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Research Paper Outline: A Step-by-Step Writing Guide

07 Sep 2021

A research paper outline is a useful tool for organizing your thoughts and ideas about a specific topic. It helps you structure the information logically and hierarchically to establish a good, consistent flow. As a framework for your research paper, your paper outline can simplify the writing process significantly.

An outline for writing a research paper serves as a roadmap to help you stay on the right track without forgetting to include any important ideas or arguments. That’s particularly useful when writing a lengthy paper on a complex topic, as you can visualize all the significant points and see how everything fits together.

Research paper outline

Another reason why you need a quality outline for research paper writing is to let your teacher or professor know what to expect from your paper right off the bat. Thanks to your thesis statement, the key points you’ll discuss, and all the ideas and arguments to support them, they’ll have a clear overview of your entire project.

Read on to learn how to write a research paper outline that will help you craft an impressive paper.

Paper Outline Template and Example to Use as a Roadmap

Just like your paper, your research paper outline should contain an introduction with a thesis statement, a body with all the main ideas and their supporting arguments, and a conclusion.

Here’s a paper outline template that you can use for any research paper writing project:

  1. Introduction
    1. Introductory sentence (hook)
    2. Background information
      1. Relevant history
        1. References or quotes of related literature
        2. Scope and limitations
    3. Thesis statement
      1. References or quotes of related literature
      2. Purpose and significance of the study
  2.  
  3. Major idea or topic 1
    1. Supporting point 1
      1. A brief description of the supporting point
      2. An argument to support the thesis
      3. References or quotes to support the claim
    2. Supporting point 2
      1. A brief description of the supporting point
      2. An argument to support the thesis
      3. References or quotes to support the claim
  4.  
  5. Major idea or topic 2
  6.  
  7. Major idea or topic 3
  8.  
  9. Conclusion
    1. Thesis restatement
    2. Summary of the points and arguments supporting the thesis
    3. Concluding statement
      1. Significance of the research
      2. Suggestions or ideas for future research

You can modify this template to include fewer or more major ideas and their supporting arguments. This is just to give you an idea of how your paper outline should look.

A Compelling Outline example

This example of a paper outline on a popular topic will help you see how you can apply the template:

Topic: The Black Lives Matter Movement and What It Stands For

  1. Introduction
    1. Despite great progress regarding civil rights in the US, Americans need more education on police brutality and racial violence against black people, which is the main purpose of the Black Lives Matter movement.
    2. Definition of the Black Lives Matter movement
      1. History of the Black Lives Matter movement
        1. Extrajudicial killings of black Americans
    3. The Black Lives Matter movement is an effort to stop police brutality and all racial violence against black people
      1. This research paper reviews the relevant facts and literature to give an overview of the Black Lives Matter movement, its initiatives to date, and its impact on the future of black people in America and beyond.
  2.  
  3. The criminal justice system fails to control
    1. Racial disparities in the criminal justice system
      1. The criminal justice system is failing to uphold a fundamental truth:
        1. Black people are more likely than white people to get arrested and convicted, even when not guilty.
    2. Criminal acts against black people
      1. Black people are victims of racial discrimination:
        1. The rise in deaths of black Americans at the hands of vigilantes and law enforcement.
    3.  
  4. The Black Lives Matter movement initiatives
    1. Youth empowerment programs
      1. Youth empowerment programs educate on tackling racism.
    2. Support programs
      1. Support programs help racial victims heal and empower the community.
  5.  
  6. The Movement’s impact on the future of black people
    1. Bringing justice, healing, and freedom to all black people
      1. Educating people on racial disparities will bring an end to injustice and racism.
    2. Black lives matter because all lives matter
      1. Uniting people globally and bringing safety to everyone.
  7.  
  8. Conclusion
    1. The Black Lives Matter movement promotes equality for all and strives to stop racial and extrajudicial violence against black people.
    2. The movement is a response to the criminal justice system’s failure and supports its mission through global initiatives to bring safety, justice, and freedom to black people.
    3. The Black Lives Matter movement has a long way to go, but it is on the right track to end racism.

How to Write a Structured Outline for a Research Paper

Now that you have all the basics down, it’s time to learn how to write a research paper outline. Here are the essential steps to take:

  • Decide on the format - You can use either an alphanumeric or decimal format for your paper outline.
  • Write a short introduction - Introduce the topic with a hook sentence that will interest the reader.
  • Write a clear thesis statement - Write a one-sentence summary of the topic, highlighting the paper’s significance.
  • Come up with several main ideas - Depending on the topic’s complexity, include two or more ideas for supporting the thesis.
  • Break the main ideas into point - Each main idea should have at least two supporting points, which you can further divide into sub-points if necessary. Organize everything in a logical or hierarchical order to establish a good flow.
  • Make arguments to support the ideas and the thesis - Provide an argument for every point and explain how they relate to your thesis.
  • Provide evidence to support the claims - It’s critical to provide references to all the sources you’ve used to gather information on the topic. Use proper citations to give credit to the original authors and avoid plagiarism.
  • Write a research paper summary - Write a conclusion with a reworded thesis statement and all the main ideas you’ve discussed. Explain the value of your research, and make suggestions for future studies if yours had certain limitations.

Need Professional Research Paper Outline Help?

Whenever you are doing anything that requires concentration, focus, and a significant period of time, you need to prepare for it. When you have a good basis you can build upon, the task will be much easier to handle as you progress.

So, before you start writing your research paper, as we have pointed out, a solid outline is a must. If you need help with research paper outline writing, StudyClerk is here for you.

We have an extensive team of expert writers who can help you craft an impressive outline for writing a research paper on any topic. Our qualified and experienced writers have Ph.D. and Master’s degrees in a wide range of academic fields, so they know that a structured paper outline is the key to success. They’ve written a wealth of top-notch academic papers and can provide you with useful writing tips.

Apart from assisting you with outline writing, our writers can help you write a high-quality research paper summary.

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