How to write a formal outline for a research paper: main requirements

An outline is the first step to any kind of writing. Whether you are supposed to write a research paper, an essay, a dissertation, or a story, the first thing you should do is make a wire frame for your paper. An outline usually has three main components:

  • The introduction
  • The body
  • The conclusion

There will be other headings and sub-headings, that your professor wants you to use in your paper but he will then specify them to you. It is always a good idea to check with your teacher or one of your classmates to revise all the requirements that your teacher or university has specified. If you keep on forgetting things, you can get a print out of the requirements or write them down manually on a paper or a notepad.


This is where you present your topic to the reader. An introduction of a research paper necessarily has a thesis statement, the purpose of the research paper and why you chose this topic. It needs to be brief and to the point. You must show the readers a glimpse of what you are going to show in the rest of your paper.


The body of your paper consists of arguments, evidence, and examples that you have gathered to support your stance. The examples should be real life so that the reader finds them relevant and interesting. They would help if they are not vague and are based on real life experiences. The order of the arguments that support your stance should be ascending. For instance, you begin with a strong argument, after explaining this; you build grounds for the next one. The second argument is even stronger, this way you will keep entering a stronger argument each time until you reach the end and write the strongest argument.


The conclusion is the last part of the research paper. In this part you write the summary of all your data analysis, the research findings, the evidence, the examples etc. this is where you clearly state your thesis statement again and emphasize that you have proved your stance. You should never end a conclusion on a vague note that can give space for confusion. Always be definite, confident, and clear when you write the conclusion. Make sure it is free of irrelevant details and is precise.