How to Write an Outline in APA Format

How to Write an Outline in APA Format

How to Write an Outline in APA Format

Introduction to Writing an Outline in APA Format

Understanding how to structure and write an outline in APA format is a skill that will prove invaluable throughout your academic and professional career. APA, or the American Psychological Association, style is commonly used in the social sciences, including psychology, sociology, and political science, among others.

This style of formatting is recognized for its clear structure and precise rules, which help to present information in an organized and easy-to-read manner. One such requirement is the creation of a detailed outline for any major paper or dissertation. An outline is akin to a roadmap of your paper; it guides you through the intricate process of writing, ensuring your argument remains clear and your points logically structured.

A well-structured outline can make the actual writing process much quicker and easier, as it allows you to divide your overall argument into smaller, manageable sections. This means you can focus on one point at a time, making sure each is well-supported and articulated before moving on to the next.

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the step-by-step process of how to write an APA format essay outline.

How to Write an Outline in APA Format

Writing an outline in APA format is not just about adhering to the rules. It’s about understanding the structure, the hierarchy, and the purpose behind those rules. Here, we’ll take you through the process step by step.

Choose the Right Thesis for Your Essay

The foundation of your essay is your thesis. This is a clear, concise statement of the argument you’re going to explore in your essay. The thesis should be debatable, meaning there should be enough evidence to support it, but also some counterarguments. It should be specific and focused, and it should guide the rest of your essay.

Reflect on Your Thesis

Once you’ve chosen a thesis, take some time to reflect on it. Does it capture the essence of what you want to argue? Is it narrow enough to be covered in the scope of your essay? Is it broad enough that there will be sufficient evidence to support it? Reflecting on these questions can help you refine your thesis if needed.

Start Researching Your Thesis

Now comes the fun part: research! Look for credible sources that support your thesis, as well as those that offer counterarguments. This can include academic articles, books, trustworthy websites, and more. As you research, take notes on the points that support your thesis and those that contradict it. These will become the main points and sub-points in your outline.

As you research, look for facts, statistics, examples, and quotes that best support your thesis. These will serve as the supporting evidence in your essay. Remember, the stronger your evidence, the stronger your essay will be.

With your research in hand, you can start to create your outline. Draft your main points and sub-points based on the evidence you’ve gathered. Under each point, list the specific evidence you’ll use to support it.

Start to Write Your Essay

Once you have your outline in hand, you can start to write your essay. The outline will serve as a guide, helping you stay on track and ensuring your argument flows logically from one point to the next.

Form a Strong Introduction Paragraph

The introduction is the first thing your reader will see, so it’s important to make it strong and engaging. Start with a hook – a compelling fact, a thought-provoking question, a powerful quote – that draws the reader in. Then, provide some background information on your essay topic, leading up to your thesis statement. Your thesis statement, which you’ve already developed, should clearly and concisely state the main argument of your essay.

Start Writing the Outline of Your Essay

With your introduction complete, you can start writing the body of your essay, using your outline as a guide. Each main point in your outline should become a paragraph in your essay. Begin each paragraph with a topic sentence that states the main point, then provide the supporting evidence you listed in your outline. Make sure each paragraph flows logically from one to the next.

Organize the Paragraphs in the Outline

As you write, keep your outline handy. It can help you ensure your paragraphs are well-organized and that your argument flows logically. If you find yourself straying from your outline as you write, that’s okay! The outline is a guide, not a rule. Feel free to adjust it as needed.

Use a Counter Argument

In your essay, it’s important to acknowledge counterarguments to your thesis. This shows that you’ve considered all sides of the issue and strengthens your own argument. You can introduce a counterargument, then provide evidence to refute it.

Use a Personal Story to Prove Your Thesis

If applicable, using a personal story or anecdote can be a powerful way to support your thesis. Just make sure it’s relevant and helps to illustrate your main point.

Revise Your Outline

Once you’ve written your essay, go back to your outline. Does your essay follow the outline? If not, do you need to revise the outline, or your essay? Revision is a normal part of the writing process, so don’t be afraid to make changes.

Finish Your Essay with a Conclusion Paragraph

The conclusion is just as important as the introduction. It’s your last chance to leave an impression on your reader, so it’s important to make it strong and memorable.

Begin your conclusion by restating your thesis. This doesn’t mean you should just copy and paste it from your introduction, though. Try to rephrase it in a way that reflects the journey your argument has taken over the course of your essay.

After restating your thesis, summarize the main points of your essay. This serves to remind your reader of your argument’s journey and solidifies your points in their mind. Then, end with a final thought, question, or call to action that leaves your reader thinking about your essay after they’ve finished reading.

As you summarize your main points, avoid restating your examples word for word. Instead, focus on the impact they had on your argument. What was the significance of these examples? How did they support your thesis? Answering these questions in your conclusion can make it more impactful.

Your conclusion should be clear and concise. Use simple but strong full sentences, and avoid introducing any new information. The conclusion is about wrapping up with an APA format abstract, not introducing new ideas.

Proofread Your Essay

Once your essay is written, the work isn’t quite done yet. It’s crucial to proofread your work for any mistakes or inconsistencies that might have slipped through.

First, read through your essay to ensure that your ideas are clear and coherent. Does your argument make sense? Do your points flow logically from one to the next? Are there any areas where your argument could be strengthened?

Next, check your essay against APA formatting guidelines. Have you used the correct heading levels? Is your reference list formatted correctly? Are in-text citations included where needed?

