10 Crucial Steps to Writing a Flawless Research Outline [2019|Listing]


Once you have received a task from your professor and decided which topic you will be covering in your research paper, it is highly recommended to compile a precise outline first.

Not only this will give you a better understanding of how the final document should look, but you will also have a more specific idea of what content to include in each paragraph.

Also, you will predetermine the structure, organization, and the general appearance of the future paper. These factors are of paramount importance for getting your assignment graded A+ and not a point lower!

1. Write a Clear and Argumentative Thesis Statement

Writing a thesis statement is a must for any research paper outline.

A catchy and arguable claim is a mandatory element that all scholars use in their articles to inform readers about the further content and set the standards of information to analyze, discuss, and refer to throughout the text.

Check out the 12 primary principles of writing in academic language to make your scholarly paper look flawless!

Although it is better to develop the general idea of your thesis statement or hypothesis before diving into the writing process, it is strongly suggested to actually compose this claim after completing the body.

One of the good reasons for that is for you to be able to sum up and introduce all of the paper’s content in these 20-35 words. It might be challenging to fit all of the important information into this limit but this is the point where you get to develop your skills of academic writing.

The template below will help you structure your argument to meet most picky professors’ expectations:

[Previous research results] + [main topics (problem) of the following text] + [solution to the identified problem] + [proving the solution].

Here are some examples:

  • Recently, [meteorologists have been reporting global warming threats] leading to [droughts and mass animal extinctions], which makes [electric cars especially efficient] nowadays due to the [absence of carbon dioxide emissions].
  • Although [gender discrimination in wages] makes [women protest and fight for higher compensations], [females and males receive equal hourly payments] however [men prefer to work longer shifts].

2. Consider all Sections and Body Paragraphs

Originally, there are 3 main parts of any research paper outline:

  • Introduction

The first aspect you want to know about creating a catchy and insightful introduction is the importance of attracting the attention of readers. People have to strive to read your research outline to the end and deeply investigate the proposed methods. Otherwise, the publication will not become a topic of public discussion and thus might easily fail to gain acknowledgment from the international academic community.

There are 3 crucial components of an involving introduction that a scholar can’t live without: thesis, controversy, and informativeness. In particular, this paragraph has to present an argument that will be disputable and provide an overview of the following context in the detailed outline for a research

Basically, your primary task here is to explain why you have chosen a specific topic and reason that it is important to study. The audience has to understand the significance of this work to recognize it as a credible one. There is no need to include an extensive introduction in the document. Yet, it has to be informative, navigating, and persuasive.

  • Body

Now the body section is where the real fun begins. The first mistake to avoid in composing a college research paper outline is to avoid wordiness but be concise and precise. In this kind of work, such valuable information as statistics, scholarly data, numbers, and previous research has to be in the first place. Therefore, it is necessary to focus on the main points to prevent having an excessive word count.

Each body paragraph is mandatory to constitute a subjective introductory sentence at the beginning, ideally – 3 strong, (-er), (-est) consequent arguments, and a concluding or transition sentence at the end. If you follow these simple steps, your professor will not have another choice than to grade your research project outline A+.

A classical structure of a research paper presupposes having the following sections in its body. Materials and Method – this one will include several paragraphs describing the relevance of your hypothesis to the already existing knowledge and academic experience in a particular area. Results – you will have to present all the data gathered during research activities here. Discussion – that’s where you must interpret your findings and provide reasonable recommendations as to their implementation in practice.

  • Conclusion

Finally, the conclusion is a so-called “relax-and-finish-that-paper” sweet part. After having done all the important job, all that is left is just to restate the thesis and wrap everything up in a summary. Perhaps, it would be rather sound to add some explanations to your reasoning. Once this is done – you may exhale and stretch your arms.

However, you have to remember that structure also influences the final grade, which means that it is essential to add a well-organized title page as well as bibliography list at the end of the document.

3. Review the Latest Literature

Since making a scientific research paper outline is usually the hardest part of the entire project, it is essential to pay the most of your attention to it. And literature review is where the road takes its beginning. First and foremost, you want to understand whether your idea is original and does not have a solution yet. Otherwise, your further work may not turn out to be valuable at all.

Indeed, to do this right, you have to ask your professor permission or access to a large database of scholarly articles. Once you got this “key”, go straight to your computer and assess all of the publications available on your hypothesis. If you are lucky enough to be a pioneer – go ahead and limit the search only to the sources that are less than 5 years old. Thus, you will obtain the most relevant and up-to-date information.

