Nova A.
Nova A.

Guide to Creating Effective Research Paper Outline

8 min read

Published on: Dec 1, 2017

Last updated on: Oct 25, 2023

Research Paper Outline

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by research, not knowing how to start or structure your thoughts effectively?

You're not alone in facing this problem. The challenge of disorganized research is something many students deal with. But don't worry! 

In this blog, we'll not only tell you how to create your research paper outline, but we’ve included some downloadable templates as well.

We'll provide a practical step-by-step solution for organizing your research material so you end with a well-structured research paper. By the end of the blog, you'll understand why outlines matter and how to create compelling research papers.

So, keep reading to learn more!

On This Page

What is a Research Paper Outline?

A research paper outline serves as a systematic framework for your paper. It's a structured strategy that assists in the organization of your thoughts and ideas before the writing process begins. 

The outline structures out the main sections, subtopics, and supporting details in your research paper. In essence, it offers a well-structured and coherent roadmap for the entirety of your paper, maintaining academic rigor and clarity.

Different Research Paper Outline Formats

When it comes to creating a research paper outline, you've got options. Let's explore a few different formats that you can choose from:

Numeric Outline

A numeric outline is a structured organizational format for planning a research paper. 

It uses a numerical system to represent the hierarchy of ideas, with each main section or point numbered and subpoints or details indicated by decimal numbers. Numeric outlines are useful for presenting information in a clear and logical sequence.


Here’s a sample research paper outline template for this format:

1. Introduction
1.1. Research Topic and Context
1.2. Thesis Statement

2. Literature Review
2.1. Key Theories and Concepts
2.2. Previous Research Findings

3. Methodology
3.1. Research Design
3.2. Data Collection Methods
3.3. Data Analysis Techniques

4. Findings
4.1. Presentation of Data
4.2. Analysis of Data
4.3. Discussion of Findings

5. Conclusion
5.1. Summary of Key Findings
5.2. Implications and Future Research

Alphanumeric Outline

An alphanumeric outline is a hierarchical structure used to outline a research paper, combining numbers and letters to signify the different levels of information. 

Main sections are designated with capital letters (A, B, C), which include major points, while subpoints are indicated by numbers and lowercase letters (1, 2, a, b). Alphanumeric outlines help writers organize complex topics and subtopics effectively.


Here’s a sample sample research paper outline for this format:

A. Introduction

1. Research Topic and Context
2. Thesis Statement

B. Literature Review

1. Key Theories and Concepts
2. Previous Research Findings

C. Methodology

1. Research Design
2. Data Collection Methods
3. Data Analysis Techniques

D. Findings

1. Presentation of Data
2. Analysis of Data
3. Discussion of Findings

E. Conclusion

1. Summary of Key Findings
2. Implications and Future Research

Full Sentence Outline

A full-sentence outline is a method of planning a research paper in which each point in the outline is presented as a complete sentence or phrase. 

It provides a detailed overview of the content and structure of the paper. Full-sentence outlines are particularly helpful for writers who prefer thorough planning and want to capture the essence of each section or point.


Here’s a research paper outline format for full sentences:

I. Introduction

In the introduction, the research paper will commence by creating a captivating hook to engage the reader's interest. It will also offer pertinent background information related to the research topic.

II. Literature Review

The literature review section will investigate the key theories, concepts, and findings from previous research that are relevant to the study.

III. Methodology

The methodology section will detail the chosen research design, data collection methods, and data analysis techniques employed in the research.

IV. Findings

Within the findings section, the research paper will present the collected data and provide an analysis of the results. This will include a discussion of the research findings in the context of the study.

V. Conclusion

The conclusion will summarize the main research findings and their implications. Additionally, it will offer recommendations for future research or potential actions based on the study's outcomes.

Steps to Create a Research Paper Outline

Creating a research paper outline doesn't have to be complicated. Follow these simple steps to get started:

Step 1: Choose Your Research Topic

Begin by selecting a research topic that is both interesting to you and relevant to your assignment or academic objectives. Your chosen topic will serve as the foundation for your entire research paper.

