How to Write a Research Paper Outline In 7 Steps
A research paper outline is a supporting document that lists all the topics to include in a paper in the intended order, usually divided by paragraphs. The typical outline of a research paper also consists of other details like subtopics and evidential sources to help the writer stay organized. Some even have individual sentence topics and early ideas for phrasing.
Want to know how to write a research paper outline? This guide explains step by step what to include and how to write one yourself, including research paper outline examples.
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What is a research paper outline?
The outline is an integral part of how to write a research paper . The main purpose of a research paper outline is to structure the topics, data, and all other inclusions in the paper (like direct quotes) so you stay organized and don’t forget anything.
Conventionally, writers compose outlines after choosing a thesis statement and sourcing research evidence, but before writing the first draft . Making structural changes is far more efficient in the outlining phase than after you write the first draft; you can remove certain topics early on without wasting time writing them and add new topics before the drafting phase so you can write everything all at once.
The typical outline of a research paper is broken up into sections and paragraphs , listing each paragraph’s topic and the related evidence or data to include therein. The depth of detail can change depending on your writing style or the requirements of the paper, as we explain below.
Are there different kinds of research paper outlines?
In short, you decide what details to include in your research paper outline, although the requirements of the assignment influence what’s necessary. For example, a basic college research paper outline for a one-page assignment might contain only a list of four or five paragraph topics, whereas a formal research paper for a scientific study might outline each sentence in all five parts of a research paper: introduction, review of literature, methods, results, and discussion.
Research paper outlines can be one level, two level, and so on, depending on their intricacy. One-level outlines display just the section headings or main topics, while four-level outlines get very detailed with paragraph and sentence breakdowns.
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
Alphanumeric is the most common outline format—with main topics listed as Roman numerals, subtopics as capital letters, specific points for each subtopic as Arabic numerals, and further details for individual points as lowercase letters.
You would write the information in quick blurbs—just a few words—instead of complete sentences.
Alphanumeric research paper outline example
I. Michael Jordan
A. Career Highlights
1. Six NBA Championships
a. Six NBA Finals MVP
2. US Olympics Basketball Team
a. 1984 Gold Medalist
b. 1992 Gold Medalist
3. Fourteen NBA All-Star Game selections
a. Three NBA All-Star Game MVP Awards
1. Record-holder scoring average
a. Regular season (30.12 points per game)
b. Playoffs (33.45 points per game)
2. Other accolades
a. 1996 Space Jam
b. Owner of Charlotte Hornets
II. LeBron James
1. Four NBA Championships
a. Four NBA Finals MVP
a. 2008 Gold Medalist
b. 2012 Gold Medalist
3. Eighteen NBA All-Star Game selections
a. LeBron James Family Foundation
b. Social activism
a. 2021 Space Jam
b. First player to accumulate $1 billion as an active player
III. Analysis and Discussion
A. Of course, Michael Jordan is better
Full-sentence research paper outline
Full-sentence research paper outlines have the same organization as alphanumeric outlines—with main topics listed as Roman numerals, subtopics as capital letters, subtopic points as Arabic numerals, and details for each point as lowercase letters.
However, the significant difference is that you would write the information in incomplete sentences instead of quick blurbs. The advantage is that your outline is more specific and easier to share with colleagues when working as a team. The disadvantage is that it takes a little longer to write.
Full-sentence research paper outline example
I. Michael Jordan is often considered the greatest basketball player of all time.
A. Jordan’s career in basketball is full of accomplishments and accolades.
1. During his career, Jordan won six NBA Championships.
a. Jordan was named NBA Finals MVP all six times he was eligible.
2. Jordan twice played for the US Olympics Basketball Team.
a. Jordan’s first Olympics was in 1984 when he won the gold medal.
b. Jordan won a second gold medal as part of the 1992 “Dream Team.”
3. Jordan was selected to play in the NBA All-Star Game fourteen times.
a. Jordan won the NBA All-Star Game MVP Award three times.
B. Jordan’s legacy encompasses achievements on and off the court.
1. Jordan still holds a couple of significant records in the NBA.
a. Jordan holds the record for the highest average of points per game during the regular season (30.12 points per game).
b. Jordan also holds the record for the highest average of points per game in the playoffs (33.45 points per game).
2. Jordan has notable success even when not playing basketball.
a. Jordan starred in the original 1996 film Space Jam.
b. Today, Jordan owns the Charlotte Hornets.
II. LeBron James is often considered Jordan’s strongest rival for the greatest basketball player.
A. James’s career mimics, and in some cases surpasses, that of Jordan’s career.
1. During his career, James won four NBA Championships.
a. James was named NBA Finals MVP all four times he was eligible.
2. Like Jordan, James twice played for the US Olympics Basketball Team.
a. James won the 2008 gold medal as part of the US basketball team.
b. James won the gold medal again in 2012.
3. James was selected to play in the NBA All-Star Game eighteen times.
a. James won the NBA All-Star Game MVP Award three times.
B. James has a rich life outside of basketball as well.
1. More than Jordan, James is known for his philanthropic work.
a. James started the LeBron James Family Foundation charity.
b. James fearlessly took public stances on controversial social issues.
2. Aside from charity, James has a few other distinctions from his lifetime.
a. James starred in the 2021 Space Jam remake.
b. James is the first NBA player to accumulate $1 billion as a player.
III. Considering the highlights of both athletes’ careers, who is better?
A. Of course, Michael Jordan is better.
Decimal research paper outline
Decimal research paper outlines forgo the alphanumeric system and instead use a system of numbers with increasing decimal points—with main topics listed as whole numbers (1 or 1.0), subtopics with one decimal point (1.1), points under a subtopic with two decimal points (1.1.1), and further details with three decimal points (220.127.116.11).
Each new piece of information uses the subsequent number (1.1.1, 1.1.2, etc.), so you always know where you are in the outline. You would write the content for each line in quick blurbs, just like the original alphanumeric formal.
Decimal research paper outlines are the most thorough but can get complicated. They’re recommended for writers who prefer technical precision or for lengthy outlines with many topics and subtopics.
Decimal research paper outline example
1 Michael Jordan
1.1 Career Highlights
1.1.1. Six NBA Championships
1.1.2 US Olympics Basketball Team
1.1.3 Fourteen NBA All-Star Game selections
1.2.1 Record-holder scoring average
1.2.2 Other accolades
2 LeBron James
2.1 Career Highlights
2.1.1 Four NBA Championships
2.1.2 US Olympics Basketball Team
2.1.3 Eighteen NBA All-Star Game selection
2.2.2 Other accolades
3 Analysis and Discussion
3.1 Of course, Michael Jordan is better
7 steps to follow when outlining a research paper
1 choose your thesis and gather sources.
Your outline is not the first step in writing a research paper. Before that, you first need to choose a thesis and then gather primary and secondary sources to back it up.
