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How to Write an Outline in APA Format

Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

thesis outline example apa

Amanda Tust is a fact-checker, researcher, and writer with a Master of Science in Journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

thesis outline example apa

  • Before Starting Your Outline
  • How to Create an Outline

Writing a psychology paper can feel like an overwhelming task. From picking a topic to finding sources to cite, each step in the process comes with its own challenges. Luckily, there are strategies to make writing your paper easier—one of which is creating an outline using APA format .

Here we share what APA format entails and the basics of this writing style. Then we get into how to create a research paper outline using APA guidelines, giving you a strong foundation to start crafting your content.

At a Glance

APA format is the standard writing style used for psychology research papers. Creating an outline using APA format can help you develop and organize your paper's structure, also keeping you on task as you sit down to write the content.

APA Format Basics

Formatting dictates how papers are styled, which includes their organizational structure, page layout, and how information is presented. APA format is the official style of the American Psychological Association (APA).

Learning the basics of APA format is necessary for writing effective psychology papers, whether for your school courses or if you're working in the field and want your research published in a professional journal. Here are some general APA rules to keep in mind when creating both your outline and the paper itself.

Font and Spacing

According to APA style, research papers are to be written in a legible and widely available font. Traditionally, Times New Roman is used with a 12-point font size. However, other serif and sans serif fonts like Arial or Georgia in 11-point font sizes are also acceptable.

APA format also dictates that the research paper be double-spaced. Each page has 1-inch margins on all sides (top, bottom, left, and right), and the page number is to be placed in the upper right corner of each page.

Both your psychology research paper and outline should include three key sections:

  • Introduction : Highlights the main points and presents your hypothesis
  • Body : Details the ideas and research that support your hypothesis
  • Conclusion : Briefly reiterates your main points and clarifies support for your position

Headings and Subheadings

APA format provides specific guidelines for using headings and subheadings. They are:

  • Main headings : Use Roman numerals (I, II, III, IV)
  • Subheadings: Use capital letters (A, B, C, D)

If you need further subheadings within the initial subheadings, start with Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3), then lowercase letters (a, b, c), then Arabic numerals inside parentheses [(1), (2), (3)]

Before Starting Your APA Format Outline

While APA format does not provide specific rules for creating an outline, you can still develop a strong roadmap for your paper using general APA style guidance. Prior to drafting your psychology research paper outline using APA writing style, taking a few important steps can help set you up for greater success.

Review Your Instructor's Requirements

Look over the instructions for your research paper. Your instructor may have provided some type of guidance or stated what they want. They may have even provided specific requirements for what to include in your outline or how it needs to be structured and formatted.

Some instructors require research paper outlines to use decimal format. This structure uses Arabic decimals instead of Roman numerals or letters. In this case, the main headings in an outline would be 1.0, 1.2, and 1.3, while the subheadings would be 1.2.1, 1.2.2, 1.2.3, and so on.

Consider Your Preferences

After reviewing your instructor's requirements, consider your own preferences for organizing your outline. Think about what makes the most sense for you, as well as what type of outline would be most helpful when you begin writing your research paper.

For example, you could choose to format your headings and subheadings as full sentences, or you might decide that you prefer shorter headings that summarize the content. You can also use different approaches to organizing the lettering and numbering in your outline's subheadings.

Whether you are creating your outline according to your instructor's guidelines or following your own organizational preferences, the most important thing is that you are consistent.

Formatting Tips

When getting ready to start your research paper outline using APA format, it's also helpful to consider how you will format it. Here are a few tips to help:

  • Your outline should begin on a new page.
  • Before you start writing the outline, check that your word processor does not automatically insert unwanted text or notations (such as letters, numbers, or bullet points) as you type. If it does, turn off auto-formatting.
  • If your instructor requires you to specify your hypothesis in your outline, review your assignment instructions to find out where this should be placed. They may want it presented at the top of your outline, for example, or included as a subheading.

How to Create a Research Paper Outline Using APA

Understanding APA format basics can make writing psychology research papers much easier. While APA format does not provide specific rules for creating an outline, you can still develop a strong roadmap for your paper using general APA style guidance, your instructor's requirements, and your own personal organizational preferences.

Typically you won't need to turn your outline in with your final paper. But that doesn't mean you should skip creating one. A strong paper starts with a solid outline. Developing this outline can help you organize your writing and ensure that you effectively communicate your paper's main points and arguments. Here's how to create a research outline using APA format.

Start Your Research

While it may seem like you should create an outline before starting your research, the opposite is actually true. The information you find when researching your psychology research topic will start to reveal the information you'll want to include in your paper—and in your outline.

As you research, consider the main arguments you intend to make in your paper. Look for facts that support your hypothesis, keeping track of where you find these facts so you can cite them when writing your paper. The more organized you are when creating your outline, the easier it becomes to draft the paper itself.

If you are required to turn in your outline before you begin working on your paper, keep in mind that you may need to include a list of references that you plan to use.

