easy and stress-free way. So, leave all your worries behind and explore our freshest tips below.

Are there different kinds of research paper outlines?

First, let’s get the answer to a more important question. What is the outline of a research paper? Should you develop a long or short research paper outline? Feel free to choose any type of outline mentioned below:

  • Alphanumeric: This research paper outline example uses letters and numbers to clearly convey the hierarchy of ideas and information within an outline.
  • Decimal: If you need to write research paper outline, you can simply apply decimals, which is about creating an easy hierarchy with numbers.
  • Full Sentence: This style implies completing sentences for every main point and subpoint.
  • Topic: This solution involves short phrases to highlight your paper’s main topics and subtopics without too many details.
  • Chronological: Organizing your outline chronologically makes sense if your paper follows a timeline or sequence of events.
  • Spatial: This type of research paper outline is useful for topics about physical spaces or relationships. You can organize your ideas based on their spatial relevance, like discussing locations or structures.

How to write a research paper outline

How to do a research outline? What research paper steps do you need to complete to get an excellent grade? Discover some unique prompts to cope with your assignment within the shortest terms below.

Deciphering the Outline: Purpose and Requirements

Understanding the purpose and requirements of the outline is essential. Any academic paper has its unique objective, writing rules, voice, and tone. Before writing, ensure you fully understand the professor’s requirements. Double-check whether you are familiar with these aspects:

  • A research paper outline helps organize thoughts, structure the paper, and guide research.
  • Understand the specific guidelines provided by your instructor or institution.

Mastering Topic Clarity: Main and Subtopic Tips

One of the most common mistakes of many learners is that they write about a particular topic too generally. As a result, identifying the main topic and subtopics of your essay is becoming difficult. To avoid this issue, pay attention to these tips:

  • Clearly define the primary subject of your research paper.
  • Break down the main topic into smaller, manageable subtopics that support your thesis.

Crafting a Cohesive Structure: Streamlining Your Writing Process

Organizing the outline based on the paper's structure means you need to select only the most relevant and striking options that fully support your idea. After that, continue with the following:

  • Decide on a logical sequence for presenting your ideas.
  • Coherently arrange subtopics to maintain the flow of your paper.

Integrating Thesis and Arguments: Harmonizing Your Paper's Core

Incorporating the thesis statement and main arguments is another task you will need to complete. What is more important, your facts and examples should organically fit your thesis statement. In other words, consider the following:

  • Craft a strong thesis statement that encapsulates your paper's main argument or purpose.
  • Ensure each main argument aligns with and supports your thesis statement.

Crowds of learners face serious difficulties writing a research paper outline. Some of them don’t have a clear vision of what's an outline for a research paper, while others may fail with doing advanced research, structuring, and formatting. If you can’t organize your ideas or feel like you are drowning in loads of data, you can start using professional academic writing services anytime! Expert writers will complete the entire assignment for you within the shortest terms. Also, they can write an outline for a paper according to your specific topic and requirements. However, don’t forget to read writing services reviews when choosing a company for fruitful cooperation.

Research paper outline examples

Is there any easy yet successful way to develop a research paper outline? Well, that is pretty simple. You just need to use the introduction, body, and conclusion sections.

Introduction: The beginning of your essay makes the entire tone of your paper. Moreover, some professors can tell you whether your essay is good from a single glance at your introduction! Make sure your intro has the following features:

  • Captures the reader's attention with a compelling opening.
  • Provides background information on the topic.
  • Has a clear thesis statement.

Body: You are wrong if you still think that the body is the simplest part to compose. To craft a top-notch research paper outline, you have to complete these steps:

  • Divide into sections or paragraphs based on your outlined subtopics.
  • Support each subtopic with evidence, examples, or research findings.
  • Maintain coherence and transition smoothly between sections.

Conclusion: Finalizing your research paper outline is another puzzle you need to solve. Fortunately, things will come easier if you put these rules into practice:

  • Summarize the main points discussed in the body.
  • Reinforce the significance of your thesis statement and main arguments.
  • Offer insights, suggestions, or implications for further research, if applicable.

Remember, your outline serves as a roadmap for your research paper. Keep it concise, organized, and aligned with the overall structure of your paper. Here is a comparison table on what a good and bad outline for a research paper might look like.

Research paper section Good outline Bad outline
I. Introduction A. Definition of time management What is time management?
  B. Importance of effective time management  
II. Benefits of Time Management A. Increased productivity It helps in being on time.
  B. Reduced stress levels  
  C. Improved work-life balance  
III. Strategies for Effective Time A. Prioritization techniques Do things on time.
Management 1. Eisenhower Matrix  
  2. ABC prioritization method  
  B. Time blocking and scheduling  
  C. Minimizing distractions  
IV. Case Studies and Examples A. Successful time management stories Describe that people who manage time well are successful.
  B. Real-life examples of time-wasting habits and consequences  
V. Tips for Implementing Time A. Start small and build habits gradually Try to manage your time better.
  B. Regular review and adjustments  
  C. Seek support and accountability  
VI. Conclusion A. Recap of key points Time management is important.
  B. Encouragement for applying time management principles  

So, which of these is a benefit of creating an outline for a research paper? In the research paper outline, each section is clearly labeled with main points and subpoints organized hierarchically. The outline provides a logical flow of ideas and includes specific strategies, examples, and tips. In contrast, the bad outline lacks specificity, coherence, and proper structure. It presents vague statements without clear direction or supporting details.

Research outline example

But what if you are feeling stuck with ideas? Facing issues with writing a research paper format? No worries! Here are a few sample outlines for research paper for any need and taste!