Review as many sources as possible to leave only the most informative and credible ones. Also, it is highly recommended to use only scholarly articles for a short research paper outline as it is essential to utilize the most valuable data in a brief message.

Having found all of the necessary literature, divide it into specific topics that will form the body of your 5-10 page research paper outline. And that’s how you get your paragraphs in the literature review section. Well done!

By the way, it would be beneficial to reference all of the sources on the bibliography page in the document with your outline. Since professors are the ones to evaluate such works, they would appreciate the fact that you have found all of the sources before writing the paper – not in the process. This is a very good sign of professionalism in academic writing.

4. Invent a Curious Hypothesis

If you want to know how to create an outline for a research paper, the first thing you want to develop is the hypothesis. It must be in your head from the very beginning. But after having skimmed over a selected topic, you can elaborate on the main claim and make it look rather intriguing for the audience. Basically, this is another thesis statement that defines the contents and ideas of the college paper.

Any hypothesis should explain the subject to be tested and presuppose two outcomes of the research. In other words, you have to define whether your expectations are true or false. For example, if you wanted to prove that a watermelon will explode after being heated up to 400 degrees Celsius, you will be checking if it remains unbroken or not.

A complete hypothesis in any research paper should present variables that are easy to measure. They are usually divided into independent, and dependent categories. The titles are pretty self-explanatory here. You just have to adjust to the former to the focuses of the latter. Also, there are controlled variables yet they are rarely demanded by college professors.

A hypothesis is a separate claim that does not require any support from other sources and provides a clear as well as arguable opinion. Generalization is not what you are expected to use here. Instead, be specific and precise. Despite the need just to develop an outline, a hypothesis is usually fully integrated into such a document as it does not take too much wordcount.

5. Define Your Research Methods

This section should provide an overview of all methods and tools you have been utilizing during the research. In particular, your primary task is to present all the procedures in such a manner to give another scholar an opportunity to replace those and achieve identical results. This may sound complicated but once you know how to prove your hypothesis, you will eventually come up with a plethora of different paths to the desired conclusion.

The next crucial step is to constitute the size and type of the sample. You should be as accurate as possible while characterizing the participants to make the final results more credible. It appears that focus groups with diverse nationalities, ages, genders, and social classes are usually the best because a limited sample might be biased against some factors.

While developing a research paper outline, consider the limitations that will be present in your study. If the list turns out to be long – try to fit it into one paragraph and be concise. Since this is not the main focus of the work, it does not have to occupy much space within the document.

6. State Your Findings in Details

This should be the easiest part here. All that you have to do is just to enumerate all of the crucial points you have investigated during the research. However, do not confuse this section with results – this is a common mistake among newbies in research outline writing.

You have to clearly differentiate between findings and results. Discovery is not necessarily a logical solution to your hypothesis. Hence, findings must represent all the statistics, and figures, whereas results explain how this data contributes to the primary inquiry.

7. Include a Clear Results Paragraph

That’s right. There’s no need to extend the results section to two or more pages. Simply state the most important facts that you want to deliver to the public and share your experience. This part should be as simple as possible because its target audience includes students, people from other fields of expertise, and regular web surfers.

Therefore, try to interpret all of the complicated calculations and statistics into the language that an average YouTube watcher could understand. It does not mean that you have to go informal – under no circumstances. Just avoid professionalisms and intricate language.

8. Discuss Your Findings

Unfortunately, many beginners do not pay much attention to this section and regularly use it just to meet the word count required by your professor. However, this is a critical part that should define your understanding of the research outcomes. Having read an explicitly precise discussion of the study, the audience should be able to identify your opinion and refer to it whenever necessary.

Indeed, there will be evident facts that you don’t have to rephrase. But it would add more credibility to your research paper – readers will see that you are indeed interested in the topic and validate the stated hypothesis correctly.

Also, it is essential to consider all the aspects that were either impossible or hard to validate. There is no perfect research as scholars always have particular limitations. Those may include financial means, practical knowledge, the lack of equipment, etc. Don’t be afraid to integrate those in the outline. The more valuable data you cover – the better the general appearance of the work will be at the end.

The next subsection of your research outline’s discussion requires you to declare the study’s impact on the sources used within it. Perhaps, other scientists could not arrive at the right conclusion due to the limited access to adequate samples or other crucial issues. Sometimes, researchers happen to find all of the previous findings in the field irrelevant.

Now, consider what has to be investigated in the future by your colleagues. This part should define what you failed or did not attempt to prove. Nevertheless, the missing knowledge does not let you close the topic. Having provided reasonable recommendations, academic communities can fund the proposed research or popularize its importance. As always, your primary task is to use these suggestions and build up a list of sections and multiple-level subsections for the final outline.