Your thesis is essentially what the research paper is about. Your thesis is given to you in some assignments, but sometimes, as with independent research, you’ll have to develop one on your own.
Once you’ve settled on a thesis, you’ll need evidence to support it. Collect all the relevant sources and data early on so that you know what to write about. Researching often reveals new aspects of your topic that you hadn’t known about before. It may dispel any misinterpretations you have—better to find out you’re wrong sooner rather than later. For help on how to cite your sources, use our free Citation Generator .
Keep in mind that the outline is just one part of writing a research paper. If you want to read more advice, take a look at our full guide on how to write a research paper .
2 Make a list of all the topics, subtopics, and points you want to cover
Go through your research and note each topic, subtopic, and supporting point. Be sure to keep related information together. Remember that everything you discuss in your paper should relate to your thesis, so omit anything that seems tangential.
If you’ve highlighted any specific passages or quotes from your sources, feel free to include them too. They aren’t necessary for all research paper outlines, but they save you time when you’re in the middle of writing your first draft.
3 Choose the best type of research paper outline for the assignment
Choose the type of research paper outline that best matches your topic, the assignment’s length, and the complexity of your paper. Simple papers only require simple outlines, but more advanced topics with lots of research can benefit from more detailed outlines.
Consider whether you’re sharing your outline with other team members or whether you’re writing it solo. Likewise, consider the length and amount of topics. The decimal format can help organize long papers, but feel free to stick with alphanumeric if it makes you comfortable.
4 Consider the structure and sequence of your topics
Before actually writing the research paper outline, think long and hard about the order in which you present your topics. What is the most logical sequence? What structure would communicate most clearly to your readers, who may be unfamiliar with these topics?
Keep in mind that some topics only make sense if they come after other topics. Before presenting new findings or revelations, you may want to add background or contextual information first. All other factors being equal, a chronological sequence is often the most logical structure.
5 Create the framework for your outline
Rather than writing your research paper outline entirely at once, start with just the framework. Try putting the main topics in order without yet including any subtopics or supporting points.
Starting with the framework gives you a clear look at the backbone of your research paper. Now would be a good time to rearrange the order if there’s a problem or add a new topic if you find something is missing. It’s never too late to go back and conduct more research to flesh out the areas you feel are lacking.
6 Add in more details
After you’re satisfied with the framework, go ahead and add the details. Most research paper outlines benefit from including the paragraph structure , so feel free to add lines about your topic sentence, development/support sentences, and conclusion for each paragraph.
If you want to get meticulous, you can add a few notes about sentence structure . Be careful of getting too detailed, though—otherwise, you’re writing a first draft instead of an outline!
7 Revise to improve structure
Finally, check your completed outline to see if there’s room for improvement. This is your last chance before you begin the first draft.
Double-check that all your topics are presented in the optimal order for your reader. Also, look over your research notes again to see if you’ve forgotten anything. Once your outline is the way you want it, it’s time to begin writing your research paper.
Research paper outline FAQs
What is a research paper outline.
A research paper outline is a supporting document that defines the structure of a research paper. The author creates the outline before the first draft to stay on track when writing .
How is a research paper outline structured?
Research paper outlines are generally divided into sections, paragraphs, and individual sentences or points. The amount of detail in a research paper outline varies depending on the writer’s style, the assignment requirements, and the complexity of the topic.
What are the different formats of research paper outlines?
Three popular formats for research paper outlines are alphanumeric , full sentence , and decimal .
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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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Getting started with your research paper outline
The outline is the skeleton of your research paper. Simply start by writing down your thesis and the main ideas you wish to present. This will likely change as your research progresses; therefore, do not worry about being too specific in the early stages of writing your outline. The most important part is done by now, we are just going to extend and organize it.
- Understanding the levels of your research paper outline is key
A research paper outline typically contains between two and four layers of organization. The first two layers are the most generalized. Each layer thereafter will contain the research you complete and presents more and more detailed information.
The levels are typically represented by a combination of Roman numerals, Arabic numerals, uppercase letters, lowercase letters but may include other symbols. Refer to the guidelines provided by your institution, as formatting is not universal and differs between universities, fields, and subjects. If you are writing the outline for yourself, you may choose any combination you prefer.
- First level of organization
This is the most generalized level of information. Begin by numbering the introduction, each idea you will present, and the conclusion. The main ideas contain the bulk of your research paper's information. Depending on your research, it may be chapters of a book for a literature review, a series of dates for a historical research paper, or the methods and results of a scientific paper.
- Second level or organization
The second level consists of topics which support the introduction, main ideas, and the conclusion. Each main idea should have at least two supporting topics listed in the outline. If your main idea does not have enough support, you should consider presenting another main idea in its place. This is where you should stop outlining if this is your first draft. Continue your research before adding to the next levels of organization.
- Third level of organization
The third level of organization contains supporting information for the topics previously listed. By now, you should have completed enough research to add support for your ideas.
The Introduction and Main Ideas may contain information you discovered about the author, timeframe, or contents of a book for a literature review; the historical events leading up to the research topic for a historical research paper, or an explanation of the problem a scientific research paper intends to address.
- Fourth level of organization
The fourth level of organization contains the most detailed information such as quotes, references, observations or specific data needed to support the main idea. It is not typical to have further levels of organization because the information contained here is the most specific.
- Tips for writing a research paper outline
- Be Consistent : ensure every heading has a similar tone. State the topic or write short sentences for each heading but avoid doing both.
- Organize Information : Higher levels of organization are more generally stated and each supporting level becomes more specific. The introduction and conclusion will never be lower than the first level of organization.
- Build Support : Each main idea should have two or more supporting topics. If your research does not have enough information to support the main idea you are presenting, you should, in general, complete additional research or revise the outline.
- Start writing your research paper with our ready to go templates
By now, you should know the basic requirements to create an outline for your proposed paper. With a content framework in place, you can now start writing your paper. To help you start right away, you can use one of our templates and adjust it to suit your needs.
- My research paper outline is complete - what are the next steps?
Keep a record of your references to avoid plagiarism. Ensure you use footnotes or endnotes - your institution's guidelines will tell you which you need.
Your bibliography will begin on its own page at the end of your research paper.
Title your research paper. This is an iterative process and may change when you delve deeper into the topic.
Begin writing your research paper draft. Continue researching to further build your outline and provide more information to support your hypothesis or thesis.
After the draft is complete, format it accordingly. MLA 8 and APA 6th ed formats have differences between their bibliography page, in-text citations, line spacing, and title.
Write your final paper. APA requires a title page and abstract. An abstract will briefly state the information contained within the paper, results of the research, and the conclusion.
- Frequently Asked Questions about a research paper outline
An outline is used to organize written ideas about a topic into a logical order. Outlines help us organize major topics, subtopics, and supporting details. Researchers benefit greatly from outlines while writing by addressing which topic to cover in what order.
The most basic outline format consists on: introduction, a minimum of three topic paragraphs, and a conclusion.
