Guide That Will Help You Create A Strong Research Paper Outline


Before you start composing your research paper, make sure to create an outline. This is a necessary stage of the writing process that will help you decide on the content of your work and organize it in the most efficient manner. A good preliminary outline will help you notice the gaps in your study, check if your ideas develop consistently, and compare the number and quality of evidence for each of your points.


Types of Research Paper Outlines

There are two major approaches to outlining academic papers, and your choice will largely depend on your personal preferences.


  • Outlining by topic.
  • You should use short phrases to present different points of your outline. This approach is beneficial if you analyze a complex issue, covering a variety of different topics that can be provided in any order.


  • Outlining by sentence.
  • This is where each separate point is given in a full sentence. Use this outline to write about your subject in details.


Both of these outlines can use Roman and Arabic numerals as well as uppercase and lowercase letters to present the points. Find out more about different ways of outlining and be consistent when applying a particular outlining style for your research paper.


How to Develop Your Outline

In a strong outline, you should focus on all the major topics and subtopics of your paper and make them lead to a logical conclusion (your thesis statement). Take the following steps to succeed in the task:


  • Articulate your thesis statement.
  • This is the main point of your paper that sets the direction to the flow of your thoughts. Try to formulate it in one short phrase or sentence.


  • Decide on the main categories of your outline.
  • What points do you want to focus on? Do they prove your thesis statement? Depending on the length of your research project, pick several major points in support of your thesis and present them as the main categories of your outline.


  • Identify subcategories.
  • What information can you use to support your main points? The subcategories of your outline can refer to the different types of data. However, make sure that each of your categories is supported with equally strong evidence. If any point of your outline seems to be weaker than others, search for some additional materials on it.


With a good outline, you’ll manage to cover even the most complicated topic in your research paper. If you allow some time to think on the main and minor points of your future piece of writing and present them in a detailed and logical outline, you’ll only benefit.