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How to Create a Structured Research Paper Outline | Example
Published on August 7, 2022 by Courtney Gahan . Revised on November 29, 2022.
A research paper outline is a useful tool to aid in the writing process , providing a structure to follow with all information to be included in the paper clearly organized.
A quality outline can make writing your research paper more efficient by helping to:
- Organize your thoughts
- Understand the flow of information and how ideas are related
- Ensure nothing is forgotten
A research paper outline can also give your teacher an early idea of the final product.
Table of contents
Research paper outline example, how to write a research paper outline, formatting your research paper outline, language in research paper outlines.
- Definition of measles
- Rise in cases in recent years in places the disease was previously eliminated or had very low rates of infection
- Figures: Number of cases per year on average, number in recent years. Relate to immunization
- Symptoms and timeframes of disease
- Risk of fatality, including statistics
- How measles is spread
- Immunization procedures in different regions
- Different regions, focusing on the arguments from those against immunization
- Immunization figures in affected regions
- High number of cases in non-immunizing regions
- Illnesses that can result from measles virus
- Fatal cases of other illnesses after patient contracted measles
- Summary of arguments of different groups
- Summary of figures and relationship with recent immunization debate
- Which side of the argument appears to be correct?
Follow these steps to start your research paper outline:
- Decide on the subject of the paper
- Write down all the ideas you want to include or discuss
- Organize related ideas into sub-groups
- Arrange your ideas into a hierarchy: What should the reader learn first? What is most important? Which idea will help end your paper most effectively?
- Create headings and subheadings that are effective
- Format the outline in either alphanumeric, full-sentence or decimal format
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There are three different kinds of research paper outline: alphanumeric, full-sentence and decimal outlines. The differences relate to formatting and style of writing.
An alphanumeric outline is most commonly used. It uses Roman numerals, capitalized letters, arabic numerals, lowercase letters to organize the flow of information. Text is written with short notes rather than full sentences.
- Sub-point of sub-point 1
Essentially the same as the alphanumeric outline, but with the text written in full sentences rather than short points.
- Additional sub-point to conclude discussion of point of evidence introduced in point A
A decimal outline is similar in format to the alphanumeric outline, but with a different numbering system: 1, 1.1, 1.2, etc. Text is written as short notes rather than full sentences.
- 1.1.1 Sub-point of first point
- 1.1.2 Sub-point of first point
- 1.2 Second point
To write an effective research paper outline, it is important to pay attention to language. This is especially important if it is one you will show to your teacher or be assessed on.
There are four main considerations: parallelism, coordination, subordination and division.
Parallelism: Be consistent with grammatical form
Parallel structure or parallelism is the repetition of a particular grammatical form within a sentence, or in this case, between points and sub-points. This simply means that if the first point is a verb , the sub-point should also be a verb.
Example of parallelism:
- Include different regions, focusing on the different arguments from those against immunization
Coordination: Be aware of each point’s weight
Your chosen subheadings should hold the same significance as each other, as should all first sub-points, secondary sub-points, and so on.
Example of coordination:
- Include immunization figures in affected regions
- Illnesses that can result from the measles virus
Subordination: Work from general to specific
Subordination refers to the separation of general points from specific. Your main headings should be quite general, and each level of sub-point should become more specific.
Example of subordination:
Division: break information into sub-points.
Your headings should be divided into two or more subsections. There is no limit to how many subsections you can include under each heading, but keep in mind that the information will be structured into a paragraph during the writing stage, so you should not go overboard with the number of sub-points.
Ready to start writing or looking for guidance on a different step in the process? Read our step-by-step guide on how to write a research paper .
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Gahan, C. (2022, November 29). How to Create a Structured Research Paper Outline | Example. Scribbr. Retrieved March 3, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/research-paper/outline/
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Why and How to Create a Useful Outline
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This resource describes why outlines are useful, what types of outlines exist, suggestions for developing effective outlines, and how outlines can be used as an invention strategy for writing.
Why create an outline? There are many reasons, but in general, it may be helpful to create an outline when you want to show the hierarchical relationship or logical ordering of information. For research papers, an outline may help you keep track of large amounts of information. For creative writing, an outline may help organize the various plot threads and help keep track of character traits. Many people find that organizing an oral report or presentation in outline form helps them speak more effectively in front of a crowd. Below are the primary reasons for creating an outline.
- Aids in the process of writing
- Helps you organize your ideas
- Presents your material in a logical form
- Shows the relationships among ideas in your writing
- Constructs an ordered overview of your writing
- Defines boundaries and groups
How do I create an outline?
- Determine the purpose of your paper.
- Determine the audience you are writing for.
- Develop the thesis of your paper.
- Brainstorm : List all the ideas that you want to include in your paper.
- Organize : Group related ideas together.
- Order : Arrange material in subsections from general to specific or from abstract to concrete.
- Label : Create main and sub headings.
Remember: creating an outline before writing your paper will make organizing your thoughts a lot easier. Whether you follow the suggested guidelines is up to you, but making any kind of outline (even just some jotting down some main ideas) will be beneficial to your writing process.
