Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

How to write a Research Paper: Outline Template

Writing a research paper may seem like a daunting task, but it can be broken down in easy to follow steps that help make the process simpler. In this module you will learn the specific steps to follow when writing a research paper. The steps we wi

What you need to start your outline:

Before you start your outline you will need:

  1. A topic (A very general idea of what you want to write about)
  2. A thesis (A very narrowed down idea of your topic)(can be changed later if needed)
  3. Points to support the thesis (some research papers will include three, but you can have more or less depending on the topic/thesis)
  4. Sources to prove those points (these you have gathered from your research, they should be credible and support the three (give or take) points that support the thesis)(you can use quotes, facts, definitions, statistics, examples, etc.)

Once you have all these things start filling out the outline below in a blank document:

Research Paper Outline


  • Introduction:
    • Introducing statement: Something to catch the reader’s attention, a hook, a fun quote, an interesting fact. This can be written later on, but maybe include some ideas here. 
    • Thesis: Write your thesis here. A thesis is usually one or two sentences that express the main idea of a research paper. It can be persuasive or informative. The length of the thesis may depend on the required length of your paper. 
    • Points (Road map): After your thesis, you might want to state the main points you will use to prove this thesis. This can be in only one- two sentences and by using commas to separate the points. If you need a longer intro, you can give these points a sentence per point, but try not to do this if you don’t need to. Make it clear that you will be discussing these points in more detail later in the paper and that they answer the thesis. Some professors will require this to be done, and some professors will not want the points stated with the thesis. Always check with your professor on what they would prefer.
  • BODY 1: First Point
    •  Explain the point
    •  Supporting source/ quote
    •  Tie point back to how it supports the thesis
  • BODY 2: Second Point
    •  Explain the point
    •  Supporting source/ quote
    •  Tie point back to how it supports the thesis
  • +Add as many BODY sections/paragraphs as you need following the format above. Do not feel like you need to follow the five-paragraph method. Use as many or as few points that support your thesis to the fullest and back up your statement. Often times there are three or four points, but that there could be more or fewer. 
  • Conclusion:
    • Thesis: Restate your thesis here with different wording, most professors do not want the same thesis verbatim as in the introduction. Considering this as a restating of the ideas, not the same thesis sentence.
    • Points: Restate your points from the body paragraph in one-two sentences, making connections when necessary.
    • Concluding statement: Make some concluding remarks about why your thesis is important. This statement is basically a fancy way of saying why the paper was written in the first place and why it matters to the reader. Try to connect it to something that is currently going on in the world or why it is relevant now. If you are having trouble, think what initially attracted you to the topic and why you think it is important to others. 


 When placing your sources in your outline, include:

  • The quote or paraphrase you want to use
  • The authors name or title of work if no author
  • The page number (and year if APA citation format)

By including this information, you will make writing and citing your sources much easier later on.