Draft Your Outline Using APA Format

Once you have your initial research complete, you have enough information to create an outline. Start with the main headings (which are noted using Roman numerals I, II, III, etc.). Here's an example of the main headings you may use if you were writing an APA format outline for a research paper in support of using cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for anxiety :

  • Introduction
  • What CBT Is
  • How CBT Helps Ease Anxiety
  • Research Supporting CBT for Anxiety
  • Potential Drawbacks of CBT for Anxiety and How to Overcome Them

Under each main heading, list your main points or key ideas using subheadings (as noted with A, B, C, etc.). Sticking with the same example, subheadings under "What CBT Is" may include:

  • Basic CBT Principles
  • How CBT Works
  • Conditions CBT Has Been Found to Help Treat

You may also decide to include additional subheadings under your initial subheadings to add more information or clarify important points relevant to your hypothesis. Examples of additional subheadings (which are noted with 1, 2, 3, etc.) that could be included under "Basic CBT Principles" include:

  • Is Goal-Oriented
  • Focuses on Problem-Solving
  • Includes Self-Monitoring

Begin Writing Your Research Paper

The reason this step is included when drafting your research paper outline using APA format is that you'll often find that your outline changes as you begin to dive deeper into your proposed topic. New ideas may emerge or you may decide to narrow your topic further, even sometimes changing your hypothesis altogether.

All of these factors can impact what you write about, ultimately changing your outline. When writing your paper, there are a few important points to keep in mind:

  • Follow the structure that your instructor specifies.
  • Present your strongest points first.
  • Support your arguments with research and examples.
  • Organize your ideas logically and in order of strength.
  • Keep track of your sources.
  • Present and debate possible counterarguments, and provide evidence that counters opposing arguments.

Update Your Final Outline

The final version of your outline should reflect your completed draft. Not only does updating your outline at this point help ensure that you've covered the topics you want in your paper, but it also gives you another opportunity to verify that your paper follows a logical sequence.

When reading through your APA-formatted outline, consider whether it flows naturally from one topic to the next. You wouldn't talk about how CBT works before discussing what CBT is, for example. Taking this final step can give you a more solid outline, and a more solid research paper.

American Psychological Association. About APA Style .

Purdue University Online Writing Lab. Types of outlines and samples .

Mississippi College. Writing Center: Outlines .

American Psychological Association. APA style: Style and Grammar Guidelines .

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

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APA Outline Examples in PDF

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If you’re a beginner in writing a research paper  or an essay and your instructor asked you to use the APA format, you may not have the faintest idea what APA means, let alone use the format. If your instructor gives you the APA guidelines then good for you. If they haven’t, don’t panic. You’re going through the perfect article that will help you get acquainted and familiarize the APA format outline. You may also see essay outline .

Most college students or teachers who are majoring in social sciences, such as Psychology, Sociology, History, Linguistics, use the American Psychological Association or APA guidelines for writing research papers and assignments in this field of study. Other fields of study also use the APA format but not limited to Business, Economics, Nursing, and Criminology. The APA covers the initial title page to bibliography citation page. APA basically provides the basic layout style and outline to correctly write your paper in the APA format. Of course, other formats are also used by researchers, students, and teachers such as MLA, Harvard, etc. You may also see free outline .

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2. Full-Sentence Outlines

Basic full-sentence outline.

simple full sentence outline

Though there are only a few differences between an alphanumeric outline and a full-sentence outline, you might still need a sample to illustrate these variations. See this simple full-sentence outline sample to learn more.

Full-Sentence Outline Example

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3. Decimal Outlines

General decimal outline.

decimal outline sample

What is an APA Outline Format?

APA stands for American Psychological Association, and an APA outline format is a standardized format for outlining papers and other documents. An APA outline format is typically used for research papers, dissertations, and theses. It is a way to organize your ideas and thoughts in a clear and concise manner before writing your paper.

How to write an APA Outline Format

Using an APA format as your outline might be confusing at first but once you have familiarize yourself with the format, then it is easier for you to organize your topics and sub-topics you want to discuss in your essay or research paper. You may also see  book outline .

Having a good outline has more chances of you presenting a well-written research paper or essay. Making an APA outline is the first thing to do in creating a structure on what will be written in the paper and how it is written. There is a grammatical format that you have to follow while writing your paper to make it sound credible. Having a sloppy grammar makes your paper less impressive. Here are some tips:

1. Observe the use of parallelism.

Parallelism means the use of consecutive verbal constructions in a sentence that corresponds to the grammatical structure. In this format, this refers to the structure between the headings and sub-headings. Once you’ve established your structure, it must be consistent with all your headings and subheadings. If you start your headings with a verb, then your subheadings should start with a verb. If you use a noun, then all your headings and sub-headings must use nouns. You may also see  write a speech outline .

2. The use of coordination is vital between your headings.

All your headings must be equal in significance or importance of each other. The rule applies to sub-headings as well, but their information may be less significant than the headings. You may also see a  speech outline .

3. Make use of subordination.

Subordination is the relationship between the headings and the sub-headings. The headings usually have general information while the information contained in the sub-headings are more specific, and so on to more sub-headings. The subordination is created using Arabic numerals. You may also see the  program outline .

4. To organize your outline you should use division.

Each heading must have at least two or three divisions. However, if you have too many divisions, you need to use another heading or sub-heading. You may also see a  biography outline .

5. Your headings should always use Roman Numerals (I, II, III, etc.) when you list them.

For example, if you are writing research for The Foundation of Mugs, your heading must look like this:

I. The Foundation of Mugs

Don’t forget to always use Roman Numerals while writing your main headings. Your heading is the first and basic step in formatting your APA outline. You may also see the  chapter outline .

6. Next is the subheading.

The subheading follows the main heading. When listing them use a capital letter of the English alphabet. In the example above, your heading was “The Foundation of Mugs”. Suppose your subheading is “History of Mugs” then it should be listed using the English alphabet. Start with the capital letter A. You may also see the  presentation outline .

