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Outline for Research Paper: Step-By-Step Guide on Creating a Perfect One

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A research paper outline is a functional part of any academic paper that displays the hierarchy of work. It normally has a tree structure, so the featured items are frequently divided into sub-items. In some cases, it’s also called a table of contents. However, an outline is normally deemed as a wider category. It may stand for both a factual list of paragraphs and a structure used for sketching your paper. This means that sometimes it may be created for organizing information but not included in the final version of your work.

Right now, we will have a closer look at rules for crafting an easy-to-follow research paper outline, its key functions and types. Also, we will provide several examples, so you can get a clear view of a typical structure and format.  

How to Write a Research Paper Outline

Now we will learn how to write an outline for a research paper. From the very beginning, let’s figure out why we create it, after all. But, first look at the most important functions of this element.

So if you want your contents list to be really useful and appropriate, make sure that it satisfies those goals. When you are ready, you can start composing the outline itself. Just follow these simple steps:

Consider these simple steps, and you will be able to get most of your contents list. Use it as a tool that will help you shape your work logically.

Research Paper Outline Example: 3 Major Types

There are three types of college research paper outline formats that are generally accepted by most educational institutions. If there are no special rules considering format, you can use any type. However, it is recommended to ask your instructor about a preferred format in advance.

Here are the three outline formats that are academically accepted:  

Now, let’s take a closer look at each one.

Alphanumeric Outline Example

Alphanumerical approach is the most common outline type used in research papers. When following this structure, you should apply Roman and Arabic numerals together with capital letters to list all paragraphs and points. The headlines are formatted as short titles. The parent paragraph is written in all caps. Here’s an example:

Full Sentence Outline Example

Full sentence outline is generally very similar to the previous type. The key difference is that you should use full sentences instead of short headings, such as shown below. It's a good thing there's a reference that will help "write my research paper for me", right?

Decimal Outline Sample

As you can see below, the Decimal research paper outline format is also pretty similar to the Alphanumeric one. All headings are brief and shouldn’t lack any information. Fractional Arabic numbers are applied for listing key points.

Outline for a Research Paper: Grammatical Formatting

Now you already know how to outline a research paper in terms of layout. However, you also should remember some rules considering the language use. Actually, all grammatical word forms and consonance of word forms is also an important issue to consider. An A+ paper should be elegant in all respects. That’s why now we will learn how to format grammar in your contents list.

Parallel Structure of Outline Points

All words in the outline of a research paper need to be in the same grammatical form. For instance, if your parent paragraph starts with a noun, the sub-category also deserves a noun in the beginning. Parallelism increases readability and contributes to a logical paper structure.

Of course, you can ignore this rule if your specific structure requires different approach. However, attention to such details may be crucial for your work’s success. So just remember to keep your headings grammatically aligned from the very beginning. Cheap research paper writing service might help you with that.

Hierarchy of Points

When you think about how to do an outline for a research paper, you should always consider the hierarchy of points. Make sure that you compose it properly and all points and paragraphs are at the right place. Do not build multi-level hierarchies just to show that you have sub-paragraphs and sub-points in your structure. If your paper features headings that don’t have sub-levels, it’s perfectly OK. Don’t try to enforce the sub-level structure if it is not fitting in.

Differentiation of Points

When looking at good research paper outline examples, you can see that all points are differentiated logically. As much as you need to avoid unnecessary differentiation, you need to avoid unnecessary merging of categories. When creating it, don’t be afraid to subcategorize when you come up with a new idea. It is important to show your thoughts that you present via points, so don’t miss them.

From now on, you are officially proclaimed the master of essay outlines. With theoretical knowledge like that, it would be easy to nail any outline that will stand in your way.

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Article posted on:May 3, 2022
Article updated on:Jul 21, 2022


Leave your comment here:
6/24/2022 11:09 AM
Hello, I need some advice. Can you please tell me how long should a research paper outline be? I don't want to make it longer than I absolutely have to.
6/24/2022 12:34 PM
Hello Trevor,

There are no specific regulations on how long a research paper outline should be. However, you can make it about 2 to 3 pages and highlight all the important points you covered in your main text.
7/6/2022 4:44 PM
Hi! I'm writing a research paper and need to know whether I should make an outline for it. How relevant is it to know the outline of a research paper anyway?
7/6/2022 5:10 PM
Hi Rose,

Knowing your research paper outline depends on your whole study. But we advise you to create it in the first place, since it will be much easier to get highly helpful information and insights of the topic at a first glance.