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APA Research Paper Outline: Examples and Template

Written by Sarina Jones
Posted: March 6, 2022
Last update date: March 22, 2024
10 min read

Formatting your paper in APA can be daunting if this is your first time. The American Psychological Association (APA) offers a guide or rules to follow when conducting projects in the social sciences or writing papers. The standard APA fromat a research paper outline includes a proper layout from the title page to the final reference pages. There are formatting samples to create outlines before writing a paper. Amongst other strategies, creating an outline is the easiest way to APA format outline template.

Why Is Research Paper Format Necessary?

Consistency in the sequence, structure, and format when writing a research paper encourages readers to concentrate on the substance of a paper rather than how it is presented. The requirements for paper format apply to student assignments and papers submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed publication. APA paper outline template style may be used to create a website, conference poster, or PowerPoint presentation. If you plan to use the style for other types of work like a website, conference poster, or even PowerPoint presentation, you must format your work accordingly to adjust to requirements. For example, you may need different line spacing and font sizes. Follow the formatting rules provided by your institution or publication to ensure its formatting standards are followed as closely as possible. However, to logically structure your document, you need a research paper outline in APA format. You may ask: why is it necessary to create an outline for an APA research paper?

Concept & Purposes of Research Paper Outline

A path, direction, or action plan! Writing short essays without a layout may seem easy, but not for 10,000 or more words. Yet, confusing a table of contents with an outline is a major issue. The table of contents is an orderly list of all the chapters’ front matter, primary, and back matter. It includes sections and, often, figures in your work, labeled by page number. On the other hand, a research APA-style paper outline is a proper structure to follow.

Purpose of research paper outline

An outline is a formalized essay in which you give your own argument to support your point of view. And when you write your apa outline template, you expand on what you already know about the topic. Academic writing papers examine an area of expertise to get the latest and most accurate information to work on that topic. It serves various purposes, including:

  • APA paper outline discusses the study’s core concepts.
  • The research paper outlines to define the link between your ideas and the thesis.
  • It provides you with manageable portions that you can handle.
  • The research paper’s APA outline enables the detection of structural faults or gaps.
  • As shown in the example, it must clearly comprehend the subject at hand.

APA outline example


This research paper outline example will guide you in formatting the layout for a clear direction to work on. It eliminates the inconsistency along with lacking proper substance in the paper.

Understanding the APA Outline Format

It would not be wrong to say there is no standard outline format. The official publishing handbook does not give precise guidelines for preparing an outline. But, it requires certain basic guidelines to follow regarding typeface, font size, structure, margins, etc.

APA paper outline example

Moreover, the final shape of your work relies on your instructor’s specifications and your particular preferences for APA citation format. Though, it would be better to follow some standards for formatting your outline, for instance:

  • Font

Times New Roman is a widely accessible standard typeface for an APA essay format in 12-point font. However, serif and sans serif fonts like Arial and Georgia are acceptable in font size 11pt.

  • Spacing

The text of your paper format should be double-spaced.

  • Numerals

The primary headlines use Roman and Arabic numerals to write an outline.

Headings & Subheadings

While writing an APA essay, there are particular standards for utilizing headings in your outline:
I – Main headings are numbered by Roman numerals like I, II, III, IV
A – Subheadings are numbered with Capital letters (A, B, C, D)
1 – The APA outline uses Arabic numerals (1-9 type numbers) within those subheadings.
a – Below Arabic number subheadings, lower-case letters are used (a, b, a).
[1] – Headings below those subheadings use Arabic numbers enclosed in parenthesis.

  • Margins

APA format offers a standard layout for each paper, such as

  1. 1-inch margins on the top, bottom, left, and right.
  2. The page number on the upper right corner.
  • Structure

The structure of writing an outline consists of three major sections:

  1. Introduction
  2. Main body
  3. Conclusion
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This section highlights crucial background information.


Explain the primary points that support your ideas.