7. Add more than one subheading to your main heading

If you like to add more than one subheading to your main heading, just by adding the next English alphabet in capital letters in the next subheading. Example: If you like to add a second subheading to your main heading, “Foundation of Mugs”, you may write this:

B. Designs and Functions of Mugs to the Society

Your heading and subheading will look like this:

I. Foundation of Mugs A. History of Mugs B. Designs and Functions of Mugs to the Society

Use Arab numerals (1,2,3 and so on). If you want to add another subheading “Decoration” under heading B, you may write it like this:

1.  Decoration

Your outline would now look something like this:

I. Foundation of Mugs A.History of Mugs B. Designs and Functions of Mugs to the Society 1. Decoration

Finally, if there are still more subheadings you want to add under your last subheadings, use lowercase letters. If there are still subheadings you want to add under the last subheading, use Arab numerals in parenthesis. You may also see the  course outline .

What is the purpose of an APA outline format?

The purpose of an APA outline format is to provide a clear and organized structure for your paper. It helps you to plan and organize your ideas before you start writing, and it ensures that your paper is logical and easy to follow.

What are the different types of outlines in APA format?

There are several different types of outlines in APA format, including the thesis outline, script outline, research paper outline, and book outline. Each outline type has its own specific requirements and guidelines.

What are the key elements of an APA outline format?

An APA outline format should include the title page, abstract, introduction, body, and conclusion. It should also have headings and subheadings to organize the information and provide structure to the document.

How do I create an APA outline format?

To create an APA outline format, start by identifying the main points you want to make in your paper. Then, organize those points into sections and subsections using headings and subheadings. Finally, add supporting details and evidence to each section to create a complete and well-organized outline.

In conclusion, an APA outline format is a helpful tool for organizing your ideas and thoughts before you start writing your paper. Whether you are working on a thesis outline, script outline, research paper outline, or book outline, using an APA outline format can help you to create a clear and organized document that is easy to read and follow. By following the guidelines and structure provided by APA outline format, you can ensure that your paper is well-organized, logical, and easy to understand.

thesis outline example apa

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Research Paper: A step-by-step guide: 3. Thesis Statement & Outline

  • 1. Getting Started
  • 2. Topic Ideas
  • 3. Thesis Statement & Outline
  • 4. Appropriate Sources
  • 5. Search Techniques
  • 6. Taking Notes & Documenting Sources
  • 7. Evaluating Sources
  • 8. Citations & Plagiarism
  • 9. Writing Your Research Paper

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About Thesis Statements

Qualities of a thesis statement.

Thesis statements:

  • state the subject matter and main ideas of a paper.
  • appear in the first paragraph and announces what you will discuss in your paper.
  • define the scope and focus of your essay, and tells your reader what to expect.  
  • are not a simple factual statement.  It is an assertion that states your claims and that you can prove with evidence.
  • should be the product of research and your own critical thinking.
  • can be very helpful in constructing an outline for your essay; for each point you make, ask yourself whether it is relevant to the thesis.

Steps you can use to create a thesis statement

1. Start out with the main topic and focus of your essay.

youth gangs + prevention and intervention programs

2. Make a claim or argument in one sentence.  It can be helpful to start with a question which you then turn into an argument

Can prevention and intervention programs stop youth gang activities?  How?  ►►►  "Prevention and intervention programs can stop youth gang activities by giving teens something else to do."

3. Revise the sentence by using specific terms.

"Early prevention programs in schools are the most effective way to prevent youth gang involvement by giving teens good activities that offer a path to success."

4. Further revise the sentence to cover the scope of your essay and make a strong statement.

"Among various prevention and intervention efforts that have been made to deal with the rapid growth of youth gangs, early school-based prevention programs are the most effective way to prevent youth gang involvement, which they do by giving teens meaningful activities that offer pathways to achievement and success."

5. Keep your thesis statement flexible and revise it as needed. In the process of researching and writing, you may find new information or refine your understanding of the topic.

You can view this short video for more tips on how to write a clear thesis statement.

An outline is the skeleton of your essay, in which you list the arguments and subtopics in a logical order. A good outline is an important element in writing a good paper. An outline helps to target your research areas, keep you within the scope without going off-track, and it can also help to keep your argument in good order when writing the essay.  Once your outline is in good shape, it is much easier to write your paper; you've already done most of the thinking, so you just need to fill in the outline with a paragraph for each point.

To write an outline: The most common way to write an outline is the list format.  List all the major topics and subtopics with the key points that support them. Put similar topics and points together and arrange them in a logical order.    Include an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. 

A list outline should arrange the main points or arguments in a hierarchical structure indicated by Roman numerals for main ideas (I, II, III...), capital letters for subtopics (A, B, C...), Arabic numerals for details (1,2,3...), and lower-case letters for fine details if needed (a,b,c...). This helps keep things organized.  

Here is a shortened example of an outline:

Introduction: background and thesis statement

I. First topic

1. Supporting evidence 2. Supporting evidence

II. Second Topic

III. Third Topic

I. Summarize the main points of your paper II. Restate your thesis in different words III. Make a strong final statement

You can see examples of a few different kinds of outlines and get more help at the Purdue OWL .

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  • Dissertation & Thesis Outline | Example & Free Templates

Dissertation & Thesis Outline | Example & Free Templates

Published on 8 June 2022 by Tegan George .