You should make an outline before starting to write your research paper. This will help you organize the main ideas and arguments you want to present in your topic.
- Consistency: ensure every heading has a similar tone. State the topic or write short sentences for each heading but avoid doing both.
- Organization : Higher levels of organization are more generally stated and each supporting level becomes more specific. The introduction and conclusion will never be lower than the first level of organization.
- Support : Each main idea should have two or more supporting topics. If your research does not have enough information to support the main idea you are presenting, you should, in general, complete additional research or revise the outline.
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- Online Guide to Writing
Planning and Writing a Research Paper
It can be difficult to start from scratch when you begin a draft. An outline is very beneficial in the beginning stage of your writing. Here are a few ways an outline can help:
organize your ideas
present your material in a logical form
show the relationships among your ideas
construct an ordered overview of the topic
How to Create an Outline
Begin by brainstorming. Write down a few main ideas about the text or assignment and then narrow them down into two or three main points. From these main ideas, you will get a sense of what you are going to write about. This is called a thesis, the central statement or argument of an essay: the purpose of your paper. You will need supporting evidence to uphold your main ideas or argument. Once you have these components, you will be able to create an effective essay.
For a sample outline, visit this page: Online Guide Sample Outline Chapter Two
Outlines can be very beneficial to the overall writing process. If you are struggling at all with your research paper, try writing an outline and see if that helps.
Here is another link to a great resource about outlines: Prewriting and Outlining
- As you manage your research project, keep the dynamic character of outlining in mind.
- Outlines can be very beneficial to the overall writing process.
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Table of Contents: Online Guide to Writing
Chapter 1: College Writing
How Does College Writing Differ from Workplace Writing?
What Is College Writing?
Why So Much Emphasis on Writing?
Chapter 2: The Writing Process
Doing Exploratory Research
Getting from Notes to Your Draft
Prewriting - Techniques to Get Started - Mining Your Intuition
Prewriting: Targeting Your Audience
Prewriting: Techniques to Get Started
Prewriting: Understanding Your Assignment
Rewriting: Being Your Own Critic
Rewriting: Creating a Revision Strategy
Rewriting: Getting Feedback
Rewriting: The Final Draft
Techniques to Get Started - Outlining
Techniques to Get Started - Using Systematic Techniques
Thesis Statement and Controlling Idea
Writing: Getting from Notes to Your Draft - Freewriting
Writing: Getting from Notes to Your Draft - Summarizing Your Ideas
Writing: Outlining What You Will Write
Chapter 3: Thinking Strategies
A Word About Style, Voice, and Tone
A Word About Style, Voice, and Tone: Style Through Vocabulary and Diction
Critical Strategies and Writing
Critical Strategies and Writing: Analysis
Critical Strategies and Writing: Evaluation
Critical Strategies and Writing: Persuasion
Critical Strategies and Writing: Synthesis
Developing a Paper Using Strategies
Kinds of Assignments You Will Write
Patterns for Presenting Information
Patterns for Presenting Information: Critiques
Patterns for Presenting Information: Discussing Raw Data
Patterns for Presenting Information: General-to-Specific Pattern
Patterns for Presenting Information: Problem-Cause-Solution Pattern
Patterns for Presenting Information: Specific-to-General Pattern
Patterns for Presenting Information: Summaries and Abstracts
Supporting with Research and Examples
Writing Essay Examinations
Writing Essay Examinations: Make Your Answer Relevant and Complete
Writing Essay Examinations: Organize Thinking Before Writing
Writing Essay Examinations: Read and Understand the Question
Chapter 4: The Research Process
Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Ask a Research Question
Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Cite Sources
Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Collect Evidence
Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Decide Your Point of View, or Role, for Your Research
Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Draw Conclusions
Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Find a Topic and Get an Overview
Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Manage Your Resources
Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Outline
Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Survey the Literature
Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Work Your Sources into Your Research Writing
Research Resources: Where Are Research Resources Found? - Human Resources
Research Resources: What Are Research Resources?
Research Resources: Where Are Research Resources Found?
Research Resources: Where Are Research Resources Found? - Electronic Resources
Research Resources: Where Are Research Resources Found? - Print Resources
Structuring the Research Paper: Formal Research Structure
Structuring the Research Paper: Informal Research Structure
The Nature of Research
The Research Assignment: How Should Research Sources Be Evaluated?
The Research Assignment: When Is Research Needed?
The Research Assignment: Why Perform Research?
Chapter 5: Academic Integrity
Giving Credit to Sources
Giving Credit to Sources: Copyright Laws
Giving Credit to Sources: Documentation
Giving Credit to Sources: Style Guides
Practicing Academic Integrity
Practicing Academic Integrity: Keeping Accurate Records
Practicing Academic Integrity: Managing Source Material
Practicing Academic Integrity: Managing Source Material - Paraphrasing Your Source
Practicing Academic Integrity: Managing Source Material - Quoting Your Source
Practicing Academic Integrity: Managing Source Material - Summarizing Your Sources
Types of Documentation
Types of Documentation: Bibliographies and Source Lists
Types of Documentation: Citing World Wide Web Sources
Types of Documentation: In-Text or Parenthetical Citations
Types of Documentation: In-Text or Parenthetical Citations - APA Style
Types of Documentation: In-Text or Parenthetical Citations - CSE/CBE Style
Types of Documentation: In-Text or Parenthetical Citations - Chicago Style
Types of Documentation: In-Text or Parenthetical Citations - MLA Style
Types of Documentation: Note Citations
Chapter 6: Using Library Resources
Finding Library Resources
Chapter 7: Assessing Your Writing
How Is Writing Graded?
