Simple Way to Create an Outline for Research Paper

Posted date: February 28, 2018 how-to-create-an-outline-for-a-paper

Has it ever occurred to you that creating an outline is an unnecessary step of the writing process – this is the essay itself that will be graded, after all? If yes, then you probably do not know that an effective outline is 50% of your paper success because it helps organize your thoughts, choose the most necessary pieces of evidence, and achieve structural coherence. Any experienced writer will easily tell the difference between an essay that was written around an outline, and the one that wasn’t. Our writers definitely know how to create a perfect outline, so you can easily buy custom papers online here.

The Basics of a Research Paper Outline

The following article will help you familiarize yourself with the best essay outline format to create perfect essays, short stories, and even novels.

Step 1: Plan Your Outline

First of all, you have to decide on the topic. What I appreciate in outlines is that at this stage, you can choose a broad topic – the outline will help you narrow it down!

For example, imagine you have to write an essay on a history topic. Initially, you can choose something you are interested in, such as the life of the UK citizens during World War II. As you proceed with your outline, you might want to specify it and choose to focus on the role of Churchill appointment as Prime Minister in 1940. Now, you will be able to create a strong thesis statement.

Alternatively, when working on a creative project, such as a short story, you won’t have to limit yourself to a specific topic and central argument. Still, the outline will be a useful tool to plan and structure your work.   

 Step 2: What is the Purpose of Writing?

Depending on the purpose of writing, a paper can be aimed at persuading the readers, informing them, or sharing your personal thoughts and ideas. Apart from choosing a specific topic and argument, decide on the purpose of your paper to understand exactly what you are planning to accomplish. When working on an argumentative or persuasive essay, it’s a good idea to make a thesis statement first and then build the rest of the paper around it. The choice of the approach depends on the specific task you are to fulfill, for example:

  • Compare and contrast two stories, theories, or events

The assignment will test your analytical skills and ability to think critically.

  • Discuss the precursors or consequences of an event

Such an assignment requires you to deliver a cause-and-effect essay that is also based on extensive research. You will have to think about what caused the event and how it influenced people. Two writing styles appropriate for the assignment include informative or persuasive.

  • Reflect on a situation that changed your life

This essay will demonstrate your communication skills and the knowledge of narrative techniques.

Step 3: Collect evidence

Obviously, you won’t need most of it up until writing the paper. Nonetheless, reviewing the evidence one more time will help you plan the paper more effectively. In your outline, include only the subtopics and maybe highlight the key facts and ideas to indicate the major claims of the work. In a separate section, list the subtopics that are yet to be supported by evidence ‒ you can return to them later.

Naturally, you won’t be doing any of this in a creative project, while yet some research will be of use when establishing the author’s credibility in description of some details, events, etc.

As a side note, be sure to indicate the sources and page numbers of every piece of evidence you have found to save yourself the trouble of looking it all up again later.

Step 4: Choose the outline type

One more step before starting to write. You can choose either simple or extended outline.

A simple outline consists of short phrases with the main ideas.

An extended outline uses complete sentences to describe the sections of the paper. It is more appropriate for long and complex papers.

A Guide to a Basic Research Paper Outline

Students often underestimate the importance of outlines and succumb to the temptation of overlooking this part of the writing process. Nevertheless, an outline is often the only thing that distinguishes a poorly-written paper from a powerful one. It is true that writing a research paper can be as much challenging as doing the research, and the success of the research largely depends on how well it is presented, i.e. on how convincing your research paper is. 

So creating a good research paper might seem quite as an accomplishment but do not make hasty conclusions thinking that you will not cope with the task – after all, you never know till you try. Moreover, if you can divide this enormous task into small manageable steps, there is absolutely nothing to worry about. Here is the good news: academic research papers and scientific reports have a similar structure regardless of the discipline. Of course, there are some peculiarities depending on the preferences of your professor, but if you follow the basic requirements, you cannot be much wrong.  

Layout and Word Count

There is no universal length for all papers, so the required number of words (or pages) totally depends on the task. However, you should keep in mind that most probably, the appendices, footnotes, and bibliography will not be counted in.

Finding a sample college research paper outline would also be a good idea since you would know exactly what is expected from you. 

If you are preparing a fairly complex report, you will not get into trouble as long as you avoid redundancies and repetitions. Strive for length without irrelevancies. Once you feel that some details would rather be omitted but still might be of particular use for the reader, use appendices, they were created for a reason – you can always put part of the data there. In addition, consider dividing the paper into sections and using subtitles if your report is long.

Report Structure

Most research papers have a similar structure, so the following sample of a college essay outline might be of great help

  1. Title and authors
  2. Abstract and key words
  3. Table of Contents
  4. Introduction / Background information
  5. Methodology
  6. Discussion of results
  7. Summary and conclusions
  8. Bibliography
  9. Appendices (if applicable)

 Title and authors

Writing a title might appear easy but it’s not always so. Even though this part of the paper is the shortest, it requires much effort and thinking ‒ it must be interesting, informative, and, of course, readable.

Fortunately, IT revolution did not pass over poor students and researchers, and now we have online databases where you can find suitable titles by keywords. Why not give it a try?

Abstract and table of contents

There is no new information in these sections because they have to be written when the paper is completed. However, make sure they are informative and properly formatted because these are the first things the reader will be evaluating in your report.


Here, you will describe the background of your painstaking research to help the reader understand why it is important and what else is going on in the sphere of your academic interest. Therefore, you have to ensure that the reader unfamiliar with the topic gets the basic idea by reading the introduction. Apart from that, explain why you decided to conduct the experiment and what the purpose of the research is.


In this section of your paper, you have to describe the methods you applied when undertaking the research. If in the introduction, you answered the question ‘Why?’ here, you will be telling the reader ‘How?’ in a way that he/she can recreate the same research if he/she wants to (in most cases, they don’t). The details you can describe here include but are not limited to research sample, time and place, procedure, techniques, equipment, etc.


These should describe the figures, facts, test scores, etc. that helped you receive the final results. However, beware of putting in too many details – it’s better to show all the raw data in the appendices.


This section is crucial for the research paper because here you discuss the findings and their implications. The best way to do it is by saying whether the hypothesis was confirmed or not and why. You will then briefly summarize the main points of the research in the Summary and Conclusions section.

So, now you know how to do an outline for a paper. Hopefully, this guide will make you one step closer to your excellent report.

Choose the type that works best for you and off you go!