A thesis or dissertation outline is one of the most critical early steps in your writing process . It helps you to lay out and organise your ideas and can provide you with a roadmap for deciding what kind of research you’d like to undertake.

Generally, an outline contains information on the different sections included in your thesis or dissertation, such as:

  • Your anticipated title
  • Your abstract
  • Your chapters (sometimes subdivided into further topics like literature review, research methods, avenues for future research, etc.)

In the final product, you can also provide a chapter outline for your readers. This is a short paragraph at the end of your introduction to inform readers about the organisational structure of your thesis or dissertation . This chapter outline is also known as a reading guide or summary outline.

Table of contents

How to outline your thesis or dissertation, dissertation and thesis outline templates, chapter outline example, sample sentences for your chapter outline, sample verbs for variation in your chapter outline, frequently asked questions about outlines.

While there are some inter-institutional differences, many outlines proceed in a fairly similar fashion.

  • Working Title
  • ‘Elevator pitch’ of your work (often written last).
  • Introduce your area of study, sharing details about your research question, problem statement , and hypotheses . Situate your research within an existing paradigm or conceptual or theoretical framework .
  • Subdivide as you see fit into main topics and sub-topics.
  • Describe your research methods (e.g., your scope, population , and data collection ).
  • Present your research findings and share about your data analysis methods.
  • Answer the research question in a concise way.
  • Interpret your findings, discuss potential limitations of your own research and speculate about future implications or related opportunities.

To help you get started, we’ve created a full thesis or dissertation template in Word or Google Docs format. It’s easy adapt it to your own requirements.

 Download Word template    Download Google Docs template

Chapter outline example British English

It can be easy to fall into a pattern of overusing the same words or sentence constructions, which can make your work monotonous and repetitive for your readers. Consider utilising some of the alternative constructions presented below.

Example 1: Passive construction

The passive voice is a common choice for outlines and overviews because the context makes it clear who is carrying out the action (e.g., you are conducting the research ). However, overuse of the passive voice can make your text vague and imprecise.

Example 2: IS-AV construction

You can also present your information using the ‘IS-AV’ (inanimate subject with an active verb) construction.

A chapter is an inanimate object, so it is not capable of taking an action itself (e.g., presenting or discussing). However, the meaning of the sentence is still easily understandable, so the IS-AV construction can be a good way to add variety to your text.

Example 3: The I construction

Another option is to use the ‘I’ construction, which is often recommended by style manuals (e.g., APA Style and Chicago style ). However, depending on your field of study, this construction is not always considered professional or academic. Ask your supervisor if you’re not sure.

Example 4: Mix-and-match

To truly make the most of these options, consider mixing and matching the passive voice , IS-AV construction , and ‘I’ construction .This can help the flow of your argument and improve the readability of your text.

As you draft the chapter outline, you may also find yourself frequently repeating the same words, such as ‘discuss’, ‘present’, ‘prove’, or ‘show’. Consider branching out to add richness and nuance to your writing. Here are some examples of synonyms you can use.

A thesis or dissertation outline is one of the most critical first steps in your writing process. It helps you to lay out and organise your ideas and can provide you with a roadmap for deciding what kind of research you’d like to undertake.

When you mention different chapters within your text, it’s considered best to use Roman numerals for most citation styles. However, the most important thing here is to remain consistent whenever using numbers in your dissertation .

All level 1 and 2 headings should be included in your table of contents . That means the titles of your chapters and the main sections within them.

The contents should also include all appendices and the lists of tables and figures, if applicable, as well as your reference list .

Do not include the acknowledgements or abstract   in the table of contents.

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George, T. (2022, June 08). Dissertation & Thesis Outline | Example & Free Templates. Scribbr. Retrieved 15 February 2024, from https://www.scribbr.co.uk/thesis-dissertation/outline-thesis-dissertation/

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APA Style 7th Edition: Citing Your Sources

  • Basics of APA Formatting
  • In Text Quick View
  • Block Quotes
  • Books & eBooks
  • Thesis/Dissertation

Standard Format

Formatting rules, various examples.

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Adapted from American Psychological Association. (2020). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed).  https://doi.org/10.1037/0000165-000

Formatting:

  • Italicize the title
  • Identify whether source is doctoral dissertation or master’s thesis in parentheses after the title

See Ch. 10 pp. 313-352 of APA Manual for more examples and formatting rules

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APA Formatting and Citation (7th Ed.) | Generator, Template, Examples

Published on November 6, 2020 by Raimo Streefkerk . Revised on January 17, 2024.

The 7th edition of the APA Publication Manual provides guidelines for clear communication , citing sources , and formatting documents. This article focuses on paper formatting.

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Throughout your paper, you need to apply the following APA format guidelines:

  • Set page margins to 1 inch on all sides.
  • Double-space all text, including headings.
  • Indent the first line of every paragraph 0.5 inches.
  • Use an accessible font (e.g., Times New Roman 12pt., Arial 11pt., or Georgia 11pt.).
  • Include a page number on every page.

APA format (7th edition)

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thesis outline example apa

Table of contents

How to set up apa format (with template), apa alphabetization guidelines, apa format template [free download], page header, headings and subheadings, reference page, tables and figures, frequently asked questions about apa format.

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thesis outline example apa

References are ordered alphabetically by the first author’s last name. If the author is unknown, order the reference entry by the first meaningful word of the title (ignoring articles: “the”, “a”, or “an”).

Why set up APA format from scratch if you can download Scribbr’s template for free?

