A research paper outline includes an introduction, a brief literature review (the background), the major and minor points of the paper and a conclusion. In experimental research, outlines also include a reference to the methods used to obtain the data.
An outline aims to summarize the content of the paper and to highlight the main findings. The introduction situates the research paper within its research field and states the main thesis of the paper. The background section aims to survey the current state of knowledge on the topic of the paper.
The main section of the outline should highlight the major points of the paper. Each of these points constitutes a premise in the argument that supports the main thesis, so this section constitutes the backbone of the outline as well as of the research paper.
The conclusion restates the main thesis developed in the paper, now supported by the major points. The conclusion usually ties the thesis of the paper into the current debates on the topic, in order to show the relevance of the conducted research for the scientific community.
When outlining an experimental research paper, be sure to include a section, between the introduction and the major points of the paper, on the methods used to gather the data. These methods include scientific instruments, computer simulations or a description of the sample used in a statistical analysis, among others.