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APA Research Paper Outline

Prof. Wesley Spencer
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Last updated:
Jan 17, 2024
Jan 17, 2024
APA Research Paper Outline
APA Research Paper Outline

Why It’s Essential to Follow a Research Paper Structure?

Research Paper Outline Purpose

APA Outline Format Specifics

How to Deal with Headings in the APA Style Outline Template?

Full Sentence Outline Format

Decimal Outline Format

APA Paper Outline Example

An APA (American Psychological Association) outline for a scholarly paper is a structured framework that organizes the content of the paper in a standardized format. APA typically includes sections such as an introduction, literature review, methodology, results, discussion, and conclusion. Each section is further divided into subsections with specific formatting guidelines, such as using Roman numerals, capital letters, Arabic numerals, and lowercase letters to denote the information hierarchy.

The APA outline for research paper serves as a roadmap for researchers, helping them organize their thoughts, present a logical flow of ideas, and adhere to the citation and formatting rules specified by the APA style guide, ensuring a clear and coherent presentation of the study. You can also request our paper writing help to wrap up the assignment faster.

Why It’s Essential to Follow a Research Paper Structure?

A paper format is crucial for several reasons. First and foremost, it enhances the overall clarity and organization of the content, allowing readers to navigate through the document seamlessly. A standardized outline format, such as APA or MLA, provides a structural framework that ensures consistency in presentation, making it easier for both authors and readers to comprehend complex information.

Additionally, a specific outline format serves as a means of communication within the academic community, facilitating the uniform exchange of ideas and research findings. Adherence to a prescribed format promotes scholarly integrity by enforcing citation and referencing guidelines, preventing plagiarism, and acknowledging the contributions of previous studies. Every expert APA paper writer knows that a well-defined paper format not only contributes to the aesthetics of the document but also plays a fundamental role in conveying information effectively, fostering academic communication, and upholding the principles of scholarly writing.

Research Paper Outline Purpose

The purpose of an APA research paper outline template is multifaceted, serving as a crucial tool in the pre-writing and organization stages of the topic investigation process. Firstly, an APA outline provides a structured framework for learners to organize their thoughts and ideas, helping them conceptualize the logical flow and sequence of information within the paper. It serves as a roadmap, guiding the student through the various sections and subsections, ensuring a coherent and systematic presentation of the study.

Additionally, an APA outline aids in identifying gaps in the potential areas for further exploration. Furthermore, it facilitates collaboration among educators and allows for the efficient allocation of tasks in group projects. Beyond these organizational benefits, an outline helps learners adhere to specific formatting and citation styles, ensuring the paper meets the standards of academic integrity. Here’s a list of five key purposes of an APA outline in a paper:

  1. Provide a clear and organized framework to guide the logical flow and sequence of information in the paper.
  2. Ensure a coherent presentation of ideas and findings, helping college students to articulate their thoughts systematically.
  3. Help writers identify any gaps in the existing knowledge or areas that may require further exploration, contributing to a more comprehensive study.
  4. Facilitate collaboration in group projects by offering a shared plan that aids in task allocation and coordination among team members.
  5. Help scholars adhere to specific formatting and citation styles, ensuring the paper meets the standards of academic integrity and professionalism.

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APA Outline Format Specifics

While there is no universally prescribed outline format, the official publishing handbook lacks specific guidelines for preparing one, necessitating adherence to basic principles concerning typeface, font size, structure, and margins. The final configuration of the outline depends on the instructor’s specifications and individual preferences for APA citation format.

It is advisable to follow certain outline standards for formatting, including the use of Times New Roman as a common typeface in 12-point font or acceptable alternatives like Arial and Georgia in 11-point font.

The text should be double-spaced, and headlines and subheadings should adhere to specific formatting rules, such as Roman numerals for main headings (I, II, III) and capital letters for subheadings (A, B, C), followed by Arabic numerals (1-9) and lowercase letters (a, b) within subheadings.

Margins should be set at 1 inch on all sides, with the page number positioned in the upper right corner. The outline structure generally comprises three main sections: Introduction, Main Body, and Conclusion.

how to write a research paper outline apa

How to Deal with Headings in the APA Style Outline Template?