Student papers and professional papers have slightly different guidelines regarding the title page, abstract, and running head. Our template is available in Word and Google Docs format for both versions.

  • Student paper: Word | Google Docs
  • Professional paper: Word | Google Docs

In an APA Style paper, every page has a page header. For student papers, the page header usually consists of just a page number in the page’s top-right corner. For professional papers intended for publication, it also includes a running head .

A running head is simply the paper’s title in all capital letters. It is left-aligned and can be up to 50 characters in length. Longer titles are abbreviated .

APA running head (7th edition)

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APA headings have five possible levels. Heading level 1 is used for main sections such as “ Methods ” or “ Results ”. Heading levels 2 to 5 are used for subheadings. Each heading level is formatted differently.

Want to know how many heading levels you should use, when to use which heading level, and how to set up heading styles in Word or Google Docs? Then check out our in-depth article on APA headings .

APA headings (7th edition)

The title page is the first page of an APA Style paper. There are different guidelines for student and professional papers.

Both versions include the paper title and author’s name and affiliation. The student version includes the course number and name, instructor name, and due date of the assignment. The professional version includes an author note and running head .

For more information on writing a striking title, crediting multiple authors (with different affiliations), and writing the author note, check out our in-depth article on the APA title page .

APA title page - student version (7th edition)

The abstract is a 150–250 word summary of your paper. An abstract is usually required in professional papers, but it’s rare to include one in student papers (except for longer texts like theses and dissertations).

The abstract is placed on a separate page after the title page . At the top of the page, write the section label “Abstract” (bold and centered). The contents of the abstract appear directly under the label. Unlike regular paragraphs, the first line is not indented. Abstracts are usually written as a single paragraph without headings or blank lines.

Directly below the abstract, you may list three to five relevant keywords . On a new line, write the label “Keywords:” (italicized and indented), followed by the keywords in lowercase letters, separated by commas.

APA abstract (7th edition)

APA Style does not provide guidelines for formatting the table of contents . It’s also not a required paper element in either professional or student papers. If your instructor wants you to include a table of contents, it’s best to follow the general guidelines.

Place the table of contents on a separate page between the abstract and introduction. Write the section label “Contents” at the top (bold and centered), press “Enter” once, and list the important headings with corresponding page numbers.

The APA reference page is placed after the main body of your paper but before any appendices . Here you list all sources that you’ve cited in your paper (through APA in-text citations ). APA provides guidelines for formatting the references as well as the page itself.

Creating APA Style references

Play around with the Scribbr Citation Example Generator below to learn about the APA reference format of the most common source types or generate APA citations for free with Scribbr’s APA Citation Generator .

Formatting the reference page

Write the section label “References” at the top of a new page (bold and centered). Place the reference entries directly under the label in alphabetical order.

Finally, apply a hanging indent , meaning the first line of each reference is left-aligned, and all subsequent lines are indented 0.5 inches.

APA reference page (7th edition)

Tables and figures are presented in a similar format. They’re preceded by a number and title and followed by explanatory notes (if necessary).

Use bold styling for the word “Table” or “Figure” and the number, and place the title on a separate line directly below it (in italics and title case). Try to keep tables clean; don’t use any vertical lines, use as few horizontal lines as possible, and keep row and column labels concise.

Keep the design of figures as simple as possible. Include labels and a legend if needed, and only use color when necessary (not to make it look more appealing).

Check out our in-depth article about table and figure notes to learn when to use notes and how to format them.

APA table (7th edition)

The easiest way to set up APA format in Word is to download Scribbr’s free APA format template for student papers or professional papers.

Alternatively, you can watch Scribbr’s 5-minute step-by-step tutorial or check out our APA format guide with examples.

APA Style papers should be written in a font that is legible and widely accessible. For example:

  • Times New Roman (12pt.)
  • Arial (11pt.)
  • Calibri (11pt.)
  • Georgia (11pt.)

The same font and font size is used throughout the document, including the running head , page numbers, headings , and the reference page . Text in footnotes and figure images may be smaller and use single line spacing.

You need an APA in-text citation and reference entry . Each source type has its own format; for example, a webpage citation is different from a book citation .

Use Scribbr’s free APA Citation Generator to generate flawless citations in seconds or take a look at our APA citation examples .

Yes, page numbers are included on all pages, including the title page , table of contents , and reference page . Page numbers should be right-aligned in the page header.

To insert page numbers in Microsoft Word or Google Docs, click ‘Insert’ and then ‘Page number’.

APA format is widely used by professionals, researchers, and students in the social and behavioral sciences, including fields like education, psychology, and business.

Be sure to check the guidelines of your university or the journal you want to be published in to double-check which style you should be using.

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Streefkerk, R. (2024, January 17). APA Formatting and Citation (7th Ed.) | Generator, Template, Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved February 18, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/apa-style/format/

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Published thesis

Author, A. A. (Year). Title of thesis [Type of thesis, Name of institution awarding degree]. Name of archive or site. https://xxxxxx

Stored in a database

Author, A. A. (Year). Title of thesis (Database Publication number, if assigned) [Type of thesis, Name of institution awarding degree]. Database Name.

Taffe, S. (2017).  The Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders: The politics of inter-racial coalition in Australia, 1958–1973.  [Doctoral thesis, Monash University]. Bridges.  https://doi.org/10.4225/03/59d4482289ea4

Bozeman, A. Jr. (2007).  Age of onset as predictor of cognitive performance in children with seizure disorders  (Publication No. 3259752) [Doctoral dissertation, The Chicago School of Professional Psychology]. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global.