How Is Writing Graded?: A General Assessment Tool
The Draft Stage
The Draft Stage: The First Draft
The Draft Stage: The Revision Process and the Final Draft
The Draft Stage: Using Feedback
The Research Stage
Using Assessment to Improve Your Writing
Chapter 8: Other Frequently Assigned Papers
Reviews and Reaction Papers: Article and Book Reviews
Reviews and Reaction Papers: Reaction Papers
Writing Arguments: Adapting the Argument Structure
Writing Arguments: Purposes of Argument
Writing Arguments: References to Consult for Writing Arguments
Writing Arguments: Steps to Writing an Argument - Anticipate Active Opposition
Writing Arguments: Steps to Writing an Argument - Determine Your Organization
Writing Arguments: Steps to Writing an Argument - Develop Your Argument
Writing Arguments: Steps to Writing an Argument - Introduce Your Argument
Writing Arguments: Steps to Writing an Argument - State Your Thesis or Proposition
Writing Arguments: Steps to Writing an Argument - Write Your Conclusion
Writing Arguments: Types of Argument
Appendix A: Books to Help Improve Your Writing
General Style Manuals
Researching on the Internet
Special Style Manuals
Appendix B: Collaborative Writing and Peer Reviewing
Collaborative Writing: Assignments to Accompany the Group Project
Collaborative Writing: Informal Progress Report
Collaborative Writing: Issues to Resolve
Collaborative Writing: Methodology
Collaborative Writing: Peer Evaluation
Collaborative Writing: Tasks of Collaborative Writing Group Members
Collaborative Writing: Writing Plan
Appendix C: Developing an Improvement Plan
Working with Your Instructor’s Comments and Grades
Appendix D: Writing Plan and Project Schedule
Devising a Writing Project Plan and Schedule
Reviewing Your Plan with Others
- USC Libraries
- Research Guides
Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper
- Making an Outline
- Purpose of Guide
- Design Flaws to Avoid
- Independent and Dependent Variables
- Glossary of Research Terms
- Reading Research Effectively
- Narrowing a Topic Idea
- Broadening a Topic Idea
- Extending the Timeliness of a Topic Idea
- Academic Writing Style
- Choosing a Title
- Paragraph Development
- Research Process Video Series
- Executive Summary
- The C.A.R.S. Model
- Background Information
- The Research Problem/Question
- Theoretical Framework
- Citation Tracking
- Content Alert Services
- Evaluating Sources
- Primary Sources
- Secondary Sources
- Tiertiary Sources
- Scholarly vs. Popular Publications
- Qualitative Methods
- Quantitative Methods
- Using Non-Textual Elements
- Limitations of the Study
- Common Grammar Mistakes
- Writing Concisely
- Avoiding Plagiarism
- Footnotes or Endnotes?
- Further Readings
An outline is a formal system used to develop a framework for thinking about what should be the organization and eventual contents of your paper. An outline helps you predict the overall structure and flow of a paper.
Why and How to Create a Useful Outline. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University.
Writing papers in college requires you to come up with sophisticated, complex, and sometimes very creative ways of structuring your ideas . Taking the time to draft an outline can help you determine if your ideas connect to each other, what order of ideas works best, where gaps in your thinking may exist, or whether you have sufficient evidence to support each of your points. It is also an effective way to think about the time you will need to complete each part of your paper before you begin writing.
A good outline is important because :
- You will be much less likely to get writer's block . An outline will show where you're going and how to get there. Use the outline to set goals for completing each section of your paper.
- It will help you stay organized and focused throughout the writing process and help ensure proper coherence [flow of ideas] in your final paper. However, the outline should be viewed as a guide, not a straitjacket. As you review the literature or gather data, the organization of your paper may change; adjust your outline accordingly.
- A clear, detailed outline ensures that you always have something to help re-calibrate your writing should you feel yourself drifting into subject areas unrelated to the research problem. Use your outline to set boundaries around what you will investigate.
- The outline can be key to staying motivated . You can put together an outline when you're excited about the project and everything is clicking; making an outline is never as overwhelming as sitting down and beginning to write a twenty page paper without any sense of where it is going.
- An outline helps you organize multiple ideas about a topic . Most research problems can be analyzed from a variety of perspectives; an outline can help you sort out which modes of analysis are most appropriate to ensure the most robust findings are discovered.
- An outline not only helps you organize your thoughts, but it can also serve as a schedule for when certain aspects of your writing should be accomplished . Review the assignment and highlight the due dates of specific tasks and integrate these into your outline. If your professor has not created specific deadlines, create your own deadlines by thinking about your own writing style and the need to manage your time around other course assignments.
How to Structure and Organize Your Paper. Odegaard Writing & Research Center. University of Washington; Why and How to Create a Useful Outline. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Lietzau, Kathleen. Creating Outlines. Writing Center, University of Richmond.
Structure and Writing Style
I. General Approaches
There are two general approaches you can take when writing an outline for your paper:
The topic outline consists of short phrases. This approach is useful when you are dealing with a number of different issues that could be arranged in a variety of different ways in your paper. Due to short phrases having more content than using simple sentences, they create better content from which to build your paper.
The sentence outline is done in full sentences. This approach is useful when your paper focuses on complex issues in detail. The sentence outline is also useful because sentences themselves have many of the details in them needed to build a paper and it allows you to include those details in the sentences instead of having to create an outline of short phrases that goes on page after page.
II. Steps to Making the Outline
A strong outline details each topic and subtopic in your paper, organizing these points so that they build your argument toward an evidence-based conclusion. Writing an outline will also help you focus on the task at hand and avoid unnecessary tangents, logical fallacies, and underdeveloped paragraphs.
- Identify the research problem . The research problem is the focal point from which the rest of the outline flows. Try to sum up the point of your paper in one sentence or phrase. It also can be key to deciding what the title of your paper should be.
- Identify the main categories . What main points will you analyze? The introduction describes all of your main points; the rest of your paper can be spent developing those points.
- Create the first category . What is the first point you want to cover? If the paper centers around a complicated term, a definition can be a good place to start. For a paper that concerns the application and testing of a particular theory, giving the general background on the theory can be a good place to begin.
- Create subcategories . After you have followed these steps, create points under it that provide support for the main point. The number of categories that you use depends on the amount of information that you are trying to cover. There is no right or wrong number to use.
Once you have developed the basic outline of the paper, organize the contents to match the standard format of a research paper as described in this guide.
III. Things to Consider When Writing an Outline
- There is no rule dictating which approach is best . Choose either a topic outline or a sentence outline based on which one you believe will work best for you. However, once you begin developing an outline, it's helpful to stick to only one approach.
- Both topic and sentence outlines use Roman and Arabic numerals along with capital and small letters of the alphabet arranged in a consistent and rigid sequence. A rigid format should be used especially if you are required to hand in your outline.
- Although the format of an outline is rigid, it shouldn't make you inflexible about how to write your paper. Often when you start investigating a research problem [i.e., reviewing the research literature], especially if you are unfamiliar with the topic, you should anticipate the likelihood your analysis could go in different directions. If your paper changes focus, or you need to add new sections, then feel free to reorganize the outline.
- If appropriate, organize the main points of your outline in chronological order . In papers where you need to trace the history or chronology of events or issues, it is important to arrange your outline in the same manner, knowing that it's easier to re-arrange things now than when you've almost finished your paper.
- For a standard research paper of 15-20 pages, your outline should be no more than few pages in length . It may be helpful as you are developing your outline to also write down a tentative list of references.
Muirhead, Brent. “Using Outlines to Improve Online Student Writing Skills.” Journal on School Educational Technology 1, (2005): 17-23; Four Main Components for Effective Outlines. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; How to Make an Outline. Psychology Writing Center. University of Washington; Kartawijaya, Sukarta. “Improving Students’ Writing Skill in Writing Paragraph through an Outline Technique.” Curricula: Journal of Teaching and Learning 3 (2018); Organization: Informal Outlines. The Reading/Writing Center. Hunter College; Organization: Standard Outline Form. The Reading/Writing Center. Hunter College; Outlining. Department of English Writing Guide. George Mason University; Plotnic, Jerry. Organizing an Essay. University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Reverse Outline. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Reverse Outlines: A Writer's Technique for Examining Organization. The Writer’s Handbook. Writing Center. University of Wisconsin, Madison; Using Outlines. Writing Tutorial Services, Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. Indiana University; Writing: Considering Structure and Organization. Institute for Writing Rhetoric. Dartmouth College.