  • Summarize your key arguments.
  • Explain how these concepts support your ultimate stance, as shown in APA outline example below.

An outline in APA has three common formats that vary in the numeric sequence of all. To make it easier for you, we have compiled all three templates. You can format your document using these examples for added coherence and structure.

The Basic APA Outline Format

The basic format usually has three main sections, including headings, subheadings, and further subheadings under them if necessary. They all have specific numeral representations. If you are unsure how to write a research paper outline, here is an example of the basic format.

APA Style Outline Template Breakdown

Numbering the APA style format follows five levels of headings that use different alphabets and numbers. For instance,
I – Headings use Roman numerals like I, II, and III.
A – CAPITAL ALPHABETS”, such as A, B, C, etc.
1 – Headings and subheadings use Arabic numbers (1, 2, 3).
a – If there are further headings (the fourth level), use lower-case alphabets.
[1] – Headings below that (the fifth level) use Arabic numerals enclosed in parentheses, such as [1], [2], [3].

Full Sentence Outline Format

As the name specifies, the full-sentence style outline format requires every line to be a proper sentence. Full-sentence APA style outline is best recommended for essays and speeches. It gives your writing process an idea or a logical path to follow.

APA Research Paper Outline Example

If you are looking for how to write a research paper outline APA in Full Sentence Format, here is an example:

A. For subheadings, you use capital alphabets A, B, C
B. Subheadings must complement, lead, or link to the paper’s main idea.
1. Arabic numerals are used for headings under subheadings like 1, 2, and 3.
2. The structure for basic APA outlines and full sentence outlines is the same.
3. However, decimal-style headings are in complete sentences.
a. Further headings use lower-case or small alphabets.
[1] The fifth level uses Arabic numerals in parenthesis.

Full Sentence APA format heading utilizes Roman numerals I, II, and III. Every heading must be a full sentence. Here is an APA style paper outline template for the full-sentence format that will clear all your confusion on how to write an outline in full-sentence format.

Know how to structure your paper
12-point Times New Roman
double spaced (275 words/page) / single-spaced (550 words/page)
0" between paragraphs
1" margin all around
0.5" first line of a paragraph
PapersOwl editors can also format your paper according to your specific requirements.

APA Paper Outline Format Example

I. Introduction

A. What is a full-sentence outline?
1. Every point in a full sentence outline is one line
a. It means that every line is one complete sentence.
b. One sentence per line.
2. Full sentence outline is best suitable for essay or speech
a. It looks like an essay or a report
b. It enables you to see how your essay would look like
B. Why use an outline?
1. Helps you to organize your ideas
2. Presents your material in a logical manner

II. Body

A. Statement of the first main point
1. Support for the second main point
a. Support material for the main point, i.e., statistics, facts
b. More support if there is any
2. More support
a. Use supporting material
b. Use supporting material
B. Statement of the second main point
1. Support for the second point
a. Add supporting material
(1) If there are further points, add them under headings
b. Statistics, citations, facts
2. More support

III. Conclusion

Decimal Outline Format

The decimal outline format for APA research papers differs from other formats. The decimal APA style is simple and uses paragraphs for structure. It contains three main paragraphs, introduction, main body, and conclusion.

First Paragraph: Hook and Thesis

  • The first paragraph is a sentence or two that introduces the central concept of your article.
  • Introduce your topic or subject of study where your research is applicable as a context for further research.
  • Explain why the mentioned issue is essential or relevant to the audience.
  • A thesis statement is a claim that you make throughout your whole essay.

Main Body

  • The topic phrase is the first point in any writing to support a thesis statement.
  • Give an explanation or provide evidence to support your point.
  • Provide verifiable facts, figures, and/or citations from credible sources in your writing. It helps in the substantiating assertion.
  • Include as many supporting statements and related evidence in your decimal outline.


Finally, when you write an outline, provide a concluding remark to support your claims.