Unpublished thesis

Author, A. A. (Year).  Title of thesis or dissertation  [Unpublished Doctoral dissertation or Master's thesis]. Name of Institution.

Imber, A. (2003).  Applicant reactions to graduate recruitment and selection  [Unpublished Doctoral dissertation]. Monash University. 

For further guidance, see the APA Style website- Published Dissertation or Thesis , Unpublished Dissertation or Theses .

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Home » Thesis Outline – Example, Template and Writing Guide

Thesis Outline – Example, Template and Writing Guide

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Thesis Outline

Thesis Outline

Thesis outline is a document that outlines the structure and content of a thesis , which is a long-form academic paper that presents an original argument or research on a particular topic. The outline serves as a roadmap for the thesis, providing an overview of the major sections, sub-sections, and the general flow of the argument.

Thesis outline typically follows a standard format and includes the following sections:

  • Title page: This page includes the thesis title, author’s name, department, university, and the date of submission.
  • Abstract : This section is a brief summary of the thesis, highlighting the main points and conclusions. It usually contains around 150-300 words.
  • Table of contents: This page lists all the chapters, sections, and subsections of the thesis, along with their page numbers.
  • Introduction: This section introduces the topic of the thesis, presents the research question or hypothesis, and provides an overview of the methodology and the scope of the study.
  • Literature review: This chapter provides a critical analysis of the existing literature on the topic, highlighting the gaps, inconsistencies, and controversies.
  • Methodology : This section explains the research design, data collection methods, and data analysis techniques used in the study.
  • Results : This chapter presents the findings of the study, using tables, charts, and graphs to illustrate the data.
  • Discussion : This section interprets the results and relates them to the research question or hypothesis. It also discusses the implications, limitations, and future directions of the study.
  • Conclusion : This section summarizes the main points of the thesis, restates the research question or hypothesis, and provides a final conclusion.
  • References : This page lists all the sources cited in the thesis, following a specific citation style (APA, MLA, etc.).
  • Appendices : This section includes any additional materials, such as questionnaires, interview transcripts, or raw data, that are relevant to the study but not included in the main text.

Thesis Outline Example

Thesis Outline Example and Template Sample is as follows:

I. Introduction

  • Background and Context
  • Problem Statement
  • Research Questions
  • Objectives and Scope
  • Significance of the Study
  • Chapter Overview

II. Literature Review

  • Introduction to Literature Review
  • Theoretical Framework
  • Previous Research on the Topic
  • Critical Analysis of the Literature
  • Summary and Conclusion

III. Methodology

  • Introduction to Methodology
  • Research Design and Approach
  • Sampling Strategy
  • Data Collection Methods
  • Data Analysis Techniques
  • Ethical Considerations
  • Limitations and Delimitations

IV. Results

  • Introduction to Results
  • Presentation of Data
  • Analysis of Findings
  • Discussion of Results

V. Discussion

  • Introduction to Discussion
  • Interpretation of Results
  • Comparison with Previous Research
  • Implications and Applications of the Findings
  • Limitations and Future Directions

VI. Conclusion

  • Summary of Findings
  • Conclusions and Recommendations
  • Contribution to the Field
  • Implications for Future Research

VII. References

VIII. Appendices

  • Survey Instrument
  • Data Tables and Figures
  • Institutional Review Board Approval
  • Informed Consent Form

How to Write Thesis Outline

Here are some steps to follow when writing a thesis outline:

  • Identify the purpose and scope of your thesis: Before you start writing, you should have a clear understanding of the research questions , objectives, and hypotheses of your thesis, as well as the specific requirements and guidelines of your institution.
  • Organize your ideas into sections: Divide your thesis into logical sections, such as introduction, literature review , methodology, results, discussion, and conclusion. Think about the main points you want to make in each section and how they relate to the overall theme of your thesis.
  • Write a brief summary for each section: Write a few sentences summarizing the main ideas and objectives of each section. This will help you stay focused and avoid including irrelevant or redundant information.
  • Create a table of contents: List the main sections and subsections of your thesis, along with their page numbers, to create a clear and organized outline.
  • Review and revise your outline: Make sure your outline follows a logical and coherent structure, and that each section flows smoothly into the next. Revise your outline as necessary to ensure that it accurately reflects the content and structure of your thesis.
  • Seek feedback from your advisor or committee: Share your outline with your thesis advisor or committee members to get their feedback and suggestions for improvement.

Purpose of Thesis Outline

The purpose of a thesis outline is to provide a clear and organized structure for your thesis, which will help you to:

  • Stay organized : An outline helps you to break down your thesis into manageable sections, making it easier to plan your research and writing process.
  • Ensure logical flow: A well-structured outline ensures that your thesis has a logical and coherent flow, with each section building on the previous one.
  • Avoid duplication and irrelevant information: An outline helps you to avoid including duplicate or irrelevant information, ensuring that your thesis is focused and to-the-point.
  • Meet institutional requirements: Many institutions have specific guidelines for the structure and format of a thesis, and an outline can help you to ensure that your thesis meets these requirements.
  • Get feedback and guidance: An outline can be shared with your thesis advisor or committee members for feedback and guidance, helping you to refine your research and writing approach.

