How Can I Outline a Format for a Research Paper in APA Style?

APA style refers to the American Psychological Association’s strict writing and formatting style.  It is one of the most widely required formats, especially in science and similar fields.  Research papers are generally long and must be organized. Therefore, starting with an outline as a means to organize your paper will benefit you.    Use this as guide that answers, how can I outline a format for a research paper in APA style?

Basic Accepted Outline Structure

  • You may think you know exactly how to structure an outline correctly, however, you may also notice that you have forgotten a key point or two.  So, here is a refresher.
  • Outlines have major sections indicated by Roman Numerals.  The major sections are broken up with capitalized letters.  The capitalized letters are broken up into regular numbers, 1.  2.  3., for example.  If further breakdown is needed, lower-case letters can be used under each normal number, and these can even be broken down into italicized letters and then italicized numerals.  There is a lot of room to get as detailed as needed within the outline.
  • Yes, you likely know all that.  What you may not remember is that the heading and words indicated with a Roman numeral are all capitalized.  The words next to the capital letters have the first letter of each work capitalized.  From there on out the wording is in all lower case letters.
  • Paying attention to how each part is capitalized or not, keeps the paper visually organized, thus, making your job a little easier.

APA Style Sections of a Research Paper

  • APA research papers have specific structured sections.  They are the title page, abstract, body, text citation and referencing, appendices, footnotes and tables and figures. 
  • Each main structure has key points to follow.  For example, the abstract gives an overall view of the paper and states the thesis.  As with the abstract, so do all other sections have multiple parts.

Bring the Outline and the Research Paper Sections Together

  • Bringing the outline and the paper sections together is rather simple now that you are refreshed on outlines and research papers.
  • Here is a general example of what an outline looks like for an APA style research paper. You can add appropriately and fill in the rest.

    •  Research Paper Title
    • Author Name
    • Institution


    • Overall Introduction
    • Thesis


    • Paragraph 1
    • key point 1
    • your written work

      cited source to support your work

    • key point 2
    • Paragraph 2
    • Paragraph 3


    If you force yourself to take the time to do this, you will be amazed at how much time you save and how much easier it will be to write the paper.