Artificial intelligence in healthcare

AI is one of the most disputable topics for many experts. You can show off your knowledge and dive deeper into this sphere using the following research paper outline example:

  1. Introduction
    1. Background of Artificial Intelligence (AI)
    2. Importance of AI in Healthcare
    3. Thesis Statement
  2. Overview of AI Applications in Healthcare
    1. Diagnostic Systems
    2. Treatment Planning and Personalized Medicine
    3. Health Monitoring and Predictive Analytics
  3. Benefits of AI in Healthcare
    1. Improved Diagnosis Accuracy
    2. Enhanced Patient Care and Outcomes
    3. Cost Reduction and Efficiency
  4. Ethical and Legal Considerations
    1. Patient Privacy and Data Security
    2. Bias and Fairness in AI Algorithms
    3. Regulatory Frameworks and Guidelines
  5. Challenges and Future Directions
    1. Integration with Existing Healthcare Systems
    2. Overcoming Technological Limitations
    3. Potential Impact on Healthcare Workforce
  6. Conclusion
    1. Summary of Key Points
    2. Implications for the Future of Healthcare
    3. Call to Action for Further Research and Implementation

Climate change and its impact on biodiversity

Climate and pollution have been among the hottest questions for years. If you decide to choose any topic from this field, feel free to use the following research paper structure:

  1. Introduction
    1. Background on Climate Change
    2. Importance of Biodiversity
    3. Thesis Statement
  2. Climate Change Effects on Biodiversity
    1. Habitat Loss and Fragmentation
    2. Species Extinction and Population Decline
    3. Changes in Ecosystem Dynamics
  3. Case Studies and Examples
    1. Coral Reef Bleaching Events
    2. Polar Bear Population Decline
    3. Shifts in Migration Patterns
  4. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies
    1. Conservation Efforts and Protected Areas
    2. Sustainable Land Use Practices
    3. Policy Initiatives and International Cooperation
  5. Socio-Economic Implications
    1. Impact on Indigenous Communities
    2. Economic Losses and Resource Scarcity
    3. Human Health Risks
  6. Conclusion
    1. Summary of Findings
    2. Urgency for Action and Global Cooperation
    3. Recommendations for Future Research and Policy Implementation

The role of social media in political activism

How to create an outline for a research paper? When writing a paper outline about social media and activism, you can plan your paper using the following schema:

  1. Introduction
    1. Definition and Importance of Political Activism
    2. Rise of Social Media Platforms
    3. Thesis Statement
  2. Social Media and Political Mobilization
    1. Case Studies on Successful Campaigns
    2. Role of Online Communities and Networks
    3. Impact of Viral Content and Hashtag Movements
  3. Challenges and Controversies
    1. Spread of Misinformation and Fake News
    2. Algorithmic Bias and Echo Chambers
    3. Government Regulation and Censorship
  4. Influence on Democratic Processes
    1. Voter Engagement and Civic Participation
    2. Electoral Campaign Strategies
    3. Public Opinion Formation and Influence
  5. Global Perspectives and Comparative Analysis
    1. Cross-Cultural Variations in Social Media Use
    2. Case Studies from Different Regions
    3. Lessons Learned and Best Practices
  6. Conclusion
    1. Summary of Key Findings
    2. Reflections on the Power and Limitations of Social Media
    3. Recommendations for Future Research and Advocacy Efforts

The psychology of addiction and recovery

So, how to write a research paper outline on psychological topics? You can easily take our draft and customize it according to your needs. This research paper outline example can be used as a standard schema (with adequate changes) for many essays.

    1. Introduction
      1. Definition and Types of Addiction
      2. Importance of Understanding Addiction Psychology
      3. Thesis Statement
    2. Biological Basis of Addiction
      1. Neurochemical Processes and Reward Pathways
      2. Genetic Predispositions and Vulnerabilities
      3. Impact of Substance Abuse on Brain Structure and Function
    3. Psychological Factors in Addiction
      1. Behavioral Conditioning and Reinforcement
      2. Coping Mechanisms and Self-Medication
      3. Co-occurring Mental Health Disorders
    4. Treatment Approaches and Interventions
      1. Pharmacotherapy and Medication-Assisted Treatment
      2. Behavioral Therapies and Cognitive Restructuring
      3. Support Groups and Peer Counseling
    5. Challenges in Recovery
      1. Relapse Prevention Strategies
      2. Social Stigma and Discrimination
      3. Access to Treatment and Support Services
    6. Personalized Approaches and Holistic Recovery Models
      1. Trauma-Informed Care and Healing Practices
      2. Integrative Medicine and Mind-Body Techniques
      3. Family Dynamics and Social Support Networks
    7. Conclusion
      1. Summary of Key Insights
      2. Importance of a Comprehensive Approach to Addiction
      3. Implications for Policy and Public Health Initiatives

These outlines should provide a structure for your research paper and guide you through organizing your ideas effectively. Of course, you can use your own template for research paper outline.


How to write a research paper outline? Well, this is never an easy task. However, composing your research paper can be much easier when using an expert writing service. You can try to complete an assignment by yourself, but remember, we are always here to help!


A research paper outline serves as a roadmap for your writing process, helping you organize your thoughts, structure your paper, and ensure coherence and clarity in your arguments.

Start by identifying your main ideas and supporting evidence, then arrange them logically in a hierarchical order. Use headings and subheadings to delineate different sections and ensure a smooth flow of ideas throughout your paper.

Be concise yet comprehensive, focusing on key points and omitting unnecessary details. Ensure consistency in formatting and adhere to any specific guidelines provided by your instructor or academic institution. Lastly, revising and refining your outline as you conduct research and develop your ideas will enhance the quality of your final paper.