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Research Paper Outline – How to create a good one

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Inhaltsverzeichnis

  • 1  Research Paper Outline: Definition
  • 3  Structure
  • 5 APA Outline
  • 6 MLA Outline
  • 7 In a Nutshell

 Research Paper Outline: Definition

A research paper outline is a simple structure of what you will include in each part of your research paper . The research paper structure should help to reduce the stress of writing the entire paper since you will only be tackling one section at a time. A good research paper structure should also help you avoid leaving out points or making mistakes in the paper.

Research paper outlines can make your work a lot easier since they show you what to include in every part of the research paper. After reading this guide, you will be able to create a research paper outline. We have included a sample of a research paper structure.

What are the parts of the research paper outline?

A research paper outline should include all of the essential parts of a research paper . The essential parts are generally the introduction, the main section, and the conclusion. The introduction should contain a hook, a thesis statement, and it should define the research topic. The body should contain your arguments in support of the thesis. In the conclusion, you should summarize your arguments and add a call to action.

What is the format of the research paper outline?

For the research paper outline, there are many strategies that you can use. Which one you choose, depends on your research paper topic , and your lecturers’ instructions. The research paper outline is most commonly formatted with letters and (or) numbers. Usually, the format of a research paper outline starts with Roman numerals for the main topics (I., II., III., …). For subtopics, uppercase letters are often used (A., B., C., …). For detailed parts of your subtopics, use Arabic numbers (1., 2., 3., …). And if there are any subparts, you can use lowercase letters for them (a., b., c., …).

What should be included in a research paper outline?

Your research paper outline should simply show what you will include in each section of your research paper. For example, the introduction , body paragraphs and conclusion. You should show the main ideas that will be covered in each of the specific sections. The research paper outline should follow the layout of the actual study, and each part should contain points that are relevant to the corresponding section.

What's the difference between MLA and APA research paper outlines?

MLA stands for the Modern Language Association and APA stands for the American Psychological Association. They are both methods for formatting research papers. The main differences are in the referencing styles and the cover pages . Which method you are required to use, will depend on your area of research. Areas in humanities usually require you to use MLA, whereas scientific research usually requires APA formatting.

What are the steps before writing the research paper outline?

Before writing your research paper outline, you need to have completed the research phase. This means that you should have decided on your research topic and your research question . You need to have already written at least a draft thesis statement. You can’t create a research paper outline, if you don’t know which areas within your research topic are going to be covered.

A research paper outline should have the following parts:

Your research paper outline should be well divided. First, you will determine what you will include in the abstract . This part basically works as a brief summary of your entire paper, and in the research paper outline, you should include the key points to include in this section.

Thesis statement

The next part of your research paper outline will be the introduction . This part hooks the reader to the paper and should contain some key details. As you create your research paper outline, make sure you include the thesis statement , the core terms in the paper, and major points tackled in the paper.

Major arguments

The body part of your research paper outline should have the most information. This part of the research paper outline should contain different sections. Immediately after the introduction, you should show what you will include in your methodology. You should make notes on the methods used to carry out the research. You should then note the literature you used as a backup to your hypothesis and theories. In the research paper outline, you should mention the main theme of your study, along with how you intend to expand on the chosen literature.

Supporting points for each argument

After this part, your research paper outline should show the data and analysis section of the study. Note your results and other variables that you got in the study and indicate your preferred method of presenting the data. This could be with tables, graphs, etc.

A summary of the research findings and conclusions should also be included in this part of the research paper structure. Determine whether the findings make a difference to existing studies. Also, note the drawbacks of the research and its advantages.

To make your work easier, you can use this format and add the details of your own research paper structure. Note that this format may need to be changed depending on the type of research and the writing style requested. The following is an example of a research paper outline:

Research-paper-outline-example

APA Outline

When writing the research paper with the APA format, you should consider the particularities of this style. First, remember that the papers include separate cover pages, and the cover page includes the title, author’s name, school name, and running head. The header on every next page has a number and title. With this format, the abstract has to be followed by keywords. The list of cited sources is titled as ‘References’. You should note these items in the research paper outline to make sure you don’t get anything wrong.

MLA Outline

As you complete your research paper outline for an MLA paper, you should remember that the citation styles differ based on the type of source. For example, a book will be cited differently from a video or magazine article. With MLA format, you will also not need to worry about title pages, unless your instructors indicate that they need a title page. In the research paper outline, the titles and emphasis points should all be written in italics. Before writing your cited works, you should consider making a list of the endnotes. The subheadings should be marked with Arabic numbers.

In a Nutshell

  • Research paper outlines can make your work easier and will ensure that you don’t miss anything out of your paper.
  • Research paper outlines differ based on the formating style used. APA research paper outlines will be slightly different from the MLA research paper outlines.
  • A research paper outline should have an introduction, body, and conclusion.
  • You should make brief notes on your main points and arguments in the research paper structure and refer to them when writing the paper itself.

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  1. How to Write an Outline in APA Format

    Both your psychology research paper and outline should include three key sections: Introduction: Highlights the main points and presents your hypothesis Body: Details the ideas and research that support your hypothesis Conclusion: Briefly reiterates your main points and clarifies support for your position Headings and Subheadings

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    APA Outline Examples in PDF If you're a beginner in writing a research paper or an essay and your instructor asked you to use the APA format, you may not have the faintest idea what APA means, let alone use the format. If your instructor gives you the APA guidelines then good for you. If they haven't, don't panic.

  3. Dissertation & Thesis Outline

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    Sample Papers This page contains sample papers formatted in seventh edition APA Style. The sample papers show the format that authors should use to submit a manuscript for publication in a professional journal and that students should use to submit a paper to an instructor for a course assignment.

