Developing a Good Outline for Your Research Paper

As part of the research paper process, some teachers may ask for an outline of your paper.  The purpose of this outline is to make writing easier, which is often needed for students who are researching for the first time.  Furthermore, the teacher will know at a glance if a student has an idea of what to do or if there is still confusion.

The Outline’s Format

The outline follows the flow of the paper, meaning it has an Introduction, Body, and Conclusion.

            I. Introduction

            – Rationale (include the hook)

            – Significance to others

            – Thesis (your position)

            II. Body

            – 3 arguments (at least) as support

            III. Conclusion

            – Arguments summarized

            – Actions needed

1. Introduction

This provides the context of what the reader is about to read.  The outline’s intro should present engaging elements that will entice the reader to delve deep into the paper.


Here, you briefly present the main purpose of the study. This includes the problem the paper aims to solve and why it is so important.

Something teachers want to see is a “hook.” This may be a significant thought, quote, or statistic that will literally “hook” the reader’s attention.

Significance to others

In this part, you state who your audience is and why.  For example, if your research is about the effects of smartphones on the changing leisurely pursuits of high school students, your audience might include parents, teachers, and business owners.

Thesis statement

The thesis statement or position is a very crucial part of the outline.  This is where you mention your stand on the argument:  Are you for or against the issue?  Do you believe that “A” positively or negatively affects “B”?  Do you think that the problem is not as important as everybody says it is?

II. Body

To give your teacher an idea about the strength of your defense, your outline may require three to five main points supporting your position. Anything more than that will take up too much time.

Your teachers will also ask for the counterarguments as a good paper presents both sides. You might also be asked to list your main sources for each argument and counterargument to ensure you are not just making things up.

III. Conclusion

The outline’s conclusion presents a summary of the main arguments. Since the outline is usually made before the main paper was written, you will be presenting this section according to how you believe the research will play out.

Arguments Summarized

Here, the strongest arguments are briefly restated to give your teacher a general idea of how you expect your paper to end. You may initially assume that your position is correct.

Actions Needed

This is where others are spurred to action based on the findings of your research.  You briefly give recommendations on what the interested parties may need to do.


The outline presents the skeletal framework of your paper, giving your teacher an idea of what you will create and confirming if you understand what you are doing. Although it is not the paper itself, it may still be a big part of your grade. So follow the tips above to create a good outline.

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