A Disorganized Outline Means a Disorganized Paper!
If, in writing your paper, it begins to diverge from your outline, this is very likely a sign that you've lost your focus. How do you know whether to change the paper to fit the outline, or, that you need to reconsider the outline so that it fits the paper? A good way to check your progress is to use what you have written to recreate the outline. This is an effective strategy for assessing the organization of your paper. If the resulting outline says what you want it to say and it is in an order that is easy to follow, then the organization of your paper has been successful. If you discover that it's difficult to create an outline from what you have written, then you likely need to revise your paper.
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Research Paper Outline: A Step-by-Step Writing Guide
A research paper outline is a useful tool for organizing your thoughts and ideas about a specific topic. It helps you structure the information logically and hierarchically to establish a good, consistent flow. As a framework for your research paper, your paper outline can simplify the writing process significantly.
An outline for writing a research paper serves as a roadmap to help you stay on the right track without forgetting to include any important ideas or arguments. That’s particularly useful when writing a lengthy paper on a complex topic, as you can visualize all the significant points and see how everything fits together.
Another reason why you need a quality outline for research paper writing is to let your teacher or professor know what to expect from your paper right off the bat. Thanks to your thesis statement, the key points you’ll discuss, and all the ideas and arguments to support them, they’ll have a clear overview of your entire project.
Read on to learn how to write a research paper outline that will help you craft an impressive paper.
Paper Outline Template and Example to Use as a Roadmap
Just like your paper, your research paper outline should contain an introduction with a thesis statement, a body with all the main ideas and their supporting arguments, and a conclusion.
Here’s a paper outline template that you can use for any research paper writing project:
- Introductory sentence (hook)
- References or quotes of related literature
- Scope and limitations
- Purpose and significance of the study
- A brief description of the supporting point
- An argument to support the thesis
- References or quotes to support the claim
- Major idea or topic 2
- Major idea or topic 3
- Thesis restatement
- Summary of the points and arguments supporting the thesis
- Significance of the research
- Suggestions or ideas for future research
You can modify this template to include fewer or more major ideas and their supporting arguments. This is just to give you an idea of how your paper outline should look.
A Compelling Outline example
This example of a paper outline on a popular topic will help you see how you can apply the template:
Topic: The Black Lives Matter Movement and What It Stands For
- Despite great progress regarding civil rights in the US, Americans need more education on police brutality and racial violence against black people, which is the main purpose of the Black Lives Matter movement.
- Extrajudicial killings of black Americans
- This research paper reviews the relevant facts and literature to give an overview of the Black Lives Matter movement, its initiatives to date, and its impact on the future of black people in America and beyond.
- Black people are more likely than white people to get arrested and convicted, even when not guilty.
- The rise in deaths of black Americans at the hands of vigilantes and law enforcement.
- Youth empowerment programs educate on tackling racism.
- Support programs help racial victims heal and empower the community.
- Educating people on racial disparities will bring an end to injustice and racism.
- Uniting people globally and bringing safety to everyone.
- The Black Lives Matter movement promotes equality for all and strives to stop racial and extrajudicial violence against black people.
- The movement is a response to the criminal justice system’s failure and supports its mission through global initiatives to bring safety, justice, and freedom to black people.
- The Black Lives Matter movement has a long way to go, but it is on the right track to end racism.
How to Write a Structured Outline for a Research Paper
Now that you have all the basics down, it’s time to learn how to write a research paper outline. Here are the essential steps to take:
- Decide on the format - You can use either an alphanumeric or decimal format for your paper outline.
- Write a short introduction - Introduce the topic with a hook sentence that will interest the reader.
- Write a clear thesis statement - Write a one-sentence summary of the topic, highlighting the paper’s significance.
- Come up with several main ideas - Depending on the topic’s complexity, include two or more ideas for supporting the thesis.
- Break the main ideas into point - Each main idea should have at least two supporting points, which you can further divide into sub-points if necessary. Organize everything in a logical or hierarchical order to establish a good flow.
- Make arguments to support the ideas and the thesis - Provide an argument for every point and explain how they relate to your thesis.
- Provide evidence to support the claims - It’s critical to provide references to all the sources you’ve used to gather information on the topic. Use proper citations to give credit to the original authors and avoid plagiarism.
- Write a research paper summary - Write a conclusion with a reworded thesis statement and all the main ideas you’ve discussed. Explain the value of your research, and make suggestions for future studies if yours had certain limitations.
Need Professional Research Paper Outline Help?
Whenever you are doing anything that requires concentration, focus, and a significant period of time, you need to prepare for it. When you have a good basis you can build upon, the task will be much easier to handle as you progress.
So, before you start writing your research paper, as we have pointed out, a solid outline is a must. If you need help with research paper outline writing, StudyClerk is here for you.
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How Can You Create a Well Planned Research Paper Outline
You are staring at the blank document, meaning to start writing your research paper . After months of experiments and procuring results, your PI asked you to write the paper to publish it in a reputed journal. You spoke to your peers and a few seniors and received a few tips on writing a research paper, but you still can’t plan on how to begin!
Writing a research paper is a very common issue among researchers and is often looked upon as a time consuming hurdle. Researchers usually look up to this task as an impending threat, avoiding and procrastinating until they cannot delay it anymore. Seeking advice from internet and seniors they manage to write a paper which goes in for quite a few revisions. Making researchers lose their sense of understanding with respect to their research work and findings. In this article, we would like to discuss how to create a structured research paper outline which will assist a researcher in writing their research paper effectively!
Publication is an important component of research studies in a university for academic promotion and in obtaining funding to support research. However, the primary reason is to provide the data and hypotheses to scientific community to advance the understanding in a specific domain. A scientific paper is a formal record of a research process. It documents research protocols, methods, results, conclusion, and discussion from a research hypothesis .
Table of Contents
What Is a Research Paper Outline?
A research paper outline is a basic format for writing an academic research paper. It follows the IMRAD format (Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion). However, this format varies depending on the type of research manuscript. A research paper outline consists of following sections to simplify the paper for readers. These sections help researchers build an effective paper outline.
1. Title Page
The title page provides important information which helps the editors, reviewers, and readers identify the manuscript and the authors at a glance. It also provides an overview of the field of research the research paper belongs to. The title should strike a balance between precise and detailed. Other generic details include author’s given name, affiliation, keywords that will provide indexing, details of the corresponding author etc. are added to the title page.
Abstract is the most important section of the manuscript and will help the researcher create a detailed research paper outline . To be more precise, an abstract is like an advertisement to the researcher’s work and it influences the editor in deciding whether to submit the manuscript to reviewers or not. Writing an abstract is a challenging task. Researchers can write an exemplary abstract by selecting the content carefully and being concise.
