How to Write a Research Paper Outline

  • Create a list of topics you want to research, then expand each into a mind map featuring details of data, statistics or other important information you know or willing to verify. Spend 20 to 45 minutes completing as many lists as possible in order to have an extended list of opportunities.
  • Establish a thesis related to your essay or research topic. The research outline should correspond with the citation requirements for the essay. You can use Roman numerals for MLA or numbers for APA.
  • State the full topic in one sentence explaining the purpose, audience and event you are inquiring in your research. Use this information to complete online research for sources and offline books. Find resources less than 5 years old for relevance and accuracy in modern understandings of your topic.

Create the Outline

  • Gather note cards with resource information to include references to dates, time, location and authors where appropriate. Manage your information on note cards, then transfer the information to the research paper outline template.
  • Add footnotes, or corner notes, to the outline if you find problems or factual errors. Review the contents by fact checking it prior to writing the final research paper outline. Evaluate your references prior to adding the information to your outline to ease the research writing process and finishing the outline with confidence.
  • Write a rough draft of the outline using the appropriate citation method stated in your grading rubric. Set the research outline to the side for two days prior to finalizing the data. Complete a thorough check for spelling, grammar and punctuation, side notes and additional references before submitting your work.


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