How to Write an Outline for a Term Paper: Theory & Practice

Academic curricula of American universities always include a term paper written by students during studying on a certain course. Students take a challenge to do some research work and describe preparations for it, the progress, and gained outcomes. Every step that assignees take should be presented in an outline.

How to write an outline for a term paper? This is the issue that is discussed in this article.

Purposes of Writing an Outline

Writing an outline of a term paper is significant because it helps make your text logical and well organized. What is term paper outline? This question is asked by most students when a professor names the main components of work. It is contents, which looks like a plan reflecting the whole work in brief. If you look through it, you can catch the essence of the paper because all key issues are dropped in this, so to say, skeleton.

Types of Outlines and Used Formats

When you need term paper writing help, think what type you prefer. There are alphanumeric, decimal and full sentence outlines.

The latter is the most informative. This variant requires writing full sentences. To do it correctly, it is important to submit APA format. That means that you should start writing every new structural unit from a capital letter, use quotes for cited resources and add References on a separate page.

The alphanumeric version is similar to the previous one. The only difference is that full sentences are replaced by short titles required at each level of the outline. Use the following formatting characters in this order:

  • Roman Numerals
  • Capitalized Letters
  • Arabic Numerals
  • Lowercase Letters

For example:


  1. Visit and assess campuses
  2. Visit and evaluate websites
    1. Look for interesting classes
    2. Note some statistics
      1. Information about tutors
      2. Information about famous graduates
  3. The decimal outline is essentially the same as the alphanumeric one. Its peculiarity is using a system of decimal notation, which seems to be a benefit because it makes clear how titles and subtitles are connected.

For example:

1.0 Choose Several Desired Universities

1.1 Visit and assess campuses

1.2 Study universities websites

1.2.1 Look for interesting courses

1.2.2 Note key statistics.

The last two types are based on MLA style. According to it, all major words in the title are capitalized and the source page is called Works Cited.

Write a Term Paper Outline with a Correct Structure

To learn how to write an outline for a term paper, you should remember what components to include in it.

Write a term paper outline according to this structure:

I. Introduction (2-3 paragraphs)

  1. Story, citations, facts to attract to the topic
  2. Stating a problem
  3. Historical background
  4. Thesis statement

II. Body Chapter One (4-6 paragraphs)

  1. Development of the problem
    1. What has happened?
    2. Why should it be learned?
  2. What or whom does the problem influence?
    1. Examples
    2. Facts

III. Body Chapter Two (3-4 paragraphs)

  1. Reasons
    • Because of this problem, this has happened…
  2. The repercussion of the problem
    • If we don’t solve it, this will happen…

IV. Body Chapter Three (1-3 paragraphs)

  1. Possible solutions
  2. What will work
  3. What will not work
  4. Possible oppositions

V. Conclusion (1-2 paragraphs)

  1. Relate back to intro (story, quote, or question)
  2. Restate thesis, which will serve as a clincher

This is a general structure. Stick to it, but you can extend it by using more subs if you want to.

AssignmentBro team believes that this article has clarified the question of what is term paper outline like. Write a term papers outline to lay a solid foundation of your final work, structurize it and get the highest grade.

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