Use a spell-check tool to catch any spelling errors, but don’t rely on it completely. Make sure to read through your essay yourself as well, as spell-check tools can often miss homophone errors (like “their” vs “they’re”) and other subtle mistakes.

If possible, have someone else read your essay. They can provide valuable feedback and may catch mistakes or inconsistencies that you overlooked.

How to Write an Outline in APA Format

APA Outline format Example

Here’s a simple example of an APA outline:


  • Hook: You might start with an engaging anecdote about a patient-nurse interaction that highlights the importance of communication in nursing.
  • Thesis Statement: You could then introduce your thesis statement, which might be something like, “Effective communication is critical in nursing because it improves patient satisfaction, ensures better patient outcomes, and fosters teamwork among healthcare providers.”

Main Topic 1: Importance of Communication in Patient Satisfaction

Subtopic 1: Role of Communication in Patient-Nurse Relationship

  • Detail 1: You could discuss how open and respectful communication can build trust between the patient and nurse.
  • Detail 2: You might also want to address how empathetic communication can help meet a patient’s emotional needs.

Subtopic 2: Impact of Communication on Patient Satisfaction

  • Detail 1: One point to consider is how improved understanding of medical procedures and care plans can enhance patient satisfaction.
  • Detail 2: You could also explain how effective communication can increase patient comfort and reduce anxiety.

Main Topic 2: Importance of Communication in Patient Outcomes and Teamwork

Subtopic 1: Role of Communication in Patient Outcomes

  • Detail 1: You might discuss how clear communication can reduce medical errors.
  • Detail 2: You could also explore how effective patient education can enhance adherence to treatment plans.

Subtopic 2: Role of Communication in Teamwork Among Healthcare Providers

  • Detail 1: Discuss how efficient information exchange can improve the coordination of care.
  • Detail 2: You might also want to address how collaborative communication can enhance problem-solving and decision-making among healthcare providers.


  • Restatement of Thesis: In your conclusion, reinforce your thesis statement and the idea that effective communication is essential in nursing for patient satisfaction, better patient outcomes, and effective teamwork.
  • Closing Thoughts: You could end by emphasizing the need for continuous training and education in communication skills for nurses.

Final Thoughts: How to Write an Outline in APA Format

Crafting an outline in APA format may seem daunting initially, especially if you’re not familiar with this style of formatting. However, the process becomes much more manageable with some understanding and practice. The fundamental step is to comprehend the required structure, which is typically divided into three key sections: an introduction, the main body, and a conclusion.

Remember, the purpose of an outline is to organize your thoughts and streamline your writing process. It’s a roadmap that guides your writing, helping you maintain focus and coherence throughout your paper. Thus, clarity in your main points and supporting evidence is paramount.

Nevertheless, we understand that even with a good grasp of the APA format, nursing assignments can be complex and time-consuming. You might need a bit of help to ensure your work is top-notch and meets all the necessary academic standards. Whether you need guidance in structuring your assignment, or comprehending the APA format, our team of experienced nursing essay writers is dedicated to helping you excel in your studies.

Don’t let the fear of APA formatting or the complexity of your assignment hold you back.At the end of the day, your success is our ultimate goal!

FAQs on How to Write an Outline in APA Format

Do I need to include an outline in my APA paper?

An outline isn’t usually part of the final APA paper. It’s more of a planning tool to help you organize your thoughts and structure your paper effectively.

How detailed should my APA outline be?

The level of detail in your APA outline depends on your personal preference and the requirements of your assignment. Some people prefer a more detailed outline to guide their writing, while others may prefer a more general overview.

Can I use bullet points in an APA outline?

In an APA outline, you should use a hierarchical structure of Roman numerals, capitalized letters, Arabic numerals, and lowercase letters, rather than bullet points.

What is an outline in APA format?

An outline in APA format is a structured plan for your paper in which you organize your thoughts and ideas before you start writing. It follows the guidelines of the American Psychological Association (APA) and helps to ensure logical flow, focus, and improved understanding of your paper​.

What is the structure of an APA format outline?

The outline should consist of three key sections: an introduction, the main body, and a conclusion. The introduction should highlight key background points and present your thesis. The body should detail the main ideas that support your thesis. The conclusion should briefly reiterate your main points and clarify how these ideas support your final position​​.

How should headings and subheadings be formatted in an APA format outline?

APA outlines typically follow this format: main headings are denoted by Roman numerals (I, II, III, IV), subheadings are denoted by capital letters (A, B, C, D), and further subheadings within the initial capitalized letter subheading starts with Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3), then lower case letters (a, b, c), then Arabic numerals inside parentheses [(1), (2), (3)]​.

What should I consider when creating an outline in APA format?

You should always review your instructor’s requirements, as they may have specific requirements for what to include in your outline, as well as how it needs to be structured and formatted. Some instructors may require outlines to use decimal format, which uses Arabic decimals instead of Roman numerals or letters (e.g., main headings would be 1.0, 1.2, 1.3, while subheadings would be 1.2.1, 1.2.2, 1.2.3, etc.)​​. Moreover, it’s important to be consistent in whichever format you choose to organize your outline​​.

Are there any specific formatting guidelines for APA outlines?

While the APA’s 7th Edition Publication Manual does not provide formal guidelines for creating outlines, it is recommended that you use one of the six accepted fonts, double spacing, and 1-inch margins. If you’re handing in the outline for a class assignment, a cover or title page would also be included. A standard alpha-numeric outline is also recommended​​.

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