9 Tips on How to Write a Research Paper Outline with Example

Writing an academic paper ranks among the most daunting task for university students. The challenge for many students is piecing up ideas yielded during research to make a coherent argument.

A paper outline helps students maneuver this challenge, allowing them to prepare a research paper that is easy to follow quickly. Read on to discover how to write a paper outline and the tips for a quality outline.

What is a research paper outline?

A research paper outline is a summary comprising detailed notes of the ideas you should cover in various sections of your paper. This outline helps students organize their ideas and gauge the completeness of their arguments before they begin writing.

How to Write a Research Paper Outline

This section will look at a research paper outline format and various tips to help you prepare a quality outline.

Steps for starting a research paper outline:

Like your writing phase, if the research outline is rushed, it may result in a weak argument, limiting your performance. As such, you should follow these steps to ensure that your academic paper outline covers the entirety of the topic.

  1. Select your topic from the research question you are provided with. Be keen to ensure that your topic has adequate materials to support your arguments and a fresh perspective that scholars in your field have not previously covered.
  2. Research the topic and jot down the key ideas that support your argument.
  3. Create a debatable thesis that is related to the research paper question.
  4. Group related arguments and place them in close sections. A quality outline should enable a smooth transition between various arguments in your paper.
  5. Determine the central ideas to cover in your conclusion section.

Tips for writing a college research paper outline:

  1. Label your points chronologically. Here, use alphabets to indicate related ideas and roman numerals to organize ideas so that the reader can easily follow through with your argument.
  2. Include only the main arguments of your paper into your outline. Covering less non-meaningful ideas will communicate unprofessionalism or divert the logical flow of your argument.
  3. Organize your outline into five sections. These sections should include the introduction and four major sections of your argument. When working on a longer paper, you can do this for each section, ensuring a smooth flow of arguments in various sections of your paper.
  4. Review your outline to ensure that each idea links to the next one. This makes it easy to take your readers through your argument as you build up to your conclusion.
  5. Consider a parallel structure where each sentence begins with a verb. Also, ensure that the verbs used are of the same tense.
  6. After research, develop an introductory sentence containing the main ideas to hook the reader. This sentence should communicate the paper's primary purpose to your audience before they dive into your work.
  7. Include all keywords to make it easy to trace the flow of your argument.
  8. Ensure that your sentences express your ideas clearly. This makes it easy for your tutor to analyze the scope of your argument and guide you on essential corrections.
  9. It would be best to record the materials next to the ideas for easy retrieval during the writing phase.

Language use in a research paper outline

Language is a crucial factor to consider when preparing your college research paper outline for assessment. The significant considerations under language are coordination, subordination, division, and parallelism.

  • Coordination: This dictates that subheadings should hold the same significance as each other.
  • Subordination: This style dictates that headings should be general with the specific ideas covered within your work.
  • Division: This implies breaking information into points and sub-points to organize your outline better.
  • Parallelism: This structure repeats a grammatical form in the points and sub-points and highlights similarities between a section's points. The parallel form also reduces superfluous words and the chances of errors such as those of false comparison. It also helps you summarize your work, making for an easy-to-follow outline.

Research paper outline example

This sample will highlight the format and components; this will help you write an outline for a paper quickly. If, for instance, your paper is analyzing the reasons for high unemployment rates in third world countries, your research paper outline may look like this:

  1. Introduction 

1.1 Hook: maybe statistics or a fact that highlights the issue to be covered.

1.2 Transition to thesis: background story on your selected topic.

1.3 Thesis statement showing the relevance of your study.

  1. First paragraph– describing the issue under discussion

2.1 Topic sentence: analyze the issue of unemployment rates in developing countries.

2.2 Evidence: provide data to show how unemployment rates differ between developing and developed countries.

2.3 Show how the data collected is supported by the thesis.

  1. Second Paragraph

3.1 Topic sentence: Highlight the issue that resulted in the unemployment gap between developing countries and their developed counterparts.

3.2 Evidence: provide data on how a specific country reformed itself to curb the unemployment rates.

3.3 Discuss the idea concerning the thesis statement.

  1. Third paragraph 

4.1 Topic sentence: why should the issue of unemployment in developing countries be addressed?

4.2 Evidence: What are the consequences if the issue is not addressed? What ideas do you recommend to improve the situation?

4.3 What are the impacts of these changes, and how can they be employed?

  1. Concluding Paragraph

5.1 Restate your thesis statement.

5.2 Summarize the significant points within your paper.

5.3 Summarize the expectations of the future were these recommendations to be employed.

Final Take

This guide should come in handy to help you master how to outline a research paper. However, be keen for specific guidelines offered by your professor regarding research paper outline assessments.