An introduction is a background statement that provides the context and approach of the research. It describes the problem statement with the assistance of the literature study and elaborates the requirement to update the knowledge gap. It sets the research hypothesis and informs the readers about the big research question.
This section is usually named as “Materials and Methods”, “Experiments” or “Patients and Methods” depending upon the type of journal. This purpose provides complete information on methods used for the research. Researchers should mention clear description of materials and their use in the research work. If the methods used in research are already published, give a brief account and refer to the original publication. However, if the method used is modified from the original method, then researcher should mention the modifications done to the original protocol and validate its accuracy, precision, and repeatability.
It is best to report results as tables and figures wherever possible. Also, avoid duplication of text and ensure that the text summarizes the findings. Report the results with appropriate descriptive statistics. Furthermore, report any unexpected events that could affect the research results, and mention complete account of observations and explanations for missing data (if any).
The discussion should set the research in context, strengthen its importance and support the research hypothesis. Summarize the main results of the study in one or two paragraphs and show how they logically fit in an overall scheme of studies. Compare the results with other investigations in the field of research and explain the differences.
Acknowledgements identify and thank the contributors to the study, who are not under the criteria of co-authors. It also includes the recognition of funding agency and universities that award scholarships or fellowships to researchers.
8. Declaration of Competing Interests
Finally, declaring the competing interests is essential to abide by ethical norms of unique research publishing. Competing interests arise when the author has more than one role that may lead to a situation where there is a conflict of interest.
Steps to Write a Research Paper Outline
- Write down all important ideas that occur to you concerning the research paper .
- Answer questions such as – what is the topic of my paper? Why is the topic important? How to formulate the hypothesis? What are the major findings?
- Add context and structure. Group all your ideas into sections – Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion/Conclusion.
- Add relevant questions to each section. It is important to note down the questions. This will help you align your thoughts.
- Expand the ideas based on the questions created in the paper outline.
- After creating a detailed outline, discuss it with your mentors and peers.
- Get enough feedback and decide on the journal you will submit to.
- The process of real writing begins.
Benefits of Creating a Research Paper Outline
As discussed, the research paper subheadings create an outline of what different aspects of research needs elaboration. This provides subtopics on which the researchers brainstorm and reach a conclusion to write. A research paper outline organizes the researcher’s thoughts and gives a clear picture of how to formulate the research protocols and results. It not only helps the researcher to understand the flow of information but also provides relation between the ideas.
A research paper outline helps researcher achieve a smooth transition between topics and ensures that no research point is forgotten. Furthermore, it allows the reader to easily navigate through the research paper and provides a better understanding of the research. The paper outline allows the readers to find relevant information and quotes from different part of the paper.
Research Paper Outline Template
A research paper outline template can help you understand the concept of creating a well planned research paper before beginning to write and walk through your journey of research publishing.
1. Research Title
A. Background i. Support with evidence ii. Support with existing literature studies
B. Thesis Statement i. Link literature with hypothesis ii. Support with evidence iii. Explain the knowledge gap and how this research will help build the gap 4. Body
A. Methods i. Mention materials and protocols used in research ii. Support with evidence
B. Results i. Support with tables and figures ii. Mention appropriate descriptive statistics
C. Discussion i. Support the research with context ii. Support the research hypothesis iii. Compare the results with other investigations in field of research
D. Conclusion i. Support the discussion and research investigation ii. Support with literature studies
E. Acknowledgements i. Identify and thank the contributors ii. Include the funding agency, if any
F. Declaration of Competing Interests
Download the Research Paper Outline Template!
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Research paper outline
In a research paper , an outline is a logical itemization of all the contents of the paper e.g., major headings, subheadings, and other necessary additions. Most times, outlines are formally determined by the recipients of the research paper, for example, a university or a peer-reviewed journal. Formal outlines are an educational necessity because, without them, research papers will lack a standard format or order, meaning that each author may write in whatever format he or she desires.
This paper takes a look at the common outlines for an academic paper as well as a thesis. Please note that the outline varies depending on research area, institution, journal etc so it’s always best to conform to the outline specified by the publishing outlet for your study.
Typical journal paper outline
A summary or overview of the article. The main additions here are the research methods, findings, conclusion, and recommendations.
The introduction offers a brief overview of the topic under investigation. It tries to explain the important variables, concepts, etc surrounding the topic so as to shed more light and provide the necessary background for the research problem and the paper as a whole.
The methods section tries to describe all the constituents of the research design as a whole. It captures those techniques or procedures which the researcher has deployed to answer the research questions and resolve the hypothesis. The section explains the procedures used to collect data as well as the techniques for data analysis, among others.
In this section, the results of all the methods used to empirically measure the variables, test the hypothesis, etc are presented in a coherent and logical manner. Some journals may insist that computer printouts from measurement software be included for clarity.
This is where the researcher uses his or her data analysis results to discuss whether the study solved the problem it intended to solve and/or closed the knowledge gap it intended to close, among other relevant discussions. The researcher should clearly show that he or she has identified and understood the trends, patterns, and themes within his or her data. The study’s conclusions and recommendations are heavily influenced by the discussion of findings.
The study’s conclusion(s), inspired mostly by the empirical findings from the measured data. Writers usually make recommendations after concluding. They can also offer suggestions for further research.
This segment is meant to appreciate or say thank you to all those that helped in the actualization of the article.
An alphabetical ordering or listing of all the sources cited in the article. It is usually determined by the Style Guide provided by the journal’s editorial team.
Typical thesis outline
The cover page should start with the topic of the thesis, name and matriculation number (if relevant), the destination and purpose of the thesis [e.g., a thesis submitted to the department of economics in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in economics] as well as the submission date which is located towards the bottom of the page. The cover page is usually not numbered
Has the same contents as the cover page but is numbered (from the title page to the glossary of foreign words page are numbered in Roman numerals)
At some universities, the student is certified as having personally conducted the study by the Faculty Dean, Head of Department, and external examiner
A page where you dedicate your study to those he or she deems appropriate
The student expresses gratitude to those who assisted in one way or another during the course of writing the thesis.
- Abstract page
A brief (not more than a page) summary or overview of the thesis, especially the research methodology, findings, conclusion, and recommendations.
- Table of contents
A table showing all the major headings in the thesis and the page numbers where they are located.
- List of tables
A list of all the tables used in the study including their label numbers and the page numbers where they are located.
- List of figures
A list of all the figures used in the study including their label numbers and the page numbers where they are located.
Abbreviations of references
An alphabetical ordering of all abbreviations used in the references .
- Glossary of foreign words
An expression and translation of all foreign words, phrases, and sentences used in the thesis.
- Background of the study
This is a brief overview of the topic under investigation. It tries to discuss the key variables, concepts, etc underlying the topic with a view to providing insight and laying the necessary foundation for the research problem and the rest of the thesis.