9. Conclude the Study Results

Again, do not follow the mistakes of other students and underestimate the weight of this section. Although your task is just to rephrase the entire content, you better take this seriously. You see, in the majority of cases, the audience will not read all of your paper. But before doing this, they will check your conclusion to see the main topic, solution, and final results. This might sound illogical but make your conclusion an introduction.

Compile the most important information you want to deliver to the audience and briefly introduce it in the conclusion. The key is to give just a bit of knowledge to readers and thus make them interested in reading the entire article.

N.B.: It is highly suggested that you include the most important but short ideas in the initial outline in sentences. Then, you will be able to recall all of these thoughts as you approach a particular section.

Believe it or not, whatever comes to your mind before the research pops right out of it once you start the investigation.

10. Provide Recommendations to Colleagues

Now we arrive at the last part, where you can suggest further researchers your ideas on what has to be done in regards to the investigated topic. The hardest part is to convince other people of the importance of these recommendations. It appears that many students offer unrealistic guidelines that not only confuse experienced scholars but also are not rational to implement.

As you can see, most part of this article explains the structure of a research paper. That’s because you cannot compile a decent outline without knowing all elements of the structure. By using this guide, you can determine what is applicable to your particular case and utilize the information accordingly.

Research Paper Outline Example

Here comes the fun part. We are going to review and create some outlines to provide a better understanding of the aforementioned theory.

Here’s the first template. The topic is: “Practices to Prevent Falls among Elderly People in Dade County, Miami.”

  1. Introduction
  2. Problem Statement
  3. Definition of Terms
  4. Theoretical Framework
  5. Methodology
  6. Research Type
  7. Sample
  8. Data Collection Methods
  9. Hypothesis
  10. Literature Review
  11. Limitations and Scope of the Study
  12. Research Importance and Significance
  13. Body
  14. Background Information
  15. The Main Reasons for Falls among Elders
  16. Recommendations of Health Organizations
  17. Demography of Patients
  18. Assessment of Risks and Outcomes
  19. Statistics of Injuries and Fatalities
  20. Common Treatment and Prevention Methods
  21. Medical Services Addressing the Issue
  22. Gait, Balance, and Vision Problems
  23. Education of Family Members
  24. Home Safety Measures
  25. Related Inconveniences or Disabilities
  26. Medical Equipment Used to Prevent Falls
  27. Data Analysis and Presentation
  28. Socio-economic Profiles of Patients
  29. Information on Latest Falls
  30. Current Interventions
  31. Supporting Family Members
  32. Emergency Medical Service
  33. Electronic Watch Indicating Falls
  34. Previous Interventions and Their Effectiveness
  35. Patient Education
  36. Dependence on Equipment and Human Support
  37. Conclusion
  38. Thesis Restatement
  39. Results
  40. Hypothesis Discussion
  41. Further Research Recommendations

Let’s take a look at another topic. For example: “Detrimental Effects of Packaged Sauces on Human Health”

  1. Introduction
  2. Common Bad Qualities of Packaged Sauces
  3. Study Significance
  4. Term Definitions
  5. Body
  6. Effects of Packaged Sauces
  7. Possible Health Issues
  8. Interventions
  9. Conclusion
  10. Recommendations


Writing a research outline is the preliminary process of creating a decent paper based on your study. It appears that some individuals prefer to structure their table of contents after the entire text is written. However, you should choose whatever seems to be more convenient for your particular case.

For example, if you decide to write a research paper for college that is just based on a deep literature review, you can assemble an outline once the main work is done. Most likely, you will be modifying the structure of the article during the process of writing.

Nevertheless, if you have specific guidelines as to what has to be checked and investigated within a strictly funded study, it is better to determine all aspects of the report’s outline beforehand. Since people have invested their finances in a new inquiry, they want to see accurate results.

There is no need to follow the guidelines mentioned above exactly in the manner and sequence indicated in the text. Feel free to modify those headings and titles. But remember to include all of the crucial points that have to be delivered to the public.

Professors often demand to stick to certain formatting styles like APA, MLA, Chicago, or Harvard. Indeed, the presentation of your outline will depend on these options. There is no need to worry though. The only difference is the type of outline you have to use – alphanumeric or decimal. For example, if your style does not presuppose having a full title page like MLA, go ahead and use a regular alphanumeric structure.

However, if you are using a complex format like Chicago, Turabian, Harvard, or Bluebook, it is highly suggested that you use a decimal outline as it looks more professionally and logically.

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