Academic Writing Made Simple: A Research Paper Outline Template

Research papers are an important part of the curriculum for high school and college classes across a wide range of subject areas. This type of academic writing can be particularly demanding and time-consuming. You need to decide on a good, relevant topic, plan out your paper, actually write your first draft, and then edit it until it’s good enough to turn in.

When it comes to research papers, formatting is surprisingly important. The organization of your paper is a key part of making sure that your argument follows a clear, logical progression. Without a clear idea of what you’re going to say, and what in order your content will be arranged, it’s easy to start to ramble and get off-track. A paper without any clear structure will be hard to read and hard to understand, potentially earning you a poor grade on the assignment. One of the best ways to make sure your paper has a solid structure is to outline it before you write it. The outlining process gives you a “skeleton” of your paper’s content, allowing you to fill in the blanks as your write. It keeps you focused and on-track, as well as making the paper easier to write.

Different students prefer different outline formats for their research papers. Some people simply make a list of relevant bullet points, whereas others will produce a more structured alphanumeric outline. Either way, your paper’s structure will include several basic parts:

  • Introduction. In the introduction, you’ll give an overview of your subject matter for the reader. This provides some context for your thesis statement, which provides a concise summation of your overall argument. It’s often useful to open your paper with a quote or a statistic, but this isn’t always necessary.
  • Body. The body clearly presents the main points contained in your thesis, and is usually divided up into three or more paragraphs. You should always use strong examples and evidence from your sources to back up any claims that you make, providing support for your thesis.
  • Conclusion. The concluding paragraph usually restates your thesis, and ties your paper together into a cohesive whole with a brief summation of each point made in the body.

Here’s a sample research paper outline that you can use as a general guide for writing your own paper:

  • INTRODUCTION
    • Relevant Quote
    • Summary of current knowledge about topic
    • Brief discussion of controversy about topic.
    • THESIS STATEMENT
  • BODY PARAGRAPH I
    • Topic sentence
    • Relevant facts
    • Discussion of relevant facts
  • BODY PARAGRAPH II
    • Topic sentence
    • Relevant facts
    • Discussion of relevant facts
  • BODY PARAGRAPH III
    • Topic sentence
    • Relevant facts
    • Discussion of relevant facts
  • CONCLUSION
    • Restate thesis
    • Summarize points from body
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