Outline for a Research Paper: Quick Guide

Most students usually write outlines before they start writing a research paper. Outlines help you organize your thoughts, building a structure of a paper, and sorting information in a necessary order. Research papers must show what you know about a certain topic, as well as your ability to analyze complicated issues and apply various approaches. An outline can help you determine the most suitable method and note some important details. Obviously, such a blueprint makes writing much easier and more efficient than free improvisation which would require additional work and rewriting.

Outlines are a good habit if you want to be sure that you didn’t forget a thing. Another important reason for writing outlines is that you can split the entire paper into several main parts, thus creating a plan for further work. A proper organization of work is extremely important in conditions of tight deadlines, when you don’t have much time for changing the already written paper. Just write an outline, and spend every day writing a particular section, following a plan.

Tips on Structure

Generally, the outline structure is the same, no matter which topic you choose. You can write a short research paper for high school or PhD application, the structure of the outline will always match the structure of the paper itself. You can learn more about structure by studying examples for elementary students. We also suggest following the classical scheme which consists of three major sections:

  1. Introduction
  2. Body
  3. Conclusion

This structure looks simple, but in fact, each of these sections contains a lot of information.

Never underestimate the introduction, since this part of the research paper determines the very first reaction of your readers. It can make them excited, or stop them from reading your paper at all. The most important part of the introduction is a so-called “hook”. It’s the first sentence of your paper which must attract your readers and motivate them to read more. The introduction also includes your thesis statement, a basic explanation of the subject of your research (definitions, general issues), and the explanation of necessary terms.

The body part may have several paragraphs, each of which describes a particular point, and proves it with arguments. This section gives your readers a better understanding of your research. Writing the body part, don’t forget that your paper is a kind of investigation. The body contains details of your investigation, and the introduction represents its agenda.

Another important feature of research papers is the literature overview. You must provide readers with relevant information on used sources, so they could assess the quality of your research, and access the original materials. Writing the literature overview, you also demonstrate your ability to operate with theory, evidence, and terms. This section must reflect your topic and illustrate your analysis of the existing works.

Usually, the section of methods and literature is followed by analysis and data. You have to present results of your research, and you have to make this section structured and logical. We suggest illustrating your paper with tables or charts, anything that can help your readers perceive data easily. Tell why your results are important for such a topic; describe its weak and strong sides.

The conclusion usually doesn’t contain any additional data. Here you just have to summarize your paper and tell how your results can be used in future. Always mention your thesis statement at the end of the paper, since the thesis must connect all parts of it, keeping your readers connected to your line of thoughts.

Additional Info

Research papers differ by topics. If you’re a student of a university or college, you usually get your topic assigned by an instructor. Sometimes you have a chance to choose a topic yourself. Anyway, don’t forget that your topic must be related to the discipline.

Don’t try to write a long research paper. Try to make it brief and informative. Always create a proper structure of headings and subheadings – an outline is the best way for it. Writing a final version of the paper, make sure that you don’t repeat yourself.

We decided to write a couple examples for you, check them out:

Thesis: The Impact of Internet on Education and Social Skills of Children


  1. Introduction to the topic
  2. Methodology
  3. General statement
  4. Quick review of used sources
  5. Significance of the study


  1. Background of the problem
    1. The history of the internet, its role in our everyday lives
    2. First mentions of problems caused by the internet
    3. Explanation of causes of such problems, impact of the internet on education
  2. Positive aspects of the internet
    1. Educational online sources and opportunities that internet gives students
    2. Social networks and education
    3. Examples of internet affected children in a positive way
  3. Negative aspects of the internet
    1. Violence, games, and other distractions
    2. Examples of internet affected children in a negative way


  1. Brief summary of arguments
  2. Thesis statement
  3. Final words: recommendations regarding the use of facts and ideas described in the paper

Thesis: Causes and Effects of Abortion


  1. Introduction of the topic
  2. Medical definitions and necessary terms
  3. General theoretical points
  4. Methodology
  5. Thesis statement
  6. Used sources
  7. Significance of the research


  1. Background of the problem in more detail
    1. Reasons for abortion and the history of the issue. All the controversial points, arguments for and against
    2. Position of the government and religious organizations
    3. Consequences of abortion, safe and dangerous methods
  2. Alternatives to abortions
  3. Good and bad sides of abortion
    1. Advantages of abortion, facts, and examples. Abortions in conditions of the modern society. Examples and facts.
    2. Disadvantages of abortion. Examples and facts.


  1. Brief summary of arguments
  2. Thesis statement
  3. Final words: recommendations regarding the use of facts and ideas described in the paper

Check our writing tips and write your best papers!

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