How to Make a Research Paper Outline at the Elementary Level

Grade school students can translate their online research to a writing activity.
... Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images

Students who are struggling to organize their ideas can benefit from writing an outline. It's not just for older students, however; elementary-aged children can also use this tool to prepare for their projects. Help them to set up an outline that gets them organized and prepares them for writing. According to experts at the University of Albany, an outline can break down the parts of a paper into a hierarchical style.

Develop a thesis statement. Instruct students to create a one-sentence statement that defines the topic of the research. Write this at the top of the paper, labeling it with a Roman numeral I.

Write a Roman numeral II and label it with the word "Body" to create the main text of the research report. Add a capital letter -- starting at A -- for each section of the research. Make sure the students understand that each letter signifies a separate aspect of their research subject.

Place a number -- starting at 1 -- under each letter, to create spaces for individual thoughts within each aspect of the research. Have the children add in additional points using i, ii, iii and so on.

Outline the conclusion under a Roman numeral III. Ask students to look back at the thesis statement and rewrite it using new words or a different phrasing. Summarize each aspect or point in the paper under the conclusion statement, using capital letters.

  • Have students conduct their research prior to doing the outline. It seems simple enough, but younger children may have a know-it-all attitude and think they can write a paper without researching it.
  • If the students are struggling to differentiate the sections of their outlines, try color-coding them. For example, the thesis is red, the body is blue and the conclusion is green.

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.