- Statement of the problem
This is one of the most important segments of the thesis. The author has to present the problem that prompted the study convincingly. This means that readers should not be in doubt as to the need for the study after perusing the problem statement.
- Objectives of the study
Every study must have at least one purpose or objective it intends to achieve. This section of the chapter is meant for the author to enumerate the objectives of his study. They are usually expressed in bullet points.
- Research questions
These are pertinent questions formulated by the researcher to help find solutions to the stated research problems. They should be carefully framed according to the study’s objectives and problem statement.
- Research hypothesis
A conjecturing of possible relationships among the key variables under investigation. The hypothesis is subsequently tested with an appropriate technique from the research methodology/design.
- Significance of the study
Here, you try to justify the importance or relevance of your research in terms of its overall usefulness to the academic community and society as a whole.
- Scope of the study
This is a brief explanation of the areas the research intends to focus on. It is mainly determined by the topic and problem.
- Limitations of the study
All studies are faced with one limitation or another. This could be inadequate funding, scarcity of data, time constraints, etc. In this segment, you state whatever constraints you faced while conducting the research.
Brief introduction of the chapter’s contents.
Conceptual review of literature
Definition/description of the various key concepts, variables, etc that relate to the topic research problem, questions, and hypothesis.
Theoretical review of literature
Review of various theories that shed light on the topic under investigation. Care must be taken to include only topics that are relevant to the study.
Empirical review of literature
A report of some previous empirical findings related to the topic of interest. The author should endeavor to present a balanced report by reporting contrasting findings or results.
Usually, researchers are not only expected to identify gaps in knowledge through their research but also to clearly describe how they will fill such gaps. The researcher is expected to state the observed gaps in this section as well as how he or she will fill them.
The researcher explains the design he or she has adopted for his or her research as well as the rationale for choosing such a design.
Sources of data
In this section, you clearly disclose all the sources from which you have collected data for the research.
Data analysis techniques
Most researches require a combination of various measurement techniques or approaches. You can enumerate all of them in this segment.
For those that have opted for regression analysis (such as OLS, VAR, etc), it is very important to specify a model for your dependent and independent variables.
Tests of hypothesis and significance
This is the section where you have to describe the various hypotheses testing techniques you used in detail. Be sure to include equations, formulas, and mathematical symbols/notations.
PRESENTATION AND ANALYSIS OF DATA
Brief introduction of the chapter’s contents
To ensure validity and reliability, the data used to generate empirical results or findings should be presented in this section. They are usually arranged in a tabular format.
Analysis of data and hypothesis tests
A detailed analysis of collected data. Usually commences with descriptive analysis. Results of the hypothesis tests are also analyzed in this segment. Tables and other diagrams should help support verbal analysis. If the tables were generated by software, the software used and its version must be indicated underneath the tables and other diagrams.
This section is reserved for the results from regression estimates as well as some of the measures of validity and reliability (such as multicollinearity, autocorrelation, homoskedasticity, etc). Results from causality tests and other estimations can also be included here. Tables and other diagrams (e.g., computer printouts) are also necessary for this segment.
Discussion of findings
In this section, the researcher is expected to report on the data he or she has collected, processed, and analyzed. He or she has an opportunity to use the discussion to justify his investigation and also to show his logical reasoning capabilities. You should try to state the theoretical and practical implications of your studies. You should also compare your findings with those of others.
SUMMARY, CONCLUSION, AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Summary of findings
A brief rehash of the key findings of the study.
The study’s conclusion(s) based on the empirical findings from the measured data.
Potential policy (and other) recommendations based on the study’s findings.
Suggestions for further research
Based on his or her observations while conducting the research, the researcher suggests possible directions or areas that should be researched in future.
Contributions to knowledge
In this section, you are expected to clearly explain what your study has contributed to the body of knowledge in your field of learning.
An alphabetical ordering or listing of all the sources cited in the thesis. This is written according to the Style Guide approved by the faculty or department.
An arrangement of all diagrams or illustrations that may provide useful insight (mostly empirical insight) but may not be ideal to be included in the main body of the thesis. These include tables, graphs, charts, and others. Ensure that you place only one diagram per page and that each diagram must be numbered, e.g., Appendix 1, Appendix 2, etc.
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- Research Report: Definition, Types + [Writing Guide]
One of the reasons for carrying out research is to add to the existing body of knowledge. Therefore, when conducting research, you need to document your processes and findings in a research report.
With a research report, it is easy to outline the findings of your systematic investigation and any gaps needing further inquiry. Knowing how to create a detailed research report will prove useful when you need to conduct research.
What is a Research Report?
A research report is a well-crafted document that outlines the processes, data, and findings of a systematic investigation. It is an important document that serves as a first-hand account of the research process, and it is typically considered an objective and accurate source of information.
In many ways, a research report can be considered as a summary of the research process that clearly highlights findings, recommendations, and other important details. Reading a well-written research report should provide you with all the information you need about the core areas of the research process.
Features of a Research Report
So how do you recognize a research report when you see one? Here are some of the basic features that define a research report.
- It is a detailed presentation of research processes and findings, and it usually includes tables and graphs.
- It is written in a formal language.
- A research report is usually written in the third person.
- It is informative and based on first-hand verifiable information.
- It is formally structured with headings, sections, and bullet points.
- It always includes recommendations for future actions.
Types of Research Report
The research report is classified based on two things; nature of research and target audience.
Nature of Research
- Qualitative Research Report
This is the type of report written for qualitative research . It outlines the methods, processes, and findings of a qualitative method of systematic investigation. In educational research, a qualitative research report provides an opportunity for one to apply his or her knowledge and develop skills in planning and executing qualitative research projects.
A qualitative research report is usually descriptive in nature. Hence, in addition to presenting details of the research process, you must also create a descriptive narrative of the information.
- Quantitative Research Report
A quantitative research report is a type of research report that is written for quantitative research. Quantitative research is a type of systematic investigation that pays attention to numerical or statistical values in a bid to find answers to research questions.
In this type of research report, the researcher presents quantitative data to support the research process and findings. Unlike a qualitative research report that is mainly descriptive, a quantitative research report works with numbers; that is, it is numerical in nature.
Also, a research report can be said to be technical or popular based on the target audience. If you’re dealing with a general audience, you would need to present a popular research report, and if you’re dealing with a specialized audience, you would submit a technical report.
- Technical Research Report
A technical research report is a detailed document that you present after carrying out industry-based research. This report is highly specialized because it provides information for a technical audience; that is, individuals with above-average knowledge in the field of study.
In a technical research report, the researcher is expected to provide specific information about the research process, including statistical analyses and sampling methods. Also, the use of language is highly specialized and filled with jargon.
Examples of technical research reports include legal and medical research reports.
