Essay and research paper topics & ideas

How to create a basic research paper outline

A clear, well constructed research paper should have an outline. An outline organizes the authors thoughts into categories and also sorts the research done into the set categories. This has the benefit of a well flowing paper with appropriate support for claims and statements. A basic outline has a few steps.


An outline starts with the basic idea of an introduction. The introduction summarizes basic ideas of the paper These introductions should be revisited and edited throughout the writing process as the paper is developed, but an outline starts with the roman numeral for 1, because it is the first section is the introduction. It looks like this:

I. Introduction

  • a) first idea here
  • b) second idea here
  • c) expand on idea like this

The introduction should end with a thesis statement.

Body Paragraphs

The next element of the outline is formatting the body paragraphs. Separate the body paragraphs into categories based on your subject. Since this is the second section of the outline, you use the roman numeral 2 to indicate this. It looks like this:

II. Body

  • a) make clear point here
  • b) make sure you have strong, supported arguments with examples
  • c) always support arguments with evidence
  • d) insert evidence and quotes here after statement or point you are trying to make

If you have multiple body paragraphs with different points or categories, you want to make a new section for each point or category. It should look like this

III. Body paragraph 2

  • a) make clear point here
  • b) relate it back to first point
  • c) insert research support here


The conclusion sums up the paper and restates the point trying to be made. You want to restate your introduction and end with a strong statement. Because the conclusion is the last section you will outline, number it with the appropriate roman numeral that comes after the last body paragraph you wrote

IV. Conclusion

  • a) restate thesis here
  • b) summarize evidence
  • c) strong statement here

Outlines help an author to organize and compartmentalize their thoughts and make sure their paper is focused. Organizing not only research,but thoughts will keep the reader from being confused and will prevent the writer from rambling, jumping points too erratically or placing research with inappropriate points. The outline is a very important step to the research process and helps create a polished paper.