How to Write an Analytical Essay in 6 Steps
An analytical essay is an essay that meticulously and methodically examines a single topic to draw conclusions or prove theories. Although they are used in many fields, analytical essays are often used with art and literature to break down works’ creative themes and explore their deeper meanings and symbolism .
Analytical essays are a staple in academics, so if you’re a student, chances are you’ll write one sooner or later. This guide addresses all the major concerns about how to write an analytical essay, such as the preferred structure and what to put in the outline. Let’s start with an in-depth answer to the question, what is an analytical essay? Give your writing extra polish Grammarly helps you communicate confidently Write with Grammarly
What is an analytical essay?
One of the seven main types of essay , analytical essays intricately examine a single topic to explain specific arguments or prove the author’s theories. They commonly deal with creative works like art, literature, film, or music, dissecting the creator’s artistic themes and revealing hidden meanings. However, they can also address other issues in realms like science, politics, and society.
Analytical essays are a type of expository essay , so they’re not supposed to express bias, opinions , or persuasions . Even when the author is trying to prove their own theory (or disprove an opposing theory), their argument should stick solely to facts and logic and keep the author’s personal feelings to a minimum.
An analytical essay example could be a deep dive into the character of Hamlet, but this topic itself could have multiple interpretations. Your essay could focus on whether or not Hamlet truly loved Ophelia, question the motives for his constant hesitation, or even attempt to prove the theory that he was mentally ill—after all, he did see apparitions!
How to structure an analytical essay
Although analytical essays tend to be more detailed, specific, or technical than other essays, they still follow the same loose essay structure as the rest:
The introduction is where you present your thesis statement and prepare your reader for what follows. Because analytical essays focus on a single topic, the introduction should give all the background information and context necessary for the reader to understand the writer’s argument. Save the actual analysis of your topic for the body.
The body is the nucleus of your essay. Here you explain each separate point and offer evidence to support the thesis, breaking up your argument into paragraphs. While the introduction and conclusion are each usually just a single paragraph, the body is composed of many different paragraphs and often stretches out over pages, thereby making up most of the essay.
Every paragraph in the body still relates to your chosen topic and your thesis, but each paragraph should make a different point or focus on a different piece of evidence. For example, if your topic is about how Edgar Allan Poe uses the theme of death in his writing, one paragraph could explore the use of death in “The Tell-Tale Heart,” while a different paragraph could explore death in “The Raven,” and so on.
Finally, the conclusion wraps everything up. Conclusions usually don’t introduce new evidence or supporting details but instead reiterate the previous points and bring them all together to strengthen your original thesis. At this point your reader has sufficient background to understand the topic. With your evidential examples in mind, they’ll be more receptive to your main argument when you present it one last time.
How to write an analytical essay in 6 steps
The process of writing an analytical essay largely follows the same guidelines as all essay writing . Here we break down each individual step from start to finish.
1 Choose your topic
This step may be optional if your topic has been given to you as an assignment. If not, though, you should choose your topic with care.
Your topic should be specific enough that you’re able to discuss it thoroughly. If you choose a broad topic like “love in novels from Victorian England,” it’s unlikely you’ll be able to cover all Victorian novels in a single analytical essay (or even ten analytical essays!). However, narrowing the topic down to something such as “love in Jane Austen novels” makes your task more achievable.
That said, don’t be too specific, or you won’t have enough material to cover. Try to find a good middle ground: specific enough that you can discuss everything but general enough that you’ll be able to find enough research and supporting evidence.
2 Research your topic
Once you know your topic, you can begin collecting data and evidence to discuss it. If your analytical essay is about a creative work, you may want to spend time reviewing or evaluating that work, such as watching a film closely or studying the details of a painting. It’s also useful to review other people’s critiques of that work to inspire new ideas or reveal details you hadn’t noticed before.
Don’t forget to write down where you get your information, including page numbers for books or time codes if you’re watching visual media. You may need to reference these in your essay, so making a quick note about where you find your information while researching saves time later when you’re citing your sources .
It helps to know your thesis from the onset. However, you may realize during your research that your original thesis is not as strong as you thought. If this happens, don’t be afraid to modify it or choose a new one. In any case, by the time your research is finished, you should know what your thesis will be.
3 Create an outline
An essay outline gives you the opportunity to organize all your thoughts and research so you can put them in the optimal order. Ideally, you’ll have finished your research by now and made notes of everything you want to say in your analytical essay. The outline is your chance to decide when to talk about each point.
Outlines are typically broken up by paragraph. Each paragraph should explore an individual point you’re making and include your evidence or statistical data to back up that particular point. Be careful about trying to squeeze too much information into a single paragraph; if it looks excessive, try to break up the information into two or more paragraphs.
Feel free to move around or rearrange the order of paragraphs while outlining—that’s what this step is for! It’s much easier to fix structural problems now in the outline phase than later when writing.
4 Write your first draft
Now is the time you sit down and actually write the rough draft of your analytical essay. This step is by far the longest, so be sure to set aside ample time.
