After you have chosen a topic , carefully review your instructions to determine the research paper outline format that the assignment calls for. For example, were you instructed to write an APA-style research paper, or does your professor want you to use MLA style? Are you supposed to create a complete-sentence outline, or are bullet points with short topic statements acceptable? Are you required to turn in a completed copy of your outline to your professor, or is the outline for your own personal reference? Take the time to fully understand the guidelines before you begin your outline.