15 November, 2020

16 minutes read

Author:  Kate Smith

How to Write a Research Paper Outline?

At least once during a school year, students face the necessity to compose a research paper outline. Well, they face the necessity to craft a research paper, but the truth is it never comes without an outline.

Research Paper Outline

At least once during a school year, students face the necessity to compose a research paper outline. Well, they face the necessity to craft a research paper, but the truth is it never comes without an outline.

If you are having hard times figuring out how to compose a research paper or its outline, then you are reading just the right article that will explain you all the details step by step. Before you give up and decide to buy a research paper at our research paper writing service, read our guide. We’ll do our best to ease the writing process for you.

However, before we dive into the structure and examples of an outline, let’s explore what a research paper is.

What is a Research Paper?

How to write a good research paper

A research paper is a composition that argues a point based on an in-depth analysis of the relevant literature. In other words, this written piece allows a write to present his own interpretation or evaluation of a specific topic. It’s more than just a literature review.

In case you need to buy a literature review – we’re always ready to help!

As one can assume from its name, this type of writing requires time dedicated to locating credible sources that present several perspectives to a single problem, studying the problem from various sides, forming your own position regarding a subject and describing it in a concise and interesting manner. It’s important to mention that students have to back up their position along the way with quotes or paraphrases from reliable sources.

Now that you understand what this type of writing really is all about, you might think that it’s a pretty daunting task. The truth is, though, that with proper outline the assignment gets significantly easier to tackle.

What is an Outline for a Research Paper?

An outline for a research paper is a blueprint for a whole subject. It helps a student map his way through the writing process without losing his point or skipping important things as he writes.

We can also say that a research paper outline serves as an action plan. It allows young people to stay on top of things no matter how big and complicated the project is. Crafting a lengthy piece of this sort without a roadmap in place is hard to imagine. Not only it significantly complicates things but also might result in poor quality, lack of consistency in the content, and, as a result, lower grades.

You obviously don’t want that to happen. That is why HandMade Writing offers you this detailed guide on how to craft an outline for a winning composition in no time.

How to Write a Research Paper Outline

How to write a research paper outline

When it comes to research paper outline composition, there are some basic rules. They keep students organized and help them go through the task without any major disappointments.

These rules include but are not limited to:

  1. Choosing an interesting and engaging topic.
  2. Finding good cite sources to explore.
  3. Choosing the proper format for your paper.
  4. Creating a list of elements to add to your outline.
  5. Specifying what you will talk about in each of these sections.
  6. Finding excellent templates and examples.

Now, let’s explore each of these points in greater detail.

How to Choose an Interesting Topic for Your Paper?

Selecting a good topic is essential. Not only an engaging topic will make your audience sit up and really listen to you, but it will help you succeed in the writing process too. Here are several criteria that help you determine what topics you should choose:

  • Passion. Since most research papers comprise of 1000 words and more, you will spend a significant amount of time working on it. So, it is in your best interest to choose a theme you are genuinely interested in.
  • Availability of sources. Moreover, you need to find a topic that has enough literature you can refer to support argument or position you’re describing in a piece. Look for sources before you decide what topic to choose for your piece.
  • Several perspectives on the subject. If the theme you’re working on is one-dimensional or slanted, chances are there won’t be much for you to talk about. So, opt for unorthodox and creatively different content if you want your piece to stand out and be engaging.

Once you decide on the topic, it’s time to launch your research.

Check HandmadeWriting’s list of Research Paper Topics!

How to Find Credible Cite Sources?

Unless you’ve lived the last couple of years a rock, your first thought would be “the Internet.” Of course, it is the first and the simplest solution.

However, there are several pitfalls you can’t afford missing.

First of all, the Internet is not always the source of reliable information. Not all of the articles you find there will be checked for the credibility of their sources, correct names, and references, etc. So, unless you double-check every Internet source you use, you might get in trouble.

Second of all, not all tutors consider this to be your best first choice. They’d rather have you come and ask them for suggestions. And we strongly recommend you to do so.

Finally, just think about: whom would you rather believe – a student who based his research paper on Internet articles exclusively or the one who used scientific books, journals, and so on in the process? We’re sure you’d say the second. And so would your tutors. So, arm yourself with books and make it a starting point of your exploration.

How to Choose an Outline Format for Your Research Paper?

It’s likely that every college or at least every tutor requires you to use a specific format when structuring your compositions. Thus, APA research paper format will have a different set of components than MLA.

Read the instructions to your paper carefully and pay attention to what format you choose. Later in our guide, we will introduce you to the differences between the formats. And if you need a reminder of what each one of them stands for, explore our complete essay format guide.

Search for Research Paper Outline Samples and Templates

Of course, having an example to follow is always a huge help! Therefore, check out various sources for samples and templates of a research paper outline.

Where to Search for Them:

  1. University website. Your college tutors might post some great templates on the website so you can use them whenever working on a piece.
  2. Our blog. You can find all kinds of useful papers and resources in the blog section. We had our pro essay writers create a whole list of useful papers for your benefit.
  3. Internet. Finally, you can also use search engines. Dozens of websites have published quality research paper outline examples. So, take your time to find them and use for your benefit.