If you wrote your outline thoroughly, all you have to do is follow it paragraph by paragraph. Be sure to include each piece of evidence and data you had planned to include. Don’t worry about details like choosing the perfect wording or fixing every grammar mistake—you can do those later in the revisions phase. For now, focus solely on getting everything down.
Pay particular attention to how you start an essay. The introduction serves different purposes, such as telling the reader what to expect, providing background information, and above all presenting your thesis statement. Make sure your introduction checks all those boxes.
Likewise, be extra careful with your conclusion. There are special techniques for how to write a conclusion, such as using a powerful clincher and avoiding certain cliches like “in summary.” Conclusions usually hold more weight than the other paragraphs because they’re the last thing a person reads and can leave a lasting impression on them.
Finally, don’t forget to include transition sentences in between your body paragraphs when needed. Moving abruptly from one topic to the next can be jarring for the reader; transition sentences improve the essay’s flow and remove distractions.
5 Revise your draft
Your first draft is never meant to be perfect. Once you have all your ideas down on paper, it’s much easier to go back and revise . Now is the perfect time to improve your phrasing and word choice and edit out any unnecessary or tangential parts.
When you revise, pay particular attention to details. Try to find areas that you can remove to make your essay more succinct or passages that aren’t clear that need more explanation. Put yourself in the reader’s shoes: Will someone with no background knowledge still understand your points?
6 Proofread your essay
Last, it’s time to fix any grammar and spelling mistakes by proofreading . While it’s tempting to do this at the same time as your revisions, it’s best to do them separately so you don’t split your attention. This allows you to focus only on word choice, phrasing, and adding/removing content while revising and to concentrate solely on language mistakes during proofreading.
If you’re not confident in your grammar or spelling expertise, you can always use an app like Grammarly . Our app highlights any spelling or grammar mistakes directly in your text and gives proper suggestions on how to fix them. There are even features that help you choose the perfect word or adjust your writing to fit a certain tone. You can also copy and paste your writing to check your grammar and get instant feedback on grammar, spelling, punctuation, and other mistakes you might have missed.
Analytical essay outline example
If you’re having trouble, here’s an analytical essay example that shows how a proper outline or structure should look. The format here uses a five-paragraph essay structure, but for more complicated topics, you can add as many body paragraphs as you need.
Topic: Who is the real villain: Macbeth or Lady Macbeth?
- Briefly describe the plot of Macbeth for those who aren’t familiar with it
- Thesis statement : Lady Macbeth is the real villain of Macbeth because she manipulates her husband into committing an atrocious crime
Body Paragraph 1
- Murdering the king is all Lady Macbeth’s idea
- Macbeth is initially against it until Lady Macbeth convinces him
Body Paragraph 2
- Lady Macbeth has her own individual character arc where she is driven mad by her guilt
- Her guilt insinuates she knows her actions are villainous, with appropriate consequences
- Cite quotations from her “Out, damned spot!” speech
Body Paragraph 3
- Macbeth decides to listen to Lady Macbeth, so he is still guilty
- Speculate that he still would not have murdered the king if not for Lady Macbeth
- Macbeth remains the main character because most scenes revolve around him, but the person acting against him most is Lady Macbeth
- Remind reader that Macbeth didn’t want to murder the king until Lady Macbeth convinced him
- Clincher : Macbeth is still the hero albeit a tragic one. But his main antagonist is not Macduff or the king or even the prophecy itself; it’s his wife.
Analytical essay FAQs
An analytical essay is an essay that deeply examines a single topic, often a creative work, to reveal certain conclusions or prove theories held by the essay’s author.
How is an analytical essay structured?
Analytical essays are structured like most other essays: an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. However, the body paragraphs have a stricter emphasis on facts, logic, and empirical evidence compared to other essays.
What are the steps to writing an analytical essay?
As with all essays, you first research and then organize all your points into a working outline. Next, you write the rough draft with all the data and evidence collected during your research. Revise the rough draft when it’s finished to improve the phrasing and add/remove certain parts. Last, proofread the essay for any grammar or spelling mistakes.
Formatting your research paper outline There are three different kinds of research paper outline: alphanumeric, full-sentence and decimal outlines. The differences relate to formatting and style of writing. Alphanumeric Full-sentence Decimal An alphanumeric outline is most commonly used.
Brainstorm: List all the ideas that you want to include in your paper. Organize: Group related ideas together. Order: Arrange material in subsections from general to specific or from abstract to concrete. Label: Create main and sub headings. Remember: creating an outline before writing your paper will make organizing your thoughts a lot easier.
There are three popular formats for research paper outlines: alphanumeric, full sentence, and decimal. Below, we’ll explain the details of each and illustrate their differences with the research paper outline examples, focused on the same topic: “Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James: Who’s the Best Basketball Player?” Alphanumeric research paper outline
The analytical essay outline format is similar to the five-paragraph structure and it contains: Introduction Hook statement State the thesis statement Prove your thesis statement Body Paragraphs Supporting evidence and facts Use transition words Support your claims Conclusion Summary of the essay Restate the thesis statement