Academic Writing Solutions: A Free Sample Outline For A Research Paper


When you’re asked to write a research paper, it can seem overwhelming. One tool that writers have been using for a long time to make their papers more structured and readable is an outline. But what is an outline, anyway? Here is a free sample of what an academic outline looks like, and how to create one of your own.

  1. Each paragraph of your paper should get a Roman numeral. Your thesis statement will go here, at Roman numeral “I”. Your thesis statement should encapsulate all the major points in your paper in one easy sentence. For example, a thesis statement could look like this: “Factory farms can afford to operate on a massive scale because they practice cruelty to animals by making livestock sick, confining livestock to small areas, and using hormones that lead to painful and debilitating growth.”
  2. A topic sentence will go here. A topic sentence is like a mini thesis statement that only applies to the paragraph you’re writing. So a topic sentence might look like this: “Factory farms create unhealthy conditions for animals, leading to unnecessary and painful illnesses among cattle, poultry, and swine.”
    1. Now, you can talk about each of those points specifically. For example, your first piece of evidence that supports this topic sentence could be something like: “Factory farms generally feed corn, which is cheap and plentiful, to cows and steers; however, since bovine stomachs cannot digest corn, this leads to gastrointestinal distress among cattle.”
      • Now you can begin listing any quotes, statistics, or raw data that you have collected to support this point.
    2. When it’s time to move on to the next point, do the same thing. For example, now you might say: “chickens who are kept in small cages tend to experience higher rates of illness because they are exposed to other chicken’s waste products and other contaminants.”
      • And you would list your evidence here.
  3. Once you’ve finished outlining your first paragraph, you can move on to the second topic sentence. Follow the pattern you outlined in your thesis. For this example outline, the logical topic sentence for this paragraph would be something like: “Factory farms maximize space so that they can produce more meat by confining animals to extremely small spaces.”
    • Just like the last paragraph, you would then go on to break down the evidence and facts behind your topic sentence.
    • Each sentence in your essay should connect to the other sentences in some way.
  4. The last paragraph of an essay like this would have a topic sentence like: “Hormone use on factory farms is common, as it makes livestock grow more meat at a very fast rate, but it’s extremely dangerous and uncomfortable for the animals.”
    • You don’t have to follow these rules exactly, but they are generally the best way to create a cohesive, well-structured outline.
    • If you dislike roman numerals, you can use bullet points, letters, or regular numbers instead.
  5. You don’t have to include your conclusion in your outline, though you can if it makes you feel more organized.