What You Need For Your College Research Paper Outline

What You Need For Your College Research Paper Outline
Laura Patino

Laura Patino

Chief Content Officer At Gradehacker

A research paper outline is an essential part of the writing process, and it allows you to organize your ideas before you start writing. A well-made outline can help you maintain a good pace for your paper and help keep you on track.

Plus, your paper topic will be hard to follow without an outline and not have a coherent flow. It would help you organize your thoughts and keep you focused on the subject. 

The first step to creating an outline for your research paper is deciding on the main points. What are the most critical issues? What are some sub-points? You should make these points before you start writing anything else. 

Here at Gradehacker, we recognize that sometimes it can be difficult for students to write an outline that summarizes the structure of their essay in an easy-to-follow format. To achieve this, we want to share what you need to know before preparing your college research paper outline.

If you need more to improve your writing skills, check related content like our article: How To Start Your Entry Essay For a Scholarship

What Is A College Research Paper Outline?

Research papers are based on students’ investigations. It’s essential to focus on a specific topic rather than a general issue. For example, an essay in Biology should be devoted to a particular subject like a disease, a part of the body, or a bacteria.

Here’s the way it all happens. You’ll have the option of getting an assigned topic or choosing one. You need to find reliable sources to learn more about the subject, and then you’ll come up with personal interpretations after analyzing the information. 

It is important to keep track of your thoughts, ideas, progress and create personal notes. Try to stick to the assigned formatting style, whether it is: MLA, APA, Harvard, or another indicated requirement.

If you have doubts about the different styles, read our article APA vs. MLA Citation: What’s the Difference?

The Steps You Should Follow

With these steps, you will feel more prepared to start your research paper outline:

The Structure Of Your College Research Paper

If you want to compose your essay outlines successfully, you must understand the structure of your writing and stick to it. Like any other academic essay, these papers consist of three main parts: Introduction, body, and conclusion.

Once you have these sections, write them down in a list or bullet points. You can also develop supporting details and evidence that backs up each point. Finally, take all these points and place them into a coherent order that advances your argument.

The Language In Research Paper Outlines

Depending on the goal of your essay, the language in your outline can vary. It is not the same to do an outline for a book review as it is for a research paper. It is important to keep in mind your subject and see which of the following types suits you the best: parallelism, coordination, subordination, and division.


A parallel structure is a repetition between points and sub-points of a particular form within a sentence. In simple words, the sub-point should be a verb if the first point is a verb. Here’s an example:

  1. Introduce the abortion debate, address two sides.
  2. Include different social and economic aspects and laws of the country you’re writing about the subject in.

All of your subheadings should be the same significance as the first sub-points, secondary sub-points, and so on. To establish that the items have equal value, it is necessary to list them with the same numeral or letter designations

In the example below, while I and II are the main topics that summarize the concept of the paragraph, 1 and 2 are sub-points and have a and b as secondary sub-points within themselves.

What you need for your College Research Outline Coordination

As the level of significance in every outline establishes that the major heading has to embody the general concept of the subject, as you create your sub-points, they should be more accurate, gaining specificity with each sub-point you add. This way, not only are you summarizing the outline better, but you are also developing a clear guideline for both the reader and yourself. 

In the example below, see how the main topic is widespread, while the sub-topics give more information about the subject.


  1. Outline dangers presented by clandestine abortion as linked to other diseases
  2. Description of illnesses that can result from the bad praxis
  3. Description of risks of death

You should split your headings into two or more subsections. Each division can help your outline be more precise and easy to follow. 

The number of subsections you can include under each heading is up to you, but keep in mind that the information will be structured into a paragraph during the writing stage, so try not to overpass the number of sub-points. 

Additionally, there always need to be at least two sub-topics. It would be pointless to add an “a” without further developing it with a “b.”

Are You Ready To Start Your College Research Paper Outline?

When writing a research paper, it is essential to have an outline with all the necessary components. There are many different types of outlines, but they all have one thing in common: they’re a great way to stay on track with your paper

Remember that the structure is crucial, so if you follow these tips, you shouldn’t have any problems and get an A from your professor.

In case you feel too overwhelmed, you can always count on our Homework Assignments Service, or if you need extra help with your classes, contact us to get our Entire Class Bundle Service.

Gradehacker is always happy to help non-traditional students and make the college experience more manageable and fun to remember. If you want to continue learning, visit our learning center and find more related content: