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        Research Paper Outline: Templates & Examples

        • calenderFeb 17, 2023
        • calender 7 min read

        Writing research papers is an extensive, time-consuming, and complicated task. Forming a research paper outline does, however, simplify this process. It helps organize your thoughts, create a logical flow, and give structure to otherwise haphazardly arranged information. 

        As your academic editors and proofreaders, we have provided you with all the necessary resources such as an outline for a research paper template, plenty of research paper outline examples, and tips and tricks to construct your research paper outline. Our goal is to help you write a well-structured, clear, and succinct research paper outline.  

        Ensure flawless formatting for your research paper.

        What is a paper outline?

        A research paper outline is a skeleton or a guideline for your final paper. It is typically created after the thesis statement is formatted but before the first draft is written. In this process, you group information into appropriate headers, sub-headers, points, and sub-points.

        It is easier to make changes during the outlining stage rather than streamlining the first draft. You can easily identify and remove redundant information and also incorporate essential information in the outline, which is helpful while writing your first draft.

        Why create a research paper outline?

        An outline is a helpful tool that acts as a roadmap for organizing your information and ideas. It serves as a visual representation of the flow and structure of your content. 

        As a student, it can be hard to understand the flow that is expected out of your paper. A college research paper outline allows you to see how the information fits together and how you can arrange it while writing. By creating an outline, you can also get a clearer understanding of the relationships between different topics. 

        How to write a research paper outline

        When writing a research paper, the length and detail of the outline may vary depending on the guidelines set by the academic institution. However, the core structure of the outline remains the same and consists of three key parts: introduction, body, and conclusion.

        Introduction: Introduces the topic of your research paper and provides background information to set the context for your study.

        Body: Divides your research into manageable sections and provides detailed information and analysis on each section.

        Conclusion: Summarizes your findings and presents conclusions based on the evidence you have presented in the body of the paper.

        By following this basic structure, you can ensure that your research paper outline is comprehensive and organized. This way, it can serve as a useful guide while writing your paper.

        Here are some additional tips to keep in mind when writing a research paper outline:   

        1. Pick a topic of your interest. Make sure the scope of the topic is not too broad or too narrow.

        2. Formulate a thesis statement.

        3. Gather all relevant ideas that give support to your thesis statement.

        4. Group related ideas into subsections.

        5. Arrange the subsections into a structured format.   

        6. Frame appropriate headings and subheadings for these subsections.

        Types of formats for research paper outline

        After doing your necessary research and forming your thesis statement, it is a good idea to start building your outline. The type of outline you use depends on the type of research article you write.

        There are a number of formats you can use to build your outlines, but the alphanumeric, decimal and full-sentence formats are the most popular. Let’s take a closer look at these formats with the help of a few research paper outline examples.   

        Alphanumeric outline 

        The alphanumeric format is the most widely recognized of the three formats. The structure for this format is as follows:

        • Headings: Roman numbers (I, II, III)
        • Subheading: Capital letters (A, B, C)
        • Points: Arabic numerals
        • Sub-points: Lowercase letters

        Information in this format is written in short blurbs rather than full sentences. This allows for a short and succinct outline. However, it is difficult to convey detailed information. Here’s an alphanumeric outline example for a research paper:

        Do standardized tests improve teen education?

        1. Introduction

        A. Standardized tests history

        B. Standardized tests types

        1. Achievement tests

        2. Aptitude tests

        3. Diagnostic tests

        C. Standardized tests uses

        2. Body

        A. Student performance pre-standardized tests

        B. Student performance post-standardized tests

        C. Results

        3. Conclusion

        A. Results restated

        B. Provide evidence supporting or contradicting the topic of the research paper outline


        The decimal format does away with the use of uppercase letters and Roman numerals and  uses Arabic numerals with increasing decimal points to categorize information. The structure for this format is as follows.

        • Headings- Whole number (1.0, 2,0…)
        • Subheadings- Single decimal  (1.1, 1.2…)
        • Points- Double decimal (1.1.1, 1.1.2)
        • Subpoints- Triple decimal/lowercase letters (,

        Similar to the alphanumeric outline, the decimal outline uses short blurbs to categorize information. The decimal format is the most detailed and precise but can get complicated. It is recommended for detailed outlines with multiple headings and subheadings. Let’s understand this better with the help of a research paper outline example: 

        The Matrix commentary on the perception of reality

        1. Introduction

        1.1. Summary

        2. Body

        2.1. Influences

        2.1.1. The brain in a vat

        2.1.2. Plato’s cave

        2.1.3. The oracle of Delphi 

        2.1.4. Jean Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation

        2.1.5. Marxist allegories

        2.1.6. Meditations on First Philosophy by René Descartes

        2.2. Reception and impact

        3. Conclusion

        Note: In the case of multiple subheadings, we recommend using lowercase letters instead of increasing decimal points.


        As the name suggests, the full sentence outline uses incomplete sentences instead of blurbs, for arranging information. Although it is more extensive and takes longer to write, it is also more specific and easy to understand. It can follow either the alphanumeric or the decimal method of organization. Here’s a full-sentence research outline example. 

        Impact of the Inactivated Poliovirus Vaccine on the eradication of polio

        1. Introduction 

        A. History of polio and its adverse effect on society.

        B. The effectiveness of various initiatives implemented for the eradication of polio.

        C. Thesis statement: The advent and distribution of the inactivated poliovirus vaccine led to the eradication of polio.

        2. Risks associated with polio

        A. Signs and symptoms.

        B. Infection and mortality rates with statistics.

        C. Methods of contamination.

        3. Diagnosis and prevention

        A. How polio is diagnosed.

        B. What are preventative measures taken once diagnosed?

        1. Diagnosis before the advent of the inactivated poliovirus vaccine.

        2. Diagnosis after the advent of the inactivated poliovirus vaccine.

        C. Effect of preventative measures along with statistics.

        4. The advent of inactivated poliovirus vaccine

        A. Creation and spread of vaccine.

        B. Effects of the vaccine on the eradication of polio.

        C. Statistics comparing the spread of polio and its adverse effect on people before and after the vaccine.

        1. Statistics before the advent of the inactivated polio vaccine.

        2. Statistics after the advent of the inactivated polio vaccine. 

        Thesis statement restructured: From the above data we can conclude that the advent and distribution of the inactivated poliovirus vaccine has almost eradicated the disease.

        Outline for a research paper template

        In order to simplify your paper writing journey, our experts have drafted this research paper outline template to help you create your own research paper outline. 

        It will help you categorize important ideas into smaller pieces of information. We have crafted this template taking inspiration from sources provided by several renowned universities and educational institutions. 

        You will find the three main headings of introduction, body, and conclusion along with multiple subheadings, points, and sub-points. We’ve included an alphanumeric outline for a research paper template.

        If you need any help refining your paper, you can always consider working with a research paper editing service.

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        Nandita Linkedin

        Nandita is a budding writer with a background in Psychology. She adores mysterious movies with unusual plots, cozy coffee houses, and any conversation involving Agatha Christie!

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