How to Make a Research Paper Outline Using MLA Style

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When writing a research paper, it is often helpful to write an outline before starting on the rough draft. Not only are outlines helpful, but they are often required as an assignment by professors and teachers. In order to be graded well on a research paper outline, it must be in the proper format. Fortunately, the MLA outline format is incredibly simple and easy to follow. Using this outline format will help the writer to think about the assignment and decide what he is going to write about and how to divide the topics within the research paper.

Divide the entire paper into a list of general ideas. Use roman numerals to list these ideas in the order in which they will appear in the paper. Each roman numeral should be followed by a period.

Divide each general idea into subpoints. List the subpoints directly underneath each general idea, using capital letters. Indent each subpoint. Each capital letter should be followed by a period.

Divide each subpoint into further subcategories. List these subcategories directly underneath the first subpoints, using lower case letters and indenting them further than the first subpoints. Each lower case letter should be followed by parentheses.

  • Each general idea must have at least two subpoints.
  • Each roman numeral line should be of equal importance in relation to each other. Each lettered line must also be of equal importance to the other lettered lines.
  • The further the line is indented, the more specific it should be.

Courtney Clark studied English, creative writing, film and history at Southern Virginia University from 2005 through 2008, earning a Bachelor of Arts. During her time at SVU, Clark participated in the English Honors Society and the university's film club.