What Makes an Outline for a Research Paper?

How to Write an Outline for a Research Paper

Typically, most students would expect to spend several weeks leading up to the writing outline for a research paper. In reality, this can sometimes be shorter than you might think. Depending on where your research takes place, you might even have just a few days to tackle the task.

Before you begin working on the outline, it is advisable that you should begin planning how you will develop the paperitself. As you might probably already know by this point, the different elements of your research paper will vary. Nevertheless, your subject, method of research, and timeframe will most likely follow a standard format.

Cover Page

As the first section of your research paper, this part should clearly show the reader what the outline covers. As such, you should always ensure that this part is centrally positioned. As you work on the other sections of the paper, you can then break down the cover page into sub-sections. It is also essential to ensure that you include a title, your name, and also the institution that you are working for.

The formatting of this section will mostly depend on the style that you are writing your paper in. Nevertheless, you should ensure that the title you choose to write on the page appears directly after the acknowledgments. Furthermore, you should always consider the font that you will be using on the paper.


This section outlines what your research is all about. Therefore, you should ensure that you start off by clearly stating the central theme of your study. As such, it would be best if you started from a general perspective. It helps you to narrow down your research questions accordingly. Additionally, this section allows you to describe the key concepts that you will be looking into.

It is also recommended that you give a brief description of each of the key points you wish to look into in the research paper. Therefore, you should also include the:

  • Background
  • Objectives
  • Literature review
  • Questions
  • Previous studies
  • Importance
  • Academic goals
  • Outline


Depending on the length of your research paper, you might have various areas to cover. It is always best to write out all of the significant points you wish to discuss in this section. It helps you to capture the different elements of your research in a single place.

H2: Results