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    Note: This page reflects the latest version of the APA Publication Manual (i.e., APA 7), which released in October 2019. The equivalent resource for the older APA 6 style can be found here. Media Files: APA Sample Student Paper , APA Sample Professional Paper This resource is enhanced by Acrobat PDF files. Download the free Acrobat Reader

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  7. PDF Student Paper Setup Guide, APA Style 7th Edition

    Indent the first line of every paragraph of text 0.5 in. using the tab key or the paragraph-formatting function of your word-processing program. Page numbers: Put a page number in the top right corner of every page, including the title page or cover page, which is page 1. Student papers do not require a running head on any page.

  8. 3. Thesis Statement & Outline

    Here is a shortened example of an outline: Introduction: background and thesis statement. Body. I. First topic. A. Point A. 1. Supporting evidence 2. Supporting evidence. a. Detail. II. Second Topic. III. Third Topic. Conclusion. I. Summarize the main points of your paper II. Restate your thesis in different words III. Make a strong final statement

  9. APA Outline Format Examples and Guide

    Writing an APA outline shouldn't be difficult. Learn how to format your ideal outline with these different examples, and make sure you have a strong backbone for your paper.

  10. Dissertation & Thesis Outline

    Example 1: Passive construction. The passive voice is a common choice for outlines and overviews because the context makes it clear who is carrying out the action (e.g., you are conducting the research ). However, overuse of the passive voice can make your text vague and imprecise. Example: Passive construction.

  11. How to Write a Thesis Statement

    Step 1: Start with a question Step 2: Write your initial answer Step 3: Develop your answer Step 4: Refine your thesis statement Types of thesis statements Other interesting articles Frequently asked questions about thesis statements What is a thesis statement? A thesis statement summarizes the central points of your essay.

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    Formatting: Italicize the title Identify whether source is doctoral dissertation or master's thesis in parentheses after the title Various Examples See Ch. 10 pp. 313-352 of APA Manual for more examples and formatting rules Last Updated: Nov 1, 2023 3:17 PM

  13. Creating a Thesis Statement, Thesis Statement Tips

    1. Determine what kind of paper you are writing: An analytical paper breaks down an issue or an idea into its component parts, evaluates the issue or idea, and presents this breakdown and evaluation to the audience. An expository (explanatory) paper explains something to the audience.

  14. APA Formatting and Citation (7th Ed.)

    Throughout your paper, you need to apply the following APA format guidelines: Set page margins to 1 inch on all sides. Double-space all text, including headings. Indent the first line of every paragraph 0.5 inches. Use an accessible font (e.g., Times New Roman 12pt., Arial 11pt., or Georgia 11pt.).

  15. APA Sample Paper

    Note: This page reflects APA 6, which is now out of date. It will remain online until 2021, but will not be updated. The equivalent APA 7 page can be found here.. Media File: APA Sample Paper This resource is enhanced by an Acrobat PDF file.

  16. PDF How to Prepare your Dissertation in APA Style Style Manual Spacing Margins

    more letters). Example: The Effects of Autism on Listening Skills. ** Capitalize the first word of the title and proper nouns (just as you would capitalize a sentence). An example: Teenagers with autism in the United States. Next, update the heading styles listed in the Home tab at the top: 1. Highlight a level 1 heading. 2. Right-click the ...

  17. Subject guides: APA 7th: Theses and dissertations

    Example. This was seen in an Australian study (Couch, 2017). ... Title of thesis (Database Publication number, if assigned) [Type of thesis, Name of institution awarding degree]. Database Name. ... For further guidance, see the APA Style website- Published Dissertation or Thesis, Unpublished Dissertation or Theses. << Previous: Tables ...

  18. PDF APA Format for Thesis Writing

    University A TEMPLATE SHOWING HOW TO USE APA FORMAT FOR THESIS Abstract The abstract states the question the paper was designed to answer and reports the most important findings. One way to write your first draft of the abstract is to write one sentence reporting the main point or most important idea of each major section of the paper.

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  20. Thesis Outline

    Thesis Outline Example and Template Sample is as follows: I. Introduction Background and Context Problem Statement Research Questions Objectives and Scope Significance of the Study Chapter Overview II. Literature Review Introduction to Literature Review Theoretical Framework Previous Research on the Topic Critical Analysis of the Literature

  21. Research Paper Outline

    A research paper outline should include all of the essential parts of a research paper. The essential parts are generally the introduction, the main section, and the conclusion. The introduction should contain a hook, a thesis statement, and it should define the research topic. The body should contain your arguments in support of the thesis.

  22. Types of Outlines

    Lowercase Letters If the outline needs to subdivide beyond these divisions, use Arabic numerals inside parentheses and then lowercase letters inside parentheses. Select the "Sample Outlines" PDF in the Media Box above to download the sample of this outline.

  23. Thesis Generator

    Sample Outline Based on Your Thesis: If written properly, your thesis can act as a "roadmap" for your paper, where each main idea presented in your thesis essentially becomes the topic of your body paragraph. To see this in action, use the suggested outline below.

  24. APA Formatting and Style Guide (7th Edition)

    Basic guidelines for formatting the reference list at the end of a standard APA research paper Author/Authors Rules for handling works by a single author or multiple authors that apply to all APA-style references in your reference list, regardless of the type of work (book, article, electronic resource, etc.)