A Guide On How to Write a Research Paper Outline

A research paper outlining is the process of writing the structure of a future text. It includes searching for information, listing the order of specific parts, the data they will describe, and the cause-and-effect relationships between them.

A well-written outline acts as a guide and support for your future work. When you start writing a research paper, you don’t have to assemble your thoughts into a structure chaotically – you already have one. The outline also helps you see all the available data clearly and check whether you have included everything. It also makes it easier to explain to your teacher what will be in your research paper.

In this article, we will show you quality samples of research paper outlines.

Steps to Write an Outline for a Research Paper

It will be easier for you to write a quality research paper outline if you follow these instructions:

  1. Determine the topic of the paper. Your teacher may give it to you, but you may have to come up with it yourself.
  2. Make a brainstorm and write down ideas that relate to that topic.
  3. Research the information on the topic. Highlight important ideas and eliminate unimportant ones.
  4. Structure the ideas to highlight the subheadings of the paper.
  5. Determine in what order the subheadings will go.
  6. Briefly describe what will be in each part.
  7. Format the outline (alphanumeric, full-sentence, or decimal format).

Some steps may be shortened or expanded, depending on how detailed your outline is. This is especially true for the sixth step. Teachers often do not need descriptions; however, sometimes, they are essential.

How to Write a Formal Outline for a Research Paper

It has already been mentioned in the previous subheading that there are three research paper outline formats.

The alphanumeric format is the most common. The hierarchy is described by Roman (I) or Arabic (1) numerals as well as by capital (A) and small (a) letters. Titles are written in capital letters. It looks something like this:

The titles of the parts are expressed in one or two words.

The full-sentence format uses all the same characters to describe the hierarchy but assumes a fuller name for the headers. For example:

The decimal format is the same brief as the alphanumeric but has a different numbering. For the first part, the number 1 is taken, and all its subheadings are numbered according to the principle 1.1, 1.2 or 1.1.1, 1.1.2, and so on, depending on the level. Here’s what it looks like:

A Research Paper Outline Example

We have selected three examples that illustrate the general content of work in three areas of science: programming, chemistry, and psychology. Keep in mind that when writing a research paper outline, we advise you to focus not only on these examples but also on the requirements of your professor. For example, some colleges may require more detailed headings or another formatting.

By the way, for your convenience, all three examples are presented in different formats. In addition, although you do not provide links to sources in the outlines, it is recommended that you read them, as instructed, in advance. Nevertheless, you are allowed to change the content of the paper, delete and replace headings during the process of writing. Still, you should notify the teacher about this, as he will be expecting an approved version from you.

All three samples are below:

Sample 1 (Programming)

Topic:

OVERVIEW AND SOFTWARE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE LATENT SEMANTIC TEXT ANALYSIS ALGORITHM

Research paper outline:

I INFORMATION AND ANALYTICAL REVIEW

   A Description of current methods of text analysis

   B Description of the subject area

   C Rationale for the automated information system

   D Description of the algorithm

   E Description of the analog systems, their advantages, and disadvantages

II INFORMATION PROCESSING RESEARCH

   A Description of the application area and business processes

   B Context diagram and decomposition diagram

   C Second level decomposition diagram

III MODELING AND FUNCTIONAL DESIGN

IV APPLICATION IMPLEMENTATION

   A Functioning of the program

   B Selecting the tools

   C Input data

   D Composition of the software product

   E Conducting an experimental simulation analysis.

Sample 2 (Chemistry)

Topic:

REFRACTOMETRIC METHOD OF ANALYSIS IN CHEMISTRY

Research paper outline:

1 Some concepts of physical optics

   1.1 Propagation of light

   1.2 Light refraction index (refractive index)

   1.3 Dispersion of light

   1.4 Total internal reflection

2 Dipole moments and refraction

   2.1 Polarizability and dipole moment

        2.1.1 Molar polarizability

   2.2 Molar refraction

3 Refraction and molecular structure

   3.1 Additivity of refraction

   3.2 Optical exaltation

   3.3 Dispersion of molecular refraction

   3.4 Refraction and molecular size

4 Refractometry of solutions

   4.1 Analysis of two-component solutions

   4.2 Analysis of ternary solutions

5 Polymer refractometry

Sample 3 (Psychology)

Topic:

INFLUENCE OF THE LEVEL OF PERSONAL AND SOCIAL CREATIVITY OF ADOLESCENTS ON THE CHOICE OF BEHAVIORAL STRATEGIES IN CONFLICT SITUATIONS

Research paper outline:

I THEORETICAL BASIS OF STUDYING THE INFLUENCE OF THE LEVEL OF PERSONAL AND SOCIAL CREATIVITY OF ADOLESCENTS ON THE CHOICE OF BEHAVIOR STRATEGY IN A CONFLICT SITUATION

     The concept of creativity. Approaches to creativity research. Personal and social creativity

     B Conflict, conflict situation and strategies of behavior in a conflict situation

     C Psychological characteristics of teenagers

     D Peculiarities of teenagers’ creativity

     E The emergence of conflicts in adolescence and their resolution

II AN EMPIRICAL STUDY OF THE INFLUENCE OF THE LEVEL OF PERSONAL AND SOCIAL CREATIVITY OF ADOLESCENTS ON THE CHOICE OF BEHAVIORAL STRATEGIES IN A CONFLICT SITUATION

     A Research program

     B Analysis and interpretation of the study results

As you can see, depending on the topic, the hierarchy can be very simple (1-2 levels) or complicated (from 3 levels). It is always advisable to strive for simplification, but if this does not work, it is better to separate the headings than to include several ideas in one header at once. We hope that our advice and these examples will be useful to you.