- Popular Research Report
A popular research report is one for a general audience; that is, for individuals who do not necessarily have any knowledge in the field of study. A popular research report aims to make information accessible to everyone.
It is written in very simple language, which makes it easy to understand the findings and recommendations. Examples of popular research reports are the information contained in newspapers and magazines.
Importance of a Research Report
- Knowledge Transfer: As already stated above, one of the reasons for carrying out research is to contribute to the existing body of knowledge, and this is made possible with a research report. A research report serves as a means to effectively communicate the findings of a systematic investigation to all and sundry.
- Identification of Knowledge Gaps: With a research report, you’d be able to identify knowledge gaps for further inquiry. A research report shows what has been done while hinting at other areas needing systematic investigation.
- In market research, a research report would help you understand the market needs and peculiarities at a glance.
- A research report allows you to present information in a precise and concise manner.
- It is time-efficient and practical because, in a research report, you do not have to spend time detailing the findings of your research work in person. You can easily send out the report via email and have stakeholders look at it.
Guide to Writing a Research Report
A lot of detail goes into writing a research report, and getting familiar with the different requirements would help you create the ideal research report. A research report is usually broken down into multiple sections, which allows for a concise presentation of information.
Structure and Example of a Research Report
This is the title of your systematic investigation. Your title should be concise and point to the aims, objectives, and findings of a research report.
- Table of Contents
This is like a compass that makes it easier for readers to navigate the research report.
An abstract is an overview that highlights all important aspects of the research including the research method, data collection process, and research findings. Think of an abstract as a summary of your research report that presents pertinent information in a concise manner.
An abstract is always brief; typically 100-150 words and goes straight to the point. The focus of your research abstract should be the 5Ws and 1H format – What, Where, Why, When, Who and How.
Here, the researcher highlights the aims and objectives of the systematic investigation as well as the problem which the systematic investigation sets out to solve. When writing the report introduction, it is also essential to indicate whether the purposes of the research were achieved or would require more work.
In the introduction section, the researcher specifies the research problem and also outlines the significance of the systematic investigation. Also, the researcher is expected to outline any jargons and terminologies that are contained in the research.
- Literature Review
A literature review is a written survey of existing knowledge in the field of study. In other words, it is the section where you provide an overview and analysis of different research works that are relevant to your systematic investigation.
It highlights existing research knowledge and areas needing further investigation, which your research has sought to fill. At this stage, you can also hint at your research hypothesis and its possible implications for the existing body of knowledge in your field of study.
- An Account of Investigation
This is a detailed account of the research process, including the methodology, sample, and research subjects. Here, you are expected to provide in-depth information on the research process including the data collection and analysis procedures.
In a quantitative research report, you’d need to provide information surveys, questionnaires and other quantitative data collection methods used in your research. In a qualitative research report, you are expected to describe the qualitative data collection methods used in your research including interviews and focus groups.
In this section, you are expected to present the results of the systematic investigation.
This section further explains the findings of the research, earlier outlined. Here, you are expected to present a justification for each outcome and show whether the results are in line with your hypotheses or if other research studies have come up with similar results.
This is a summary of all the information in the report. It also outlines the significance of the entire study.
- References and Appendices
This section contains a list of all the primary and secondary research sources.
Tips for Writing a Research Report
- Define the Context for the Report
As is obtainable when writing an essay, defining the context for your research report would help you create a detailed yet concise document. This is why you need to create an outline before writing so that you do not miss out on anything.
- Define your Audience
Writing with your audience in mind is essential as it determines the tone of the report. If you’re writing for a general audience, you would want to present the information in a simple and relatable manner. For a specialized audience, you would need to make use of technical and field-specific terms.
- Include Significant Findings
The idea of a research report is to present some sort of abridged version of your systematic investigation. In your report, you should exclude irrelevant information while highlighting only important data and findings.
- Include Illustrations
Your research report should include illustrations and other visual representations of your data. Graphs, pie charts, and relevant images lend additional credibility to your systematic investigation.
- Choose the Right Title
A good research report title is brief, precise, and contains keywords from your research. It should provide a clear idea of your systematic investigation so that readers can grasp the entire focus of your research from the title.
- Proofread the Report
Before publishing the document, ensure that you give it a second look to authenticate the information. If you can, get someone else to go through the report, too, and you can also run it through proofreading and editing software.
How to Gather Research Data for Your Report
- Understand the Problem
Every research aims at solving a specific problem or set of problems, and this should be at the back of your mind when writing your research report. Understanding the problem would help you to filter the information you have and include only important data in your report.
- Know what your report seeks to achieve
This is somewhat similar to the point above because, in some way, the aim of your research report is intertwined with the objectives of your systematic investigation. Identifying the primary purpose of writing a research report would help you to identify and present the required information accordingly.
- Identify your audience
Knowing your target audience plays a crucial role in data collection for a research report. If your research report is specifically for an organization, you would want to present industry-specific information or show how the research findings are relevant to the work that the company does.
- Create Surveys/Questionnaires
A survey is a research method that is used to gather data from a specific group of people through a set of questions. It can be either quantitative or qualitative.
A survey is usually made up of structured questions, and it can be administered online or offline. However, an online survey is a more effective method of research data collection because it helps you save time and gather data with ease.
You can seamlessly create an online questionnaire for your research on Formplus . With the multiple sharing options available in the builder, you would be able to administer your survey to respondents in little or no time.
Formplus also has a report summary too l that you can use to create custom visual reports for your research.
Step-by-step guide on how to create an online questionnaire using Formplus
- Sign into Formplus
In the Formplus builder, you can easily create different online questionnaires for your research by dragging and dropping preferred fields into your form. To access the Formplus builder, you will need to create an account on Formplus.
Once you do this, sign in to your account and click on Create new form to begin.
- Edit Form Title : Click on the field provided to input your form title, for example, “Research Questionnaire.”
- Edit Form : Click on the edit icon to edit the form.
- Add Fields : Drag and drop preferred form fields into your form in the Formplus builder inputs column. There are several field input options for questionnaires in the Formplus builder.
- Edit fields
- Click on “Save”
- Form Customization: With the form customization options in the form builder, you can easily change the outlook of your form and make it more unique and personalized. Formplus allows you to change your form theme, add background images, and even change the font according to your needs.
- Multiple Sharing Options: Formplus offers various form-sharing options, which enables you to share your questionnaire with respondents easily. You can use the direct social media sharing buttons to share your form link to your organization’s social media pages. You can also send out your survey form as email invitations to your research subjects too. If you wish, you can share your form’s QR code or embed it on your organization’s website for easy access.
Always remember that a research report is just as important as the actual systematic investigation because it plays a vital role in communicating research findings to everyone else. This is why you must take care to create a concise document summarizing the process of conducting any research.
In this article, we’ve outlined essential tips to help you create a research report. When writing your report, you should always have the audience at the back of your mind, as this would set the tone for the document.
Create Online Surveys for your Research Report on Formplus
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