How to write a research paper outline

How to write a research paper outline

A research paper outline is a supplementary file that describes all of the subjects to incorporate in a paper in the planned sequence, typically split by passages. A normal research paper outline includes additional specifics such as subtopics and evidence sources to assist the writer in staying structured.  This article discusses what to include and how to write a research paper outline.

What is the meaning of a research paper outline?

The outline is an essential part of knowing how to write a research paper. A research paper outline’s primary objective is to frame the topics, information, and all other additions in the paper, such as quotes, so you be coordinated and don’t miss anything. Traditionally, writers create outlines after deciding on a thesis statement and gathering research proof, but before beginning to write the initial draft. Making modifications during the overview phase is much more convenient than after the initial draft; you can eliminate some subjects before without spending time crafting them and include new topics to write everything. A standard research paper overview is divided into segments and paragraphs, with every paragraph’s topic and any supporting facts or data listed. As we will illustrate below, the level of detail varies based on your writing style and the criteria of the document.

Types of research paper outlines

In short, you determine what specifics to provide in your research paper overview, however, the assignment prerequisites influence what is essential. A normal academic research paper outline for a single-page assignment may only incorporate a collection of four or five passage topics, while an official research paper for a scientific report may highlight every sentence in all parts of a research article: introduction, literature review, methodologies, conclusions, and discourse. Based on their complexity, research paper outlines can be one stage, two levels, or more. One level identifies only the section titles or primary topics, whereas four-level describes paragraph and statement breakdowns.

The three most common research paper formats are;  alphanumeric, full sentence, and decimal.

Alphanumeric outline

The alphanumeric is the popular outline with core headings described as Roman numerals, sub-headings featured as upper case letters, particular areas for every subheading are stated as Arabic numerals, and additional information for individual items mentioned as lowercase letters. Rather than full sentences, you may prepare the data in quick snippets i.e., in a few words.

Alphanumeric outline template



              A. First-level subheading 1

              B. First-level subheading 2

                                   1. Second-level subheading 1

                                   2. Second-level subheading 2


             A. First-level subheading 1

                            1. Second-level subheading 1

                                       a. Third-level subheading 1

                                              (1) Fourth-level subheading 1

                                              (2) Fourth-level subheading 2

                                       b. Third-level subheading 2

                             2. Second-level subheading 2

                                       a. Third-level subheading 1

                                       b. Third-level subheading 2

             B. First-level subheading 2


             A. First-level subheading 1

             B. First-level subheading 2

                         1. Second-level subheading 1

                         2. Second-level subheading 2

Full-sentence outline

Full-sentence outlines follow the same format as alphanumeric outlines format, with foremost topics represented by Roman numerals, subheadings represented by capital letters, subtopic points represented by Arabic numerals, and descriptions for every point depicted by lowercase letters. The primary distinction is that you have to write the details in proper sentences rather than brief snippets. When working in a group, your outline will be more precise and convenient to discuss with coworkers. The drawback is that writing takes slightly longer.

Full-Sentence outline template


I. Terms or phrases should not be used as full-sentence outline topics.

              a. Full sentences must be used to outline topics and subtopics.

                        i. The format is identical to that of an alphanumeric outline.

                        ii. Every new topic and subtopic must illustrate a complete thought.

II. While full-sentence outlines are lengthy, they substantially speed up the writing process.

Decimal research paper outline 

Decimal outlines do without the alphanumeric structure in favor of a numbering system with advancing decimal points, with major headings listed as whole digits (1 or 1.0), subheadings with one decimal point (1.1), points under a subheading with two decimal pts (1.1.1), and additional description with three decimal pts ( Every fresh bit of information is labeled with the preceding number (1.1.1, 1.1.2, etc.), and you can remember where you are in the outline. Much like the actual alphanumeric format, you may prepare content for every line in short blurbs. Decimal outlines are the most detailed, but they can become complex. They are suggested for those who would like technical accuracy or long outlines with several headings and subheadings.

Decimal Outline Template


  1. Heading 1.

                1.1. First-level subheading 1.

                           1.1.1. Second-level subheading 1.

                           1.1.2. Second-level subheading 2.

                           1.1.3. Second-level subheading 3.

                1.2. First-level subheading 2.

  1. Heading 2.

                2.1. First-level subheading 1.

                           2.1.1. Second-level subheading 1.

                           2.1.2. Second-level subheading 2.

                              Third-level subheading 1.

                              Third-level subheading 2.

                              Third-level subheading 3.

                              Third-level subheading 4.

                           2.1.3. Second-level subheading 3.

               2.2. First-level subheading 2.

Distinctions between Alphanumeric, Full-sentence, and Decimal outline

Alphanumeric Outline

  • To arrange topics and topics, add numbers, letters, and periods.
  • Describe the hierarchal structure and coherently align ideas.
  • The most primary topics are at the top of a hierarchy, followed by less crucial topics.

Full-sentence Outline

  • Full statements should be used for every topic or subtopic.
  • It may take longer to create, but it minimizes the time necessary to organize a research paper.
  • It can be built using the framework of the alphanumeric outline.

Decimal Outline

  • It is similar to alphanumeric but employs digits. Individual terms, phrases, and full statements can be utilized.
  • Displays how minimal points are related to main ones.
  • Add Arabic numerals divided by duration to provide additional information.


What is a research paper outline?

An academic research outline is a file that describes the format of a research report. To keep on schedule while writing, the writer develops an outline when beginning the initial draft.

What is the format of a research paper outline?

Outlines for research papers are typically separated into segments, passages, and individual statements or points. The level of information in a research paper outline differs according to the author’s style, the coursework criteria, and the topic’s scope.

You now understand the significance of an research paper outline. Remember to go over your outline when you’ve finished it. It is the most effective method for indicating potential errors. Note that creating an effective outline is the initial step toward writing an outstanding paper.

Paraphrasing tool