Outlines For Research Papers Formatting A Computer

The guidelines from the American Psychological Association or APA are used for writing papers and doing assignments in the social sciences. They have guidelines for research papers, from the initial title page to the final works cited page. The APA even provides format examples for outlines to be prepared before the paper is written.

Understanding the APA Outline Format

When you look at the basic APA outline format example in this article, you will see that Roman numerals are used for the main headings in your outline, and capital letters are used for the sub-headings. Inside the sub-headings you use Arab numerals and lower case letters, in that order followed by Arab numerals in parenthesis.

The full sentence outline is set up the same way, but with full sentences on each level of the outline.

A less common form is the decimal outline, and your professor will tell you which kind of outline to use.

The best way to gain an understanding of the APA outline format is to look at examples. Following are three APA outline format examples. To save space in the examples, only the first section of the outline will show the proper spacing.

The College Application Process (Basic APA format)

I. Choose Desired Colleges

     A. Visit and evaluate college campuses

     B. Visit and evaluate college websites

          1. look for interesting classes

          2. note important statistics

               a. student/faculty ratio

               b. retention rate

II. Prepare Application

     A. Write Personal Statement

          1. Choose interesting topic

               a. describe an influential person in your life

                    (1) favorite high school teacher

                    (2) grandparent

          2. Include important personal details

               a. volunteer work

               b. participation in varsity sports

     B. Revise personal statement

III. Compile resume

     A. List relevant coursework

     B. List work experience

     C. List volunteer experience

          1. tutor at foreign language summer camp

          2. counselor for suicide prevention hotline  

Full Sentence Outline Format

I. Man-made pollution is the primary cause of global warming.

     A. Greenhouse gas emissions are widely identified by the scientific

         community to be harmful.

          1. The burning of coal and fossil fuels are the primary releasers of

              hazardous greenhouse gases.  

(Full sentence outlines are often accompanied with an APA reference list on a separate page. Quotes within the outline must also utilize APA in-text citations.)  

Decimal Outline Format

1.0 Choose Desired College

     1.1 Visit and evaluate college campuses

     1.2 Visit and evaluate college websites

          1.2.1 Look for interesting classes

          1.2.2 Note important statistics

Tips on Creating an Outline

A well-written outline is a valuable tool in presenting a well-written research paper. The outline is the first step in creating the structure for what will be said in the paper as well as how it will be said.

Here are a few tips:

  • Use parallelism - Parallelism refers to the structure between headings and sub-headings. The structure needs to remain consistent throughout all the headings and sub-headings. For example, this means if you start each heading with a verb, then all your headings and subheadings should start with a verb.
Example: "Choose Desired Colleges" and "Prepare Application" "Choose" and "Prepare" are both verbs. However, it is preferable in an outline to use the present tense of the verb.
Example: "Visit and evaluate college campuses" and "Visit and evaluate college websites"
Example: "1. Note important statistics" and "2. Look for interesting classes"
  • Use coordination - Coordination is important between headings. In other words, all the headings should have the same amount of significance or importance. The rule applies to sub-headings as well, but their information will be less significant than the headings.
I. Choose Desired Colleges
   A. Visit and evaluate college campuses
   B. Visit and evaluate college websites
      1. look for interesting classes
      2. note important statistics
(College campuses and college websites are equally important.)  
  • Use subordination - Subordination is the relationship between the headings and the sub-headings.  Information in headings is general in nature, and the information contained in the sub-headings should be more specific, and so on to the other levels.
A. Describe an influential person in your life
     1. Favorite high school teacher
     2. Grandparent
(The category of influential people in your life is general, and a favorite teacher and grandparent are specific.)  
  • Use division - Division should be accomplished in this manner. Each heading needs to have at least two parts. It can have more, but if you have too many, then you may need to put in another heading or sub-heading or combine some of the divisions. 
A. Compile resume
     1. List relevant coursework
     2. List work experience
     3. List volunteer experience
(The heading "Compile resume" is divided into 3 parts.)

An outline is usually required when writing a paper for a college course. Be sure and ask your professor for the required format for your particular course.

Do you have a good example to share? Add your example here.

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APA Outline Format Examples

By YourDictionary

The guidelines from the American Psychological Association or APA are used for writing papers and doing assignments in the social sciences. They have guidelines for research papers, from the initial title page to the final works cited page. The APA even provides format examples for outlines to be prepared before the paper is written.

Term Paper: Final Term Paper Guidelines

It's time to put together your final term paper! You should first write a rough draft, in the format below. Then polish your thoughts, ideas, and their expression until you are satisfied you have done the best job you can. Write your final draft, and turn it in.

Your paper should follow the outline presented here. You can deviate from it, but if you do so substantially, you should have an extremely good reason.

Title Page

Create a separate page with the title of your paper, your name, email address, the course (ECS 15), the quarter and year (Spring Quarter 2007), the instructor's name (Matt Bishop), and the date.

