Research Paper Outline: Step-by-Step Guide

Research Paper Outline: Step-by-Step Guide

Writing a successful well thought out research paper requires investing a lot of time. And while challenging, it can be made a lot easier by first writing a research paper outline. But to compose the best quality outline, you need to take these pre-writing steps:

  • Select an appropriate topic
  • State your argument
  • Define the audience
  • Conduct research
  • Organize references

Research Paper Outline: Step-by-Step Guide

Once you’ve completed the pre-writing activities, it’s time to create a research paper outline that’s effective. It will serve as a point-by-point plan from which you build up your entire research paper.

Each outline consists of the introduction, the body, and the conclusion. We have discussed each section in detail below.


Whether or not your audience reads your entire paper largely depends on your introduction. For this reason, you should craft an introduction that will intrigue, engage, and inform your readers. But ensure not to give away too much.

An impressive introduction consists of these three main points:

  • Hook. A hook can be 1 to 5 sentences long, depending on the length of your research paper. It should be provoking and interesting enough that your readers don’t put the essay down before reading the body.
  • Define the audience. One of your pre-writing activities is defining your audience, i.e., understanding who you’ve written the research paper for. Here, you get to explain to your reader why he/she is your target audience.
  • Thesis statement. Here is where you make your claim and explain its importance. Ensure your thesis statement is clear, simple, and intriguing.


Of the three parts of your research paper outline, the body is the main one. The number of paragraphs under this section will depend on the research paper requirements. Generally, the more arguments you present, the longer the body will be.

Any evidence you discover during your research goes in this section. And each idea you state must be supported by evidence from credible sources. Don’t forget to cite your references as per the required paper format.

You can also discuss counterarguments to your claim in this section, where you give evidence of why they are wrong. Stating opposing facts shows you have a deep understanding of the subject, and you have conducted thorough research.

Remember, the style and tone of your research paper should be the same from beginning to end. Uphold consistency in the format, structure, and techniques you use. But be creative and combine different language techniques to make your paper more interesting.

There’s a good chance your audience, which is usually the professor in a student’s case, is already familiar with the topic. Regardless, your paper should address a reader that is not conversant with the subject.


The conclusion summarizes your arguments so that the reader can digest the main idea and remember it for a long time. And while it should contain all the crucial parts, it should not be long.

  • Summary of arguments. Here, you again state your main points without providing a detailed explanation or evidence to each.
  • Call to action. The part of your research paper that invites your readers to take a specified action.

Remember, creating a good outline is essential in creating a successful research paper. Ensure to take notes when conducting research and do not be afraid to ask for help.

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