Step 2: Identify Your Main Sections

Determine the main sections or chapters your research paper will include. These are the broad thematic areas that will structure your paper, and they provide a high-level overview of the topics you plan to cover. Here are the main sections a typical research paper involves:

  • Title Page: This is the first page and includes the paper's title, author's name, institutional affiliation, and often the running head.
  • Abstract: A concise summary of the paper, usually around 150-250 words, providing an overview of the research, its key findings, and implications.
  • Introduction: Sets the stage for your research, offering background information and a thesis statement, which is a central argument or hypothesis.
  • Literature Review: A comprehensive analysis of existing research and literature on your topic, demonstrating your understanding of the subject.
  • Methodology: Explain the research methods, data collection techniques, and analytical tools used in your study.
  • Findings: Presents the research results in a structured manner, often including data, tables, or charts.
  • Discussion: Interpretation of the findings and their implications, offering insights into the research's significance.
  • Conclusion: Summarizes the main points, reiterates the thesis, and discusses potential future research directions.
  • References: A list of all sources cited in your paper, following a specific citation style (e.g., APA, MLA).

Step 3: Break It Down into Subtopics

Under each main section, further divide your content into smaller subtopics. Subtopics are like the building blocks of your paper; they represent the key points or ideas you intend to explore within each main section.

Step 4: Add Supporting Details

For each subtopic, include supporting details, facts, examples, or arguments that bolster your point. These supporting details form the substance of your paper and provide evidence for your claims or arguments.

Step 5: Organize Your Points

Organize your main sections, subtopics, and supporting details in a logical order that flows smoothly from one point to the next. This step ensures that your research paper maintains coherence and readability.

Step 6: Use Numbers or Letters

To enhance clarity within your outline, use numbering, a lettering system, or Roman numerals. Use numerical sequencing for main sections (e.g., "1.," "2.," "3.") and a combination of numbers and letters for subtopics (e.g., "1.1," "1.2," "2.1").

Step 7: Stay Flexible

Recognize that your outline is not set in stone. As you conduct research and begin writing, your ideas may evolve, and you may discover the need to adjust your outline accordingly. Embrace this flexibility to adapt to new insights and information.

By following these steps, you'll create a well-structured research paper outline that serves as a roadmap for your writing journey. It keeps your research organized and makes writing easier, resulting in a more effective paper.

Research Paper Outline Example

A research paper outline could be created in several different ways. Here is a sample research paper outline for a quick review:

Research Paper Example: Typhoid and the Usefulness of Vaccination

I. Introduction

   A. Definition of Typhoid
   B. Rise in the cases, especially in previously ‘clean’ places
   C. Data and Figures: Surge in the number of cases and number of patients

II. Dangers of Typhoid

   A. The disease’s symptoms and time period 
   B. Risk and chances of death, based on recent statistics
   C. How does Typhoid spread?

III. Methods of Prevention and Widespread Doubts

   A. Vaccination methods in different places
   B. The usefulness of vaccination - arguments regarding why it is recommended and why some groups are against it.
         1. Arguments related to opposing beliefs of different regions and groups
         2. Arguments related to details supporting the vaccination
         3. Discussion of a Typhoid case and the usefulness of the vaccination

IV. Special and Specific Cases of the Disease Outbreak

   A. Outbreaks in Canada, Singapore, Australia, and the UK
        1. The percentage of vaccinated people in the area
   B. The number of cases among the unvaccinated groups

V. Typhoid and Other Related Diseases

   A. Dangers of Typhoid as an initiator of other diseases
        1. Diseases that could occur as a result of Typhoid
        2. Rate of fatality after a person contracts Typhoid

VI. Conclusion

   A. Summary of the main arguments
   B. Summary of the data and figures in association with the vaccination
   C. Main concluding statement
       1. How useful is the Typhoid vaccination in preventing the disease?

Here are some more examples for different formats and subjects:

Expert Tip

Need to consult more examples? Have a look at these top-quality research paper examples and get inspiration!

In conclusion, with the help of these example templates and our step-by-step guide on creating an outline, you're now well-prepared to create an effective one. 

If you're in a hurry and want to skip the outlining process, our essay writing service is here to help!

You can get our team of expert essay writers to assist you at any stage of your research or to deliver a well-formatted, accurate research paper. 

So, just say, write my research paper, and we’ll deliver an original, top-quality paper to you!

Nova A.


Nova A. (Literature, Marketing)

Nova Allison is a Digital Content Strategist with over eight years of experience. Nova has also worked as a technical and scientific writer. She is majorly involved in developing and reviewing online content plans that engage and resonate with audiences. Nova has a passion for writing that engages and informs her readers.

Nova Allison is a Digital Content Strategist with over eight years of experience. Nova has also worked as a technical and scientific writer. She is majorly involved in developing and reviewing online content plans that engage and resonate with audiences. Nova has a passion for writing that engages and informs her readers.

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