Now, that you understand the basic steps you should take when crafting an outline for a research paper, let’s look into its specifics.

By the way, a research paper is not the only piece we can help you with. If you’re also wondering how to write a scholarship essay, then don’t hesitate to read our guide fully explaining the notion.

Research Paper Outline Components

Research paper outline elements

How to Choose Research Paper Components

The next step is to identify what components your paper should consist of and what exactly you have to talk about in each of them.

The list of components here depends on the format of your essay. Thus, MLA research paper outline is different from the one written in APA or Chicago formatting style. We’ll specify what elements each of these formats require in just a few seconds. For now, you just need to remember that you don’t have to write too many details in your outline.

Basically, there are 10 main elements of a research paper outline.

  • Cover page.
  • Abstract.
  • Table of contents.
  • Introduction.
  • Methods.
  • Results.
  • Discussion.
  • Conclusion.
  • Bibliography.
  • Appendix.

There might be slight differences here. However, these are the components included in most papers. If you’re wondering what each of these parts should look like, here’s what our experts have to say.

Cover Page

A cover page is the simplest part here. It should contain:

  • a short yet informative title of the paper (preferably not longer than 60 characters),
  • your full name as well as the name of your tutor, and
  • submission date.

While there isn’t much to worry about here, we’d like to warn you it’s in your best interest to create a catchy and fun title for your paper. There is nothing like a boring title to kill readers’ attention from the start. So, shop around and see what alternatives you can find in your textbooks, online, or contact your tutor for help!


An abstract is a summary of your paper briefly explaining the main focus of your paper and the methods you used to achieve specific results. It should not exceed ⅓ of a page (around 200 words). Even though it comes right after the cover page, an abstract is typically written in the end.


An introduction to your research paper should answer the question of why this piece is of any importance to the reader. Your goal is to catch the attention of whoever is reading the piece with a strong argument and make him want to continue reading further.

As with any other written piece, an introduction contains:

  1. A hook, or an engaging start that grabs readers’ attention;
  2. Background information on the study you conducted;
  3. A thesis statement that explains what you will explore and why it is significant.


Depending on the subject you’re crafting this research for, methods might vary. Therefore, you’re to explain how exactly you conducted your research.

Thus, you need to mention approaches, equipment, and technologies you used along the way. This will make your research more transparent and interesting to your readers.

Besides, if you were not the only one who wrote the research paper, you might need to mention which methods each of the scientists used when developing the paper.

If you chose to compare or contrast some ideas, say how exactly you did it. By the way, if you’re also struggling with this essay genre, as well as picking a subject for it, read our guides. 

Related Posts: How to write a Compare&Contrast Essay | Compare&Contrast Essay topics 


In this chapter, you need to focus on the findings of the paper you finished by using the supporting argument. Try to include as many specific facts, statistics, and numbers into this part as possible.

If you add any tables or charts, don’t forget to number them. You will later list them in the Appendix, but at this stage, it is important to list them as you mention them in the text.


Unfortunately, too many students confuse these last two chapters. The line between them is quite thin. But to put it short, the results are focused on facts and figures while the discussion allows you to discuss whether you achieved the expected results, why the experiment might have failed, etc.

You can also talk about the mistakes and errors made in the process of your research. Don’t worry about your mistakes. After all, there are no mistake-free papers. On the contrary, the fact that you admit and understand your errors can give you a higher chance of obtaining a higher grade.

A discussion is also an important part of an argumentative essay. And if you need assistance with crafting it too, read our article that explains how to write an argumentative essay in a concise and simple manner.


Finally, it is time to restate the thesis of your research, its goals, and methods you used to achieve them, results, mistakes, and future plans.

The conclusion is not much longer than an abstract. It does include figures and facts but doesn’t bore readers to death with unnecessary details.

Bibliography and Appendix

You should mention all the sources you used in the text in the bibliography. Do not let a single quote get lost without a corresponding reference in the Bibliography section.

Should you have any facts, tables, charts, and images, add them all into the Appendix. However, bear in mind that depending on the format you’re asked to use, there might be no Appendix section at all. Moreover, if there are no images, facts or figures in your paper, don’t add the Appendix section at all.

These are all the components of a decent research paper outline. However, we realize that this might not be enough for you.

That is why check out our list of research paper outline examples and research paper outline templates.

Research Paper Outline Template

Various universities expect different things from your research paper. That is why we have decided to gather a list of useful templates and samples from different universities to help you out.

A formal outline by the Austin Community College District

An outline template in Turabian style by the Montana Bible College

Research Paper Outline Example

Research Paper Outline Example

This is what a good sample outline for the research paper should look like. It doesn’t have to contain too many details, only the ideas you want to talk about in the paper.

We realize that crafting a college research paper outline is not a piece of cake. However, it is possible. All you need to do is either use our writing tips on how to create it or contact a good essay writing service that can help you with this assignment. It is up to you!

What we do know for sure is that our writing guide can be of much help to you. So, equip yourself with this knowledge and get a winning outline in the end!

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