1. Introduction

1.1. Topic

This subsection states your topic, or describes your narrowed subject area.

1.2. Rationale

Please explain why you wanted to do this research in this subsection.

1.3. Additional information

Here, you should add any other related introductory material. You can add additional subsections if you need to.

2. Statement of Purpose

In this section, please present the questions your paper will answer, and an overview of the organization of the paper.

3. Basic Description

This section may have a number of subsections. Describe your topic in some detail. Your report should include references to facts you learned in your research. Organize your points in clear, distinct sections that describe things like the technology, hardware requirements, user interfaces, or different software packages that you investigated.

You must also address the most important research questions, especially how computers are being used to solve problems in a particular field and why. For example, you could investigate how computers have changed the work done in this field; did they enable work to be done more quickly, more thoroughly, or more accurately than before, or did they even change the nature and type of work being done?

You can divide this section into subsections corresponding to logical categories, each subsection addressing a differen aspect of computer use in your field. Or, each subsectin could address a small unit of a complex process. What is important is that the section as a whole be logically organized and easy to follow.

Important. You must cite a source for every major fact or statement in this section. This section should not contain your personal opinions about these facts or statements; those will come later in the paper.

4. Discussion

In this section, apply the insights you learned from the class to the topic of this paper. Consider the application carefully. Give your opinions, and support them with facts. Remember, your opinion may not be "right" or "wrong", but it certainly will be "justified" or "unjustified"!

Please use your best judgement about what to include; you won't be able to include everything, so please do not try.

4.1. Factual review

This section should add your opinions about the material in section 3. Describe the strengths and weaknesses of the approaches of the different applications or packages. Basedon your research and earlier knowledge of the area, please point out areas that are not yet using computers or applications, but that would benefit from doing so.

4.2. Personal Assessment

In this section, use the points mentioned in section 4.1 to suggest directions that the use of computers in that area should take. Some questions that might help you do this are:

  • Are computers being used effectively in this field?
  • Could computers and applications be used better, and if so, how?
  • Are the applications too complicated for novices? Are the applications sophsticated enough for experts? What do these applications lack? In what ways are the applications well designed?
  • Could the systems and applications be misused? What would the effects of such misuse be? In particular, does this application pose problems with respect to the privacy of personal information? How?

5. Conclusions

On the basis of your research, is this application of computer technology appropriate and useful? Is it mature? Could the application be imporved or increased, or made more effective? This brief section should summarize what you learned, and in particular explain what you want the reader to learn from your paper.

6. References

This section begins on a new page and contains all your references: journal articles, books, Internet resources, interviews, videos, films, and so forth. The reader should be able to locate all quotations and other references, right down to the correct page. Please format your references as described in the handout Citing and Formatting References.

7. Writing the Term Paper

This section is not normally a part of a term paper. It seems appropriate for this one, though.

This section also begins on a new page after section 6 and tells the reader what hardware and software was used to create and print the term paper, and the number of words in the final version. If you used the computers in a campus lab, just say which lab; you don't have to describe the computer. If you used some other computer (such as one at your home), please tell us the name of the company that made the PC (for example, Dell or Gateway) and the operating system and version that the software ran under (Windows XP, Linux, MacOS 10.4, and so forth).

Finally, please mention any particular problems you had, or any amusing stories, related to writing this paper!


Keep track of your references as you use them. Add the full citation to a reference list. You can use a computer file, 3×5 index cards, or some other medium to record the citation. If you do not do this, you will find reconstructing the list of references, and what you used each for, very difficult!

As always, if you have questions, please see the instructor or a TA, or send us email. We're here to help you.

What to Turn In

Please turn in a printed copy of your paper. Also, submit your Word file, named "ECS 15 Term Paper.doc", in any of Word 97, Word 2000, or Word 2003 format, using MyUCDavis. Warning: do not submit a file in Word 2007 format!


The distribution of points for your term paper is as follows:

DescriptionPossible Score
Proper citations for controversial or detailed facts6
At least 5 references in bibliography5
Three references of at least 7 pages each9
Grammar: −1 point for each error; note: can be negative!!!25
Spelling: −1 for each newly misspelled word10
Title page6
Basic description5
Notes on production5
Electronic submission as described above10

When you submit your paper, we will look both at content and how you present it. In particular, we will deduct one point for every grammar error that your paper contains. You can use the Word 2003 grammar checker with all style and grammar options checked (except "use of first person", because you can use "I" or "we" in the paper) to find possible grammar errors; but it does make mistakes, flagging perfectly good sentences as ungrammatical (especially passive sentences), and missing gramattically incorrect sentences. So please check carefully.

Important note: Remember, if you tell the grammar checker to ignore an error, then it will never highlight that error again.

Here is a PDF version of this document.

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