Decimal APA outline format example

1.0 The main heading
1.1 Subheading under the main heading
1.2 Second digit is represented by subheadings under the main headings
1.2.1 Further division adds another digit in decimal format
1.2.2 You can number them as per the number of paragraphs or points, or lines
An easy way to write in decimal APA outline format is to remember the structure, i.e.;
1.1.1 = Heading.Paragraph.Sentence/point under paragraph.”

Decimal APA outline format layout

1.0 Main heading
1.1 First paragraph for first heading.
1.2 Second paragraph for first heading.
1.2.1 First point or sentence for the second paragraph.
2.0 Second heading
2.1 Second heading, first paragraph.
2.2 Second heading, second paragraph.
2.2.1 Second, heading, second paragraph, first sentence, or point.
3.0 Decimal working
3.1 You must remember that each digit represents a segment.
3.2 It is easier to remember the placement of numbers.
3.2.1 First digit represents the heading
3.2.2 Second digit represents the paragraph under the main heading
<3.2.3 The third digit represents any point or sentence under the paragraph.

Tips for Writing an Outline: Organize Your Ideas

You may feel it is easier to write without outlines, but once you start writing, organizing your ideas or thoughts becomes hard. Even if you have some fantastic ideas, producing an engaging story is practically hard. If you are not first creating an outline or conceptual guides while writing a research paper, you may lose track. A well-written outline is essential in completing your paper and maintaining quality. Establishing your point in paper writing is easy if you create an outline first. You can find an APA research paper outline template that best suits your requirement. Moreover, these tips can help you polish your writing. These tips and sample papers can help you write outstanding outlines without making any hassle.

A definite goal

For better expression, make a list of primary objectives on a title page in a single phrase or less. Your goal should be specific and measurable. If it is too broad or imprecise, you will not achieve anything. If you are working on a large paper format that covers a variety of themes or topics, you may have a more general purpose in mind. But, if you plan to write an essay, the aim should be as specific and clear as possible to be effective.


Breaking things up rather than allowing them to become verbose is known as the division rule. Make sure that each subsection in the document corresponds to its parent heading. If it doesn’t compare to the section, removing it or moving it to another location is better.


It is mainly related to the consistency and structure of the document. It keeps your paper’s layout tidy and also ensures relevancy. For instance, if you begin one heading with a verb, make sure all other headings and subheadings also start with a verb.


Having headings aligned is critical to creating a well-organized outline. This rule also applies to subheadings, which is a good thing. If one title is less important than another, consider changing your layout by incorporating it into a subsection instead.


Subordination deals with maintaining a connection between your paper’s headings and subheadings. It helps in the proper sequencing of headings and subheadings. Headings should be broad at the outset. At the same time, the subheadings become more particular as they go further into the document.

Avoid Redundancy

While writing a paper outline, look through it many times and cross out any items that aren’t necessary or have no significance. While outlining, make sure to be specific and concise. It will prevent you from adding information that does not supporting your final essay. Remove all the extra information and points while c that weighs you down while you write.

Wrap it up in a good way

Creating an outline does not only help in writing a coherent term paper, but it also helps in ending with precise understanding. Be considerate of your audience’s time and effort when you write an outline in APA, and ensure it serves its purpose.
If you still have any doubts about formatting your paper outline, you can use this APA-style research paper outline template to write your document. We have provided Outline Format Example for every style.


People find it hard to write an outline in APA, but if you are aware of the requirements and structure, it’s no breeze. Sometimes, your instructor may alter your paper format by introducing or removing existing sections. As a result, if you come across any templates for an outline in APA, pay close attention to them. If you are looking for a quick answer to how to outline an APA paper, here’s a standard logical sequence of typical parts to include when writing an outline in APA:

  • Introduction
  • Thesis statement
  • Materials
  • Techniques employed
  • Body of paper
  • Findings
  • Conclusions section
  • List of references

A well-written outline is an excellent tool for presenting an outstanding paper. Including the key components while writing an outline for a research paper is necessary.

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