A Step-By-Step Guide to Writing a Research Paper Outline

Research paper outlines are handy when you are writing an academic paper. Outlines provide structure and help the writer organize their points and words. A quality research paper outline will change any essay's entire outlook.

As a student, your outline also gives your professor a clear idea of your work. It also helps to increase your grade since your professor flows with your points. Therefore, drafting a college research paper outline is necessary for every academic paper. This article contains everything you should know about writing outlines for research.

What is a research paper outline?

A research paper outline is a written-out draft that contains all the relevant information to your research. An outline can either be done on paper or typed. Outlines are usually referred to as the skeleton of every piece of writing. Sometimes, they are also detailed information pointing out the relevant points and where they fit within the research paper.

A typical outline contains both points, subtopics, and the sources that will be included in the research work. Some outlines include phrases and ideas that will be formed into longer sentences and arguments. Do you want to know how to do an outline for a research paper? Below are our helpful tips for drafting one.

How to make a research paper outline for college students

Your outline determines the outcome of your research. You should focus on your outline if you want a solid and quality research paper. Here are steps to follow to outline a research paper.

  1. Choose a topic & conduct research

Before you get to the outlining stage, you must first have a topic. Once you've chosen a good topic, research comes forward. The research reveals information on your chosen topic. You'll realize new aspects of your topic you hadn't known through research.

  1. List your points & subtopics

Now, list the cornerstone points after you've gained much knowledge from research. The points will enable you to draft subtopics. It's then in the subtopics you'll share the various points across.

  1. Consider the structure & sequence of your topic

Think about how you want your ideas to be presented. What logical sequence should it follow? What is the best structure to organize your points to communicate ideas? Remember, some subtopics and points only make sense when they come after others. So, arrange your points and subtopics sequentially; it helps the essay flow accordingly.

  1. Create a framework

Before including various ideas and points in your research outline, draft only the main points. Once the main points are detailed, you can start rearranging and fitting new points into them.

  1. Put in more detail

After you've put the framework in place, start adding more detail to the main ideas. Add more points, topic sentences, and paragraph structure the research paper will take.

  1. Revise & improve structure

After you've finished creating your outline, return and make some adjustments to it. Then, check if there are any areas that require immediate improvement. Double-check your subtopics to convey the central message of your research. Once it's in shape, it's time to start the writing process.

Sample research paper outline to guide you

Here's a sample of an outline for writing a research paper;

Example: Covid-19 & The Vaccination Debate

  1. Introduction
    • Definition of Covid-19
    • Origin & the rise of Covid-19 viral disease
    • Number of Covid-19 cases in 2020
  2. Dangers of Covid-19
    • Symptoms of the disease
    • How Covid-19 is spread
  3. Preventative Measures for Covid-19
    • Vaccination procedure
    • Vaccination debate: The Two Side Debate on Covid Vaccination
  4. Extreme Covid Cases
    • Study of the outbreak in China, the U.K., and the U.S.A.
    • Statics & high Covid death rates in the Western world
  5. Covid 19 & Other Viral Diseases
    • Dangers of viral diseases
    • Illness that results from viral diseases
  6. Conclusion
    • Summary of argument on Covid
    • Concluding statement based on gathered information

Simple research paper outline template for every student

When writing your research paper outline, here's a template to guide you;

  1. Introduction (2-3 paragraph)
  • The main idea
  • Statement of problem
  • Background of the problem
  1. Main Body (Section 1)

Extent of problem

  • What?
  • Why?
  • When?

Who & how of the problem

  • Examples
  • Facts
  1. Body (Section 2)
  • Cause & Effect
  • The problem & the solution
  1. Body (Section 3)
  • Possible Solutions
  • What measures must be taken
  • What will work and what will not
  • Probability
  1. Conclusion
  • Summarize relating to the introduction
  • Restate thesis statement


Writing an outline is essential for every good research paper. The above guide works you through drafting an outline for your college research paper.

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