The APA style format employs a hierarchical numbering system with five levels of headings utilizing different alphabets and numbers. Specifically, main headings are numbered with Roman numerals (I, II, III), subheadings use CAPITAL ALPHABETS (A, B, C), further divisions employ Arabic numbers (1, 2, 3), and if additional subheadings are needed (fourth level), lower-case alphabets are introduced. For even more detailed subdivisions (fifth level), Arabic numerals enclosed in parentheses are utilized, like [1], [2], [3]. This structured numbering system ensures a clear and organized presentation of information in APA-formatted documents. If you’re wondering, ‘Can I pay someone to do my research paper today?’ the answer would be affirmative – our experts are available for new student assignments.

apa research paper outline

Full Sentence Outline Format

A full-sentence outline format is a detailed and comprehensive organizational structure for a paper or presentation, where each point in the outline is expressed as a complete sentence. This format typically includes complete sentences for each main idea, supporting details, and subpoints, providing a thorough overview of the content that will be covered in the final document. The sentences are often written in parallel structure to maintain consistency and clarity. This outline approach is beneficial for writers as it helps articulate thoughts more fully, ensuring a clear understanding of the paper's structure and content. By the way, have you already got a great idea to write about? We’ve prepared some of the best topics to write a research paper on for you for free, so check them out!

APA Research Paper Outline Example

If you're seeking guidance on crafting a research paper outline APA in a full-sentence format, consider the following example:

A. Subheadings are designated with capital letters, such as A, B, C.

B. Further subheadings should complement, guide, or connect to the main idea of the paper.

Headings beneath subheadings, like 1, 2, and 3, are expressed in Arabic numerals.

The structural framework for both basic APA outlines and full sentence outlines remains consistent.

However, headings in the decimal style are formulated as complete sentences.

a. Subsequent headings utilize lowercase or small letters.

[1] The fifth level employs Arabic numerals enclosed in parentheses.

In Full Sentence APA format headings, Roman numerals like I, II, and III are employed. Each heading must constitute a complete sentence. Presented below is an APA-style paper outline template in full-sentence format to dispel any confusion regarding the process of outlining in this manner.

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Decimal Outline Format

The decimal format for APA research papers deviates from other formats, presenting a straightforward approach utilizing paragraphs for organization. This structure comprises three primary sections: introduction, main body, and conclusion.

Decimal APA Outline Format Example

1.0 Main heading.

1.1 Under the main heading – subheading.

1.2 The digit number two is represented by subheadings under the main headings.

1.2.1 Additional subdivision introduces another digit within the decimal format.

1.2.2 Numbering can correspond to paragraphs, points, or lines.

An efficient way to compose in decimal APA outline format is to adhere to the structure, i.e., 1.1.1 = Heading.Paragraph.Sentence/point under the paragraph.

APA Research Research Paper Outline Example


1. Background

  • Overview of the topic.
  • Significance of the study.

2. Research Problem

  • Identification of the problem.
  • Statement of the question.

3. Objectives

  • Specific objectives.
  • Hypotheses or expectations.

Literature Review

1. Theoretical Framework

  • Introduction to the theoretical basis.
  • Key concepts and definitions.

2. Previous Research

  • Review of relevant studies.
  • Gaps in existing literature.

3. Methodological Approaches

  • Discussion of research methods used in previous studies.
  • Critique and identification of methodological gaps.


1. Research Design

  • Description of the overall design.
  • Rationale for choosing the design.

2. Participants

  • Characteristics of the study participants.
  • Sampling procedure.

3. Data Collection

  • Description of data collection methods.
  • Instruments used for data collection.

4. Data Analysis

  • Explanation of the statistical or qualitative analysis.
  • Justification for the chosen analysis methods.


1. Presentation of Data

  • Display of key findings using tables or figures.
  • Description of the results.

2. Statistical Analysis

  • Detailed statistical analysis.
  • Interpretation of statistical findings.


1. Interpretation of Results

  • Discussion of the implications of the findings.
  • Comparison with previous studies.

2. Limitations

  • Identification of study limitations.
  • Suggestions for future research.

3. Conclusion

  • Summary of key findings.
  • Concluding remarks.


1. List of all sources cited in the paper following APA format.


1. Additional materials, such as questionnaires or supplementary data.

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