Half of the battle of writing a good research paper is figuring out where to put your information. This is why it is vital to have an excellent outline before you start to write your first draft. Many instructors require the outline be submitted for approval before a first draft anyway, making the outline that much more valuable.

So you have found several sites on the internet that will allow you to create your outline with them and you want to know if they help. Let’s take a look at some of the requirements of an outline and whether or not these sites are going to help, or just take up time.

Standard Outline

Most of the online outline services provide the standard outline format. They provide input boxes to enter in your relevant information. The good ones provide you with the ability to enter your class information and create a cover page for your outline. Some of the online outlining services only provide very basic guidelines for how to outline the paper.

If you really have no way yeah how to format and outline, the services can be very helpful. They allow you to put all of your thoughts in the appropriate boxes and then they format them for you. If you have experience writing outlines, then these tools may take up more time than they’re worth.

Time Consuming

I found that when using the tools having to navigate through all of the different input boxes was time-consuming. The tool that I used online did not convert the outline into a document format which was required for online submission for most classes. So, not only did I have to create a new word document, but I also had to adjust the formatting to match the word document format.

To me, it didn’t seem like all of the adjustments I had to make after the outline was created for worth the effort of using the online service. This is especially true since most word processors like Microsoft Word provide you with outline templates. These templates already are formatted and in the right file types required for most classes.


If you’re going to use an online outlining service, make sure that they outline in a format that is acceptable to your school. If you are just submitting a print copy to your instructor, there shouldn’t be much of a problem with the format. When using an online service. If it is a digital submission, there may be some hiccups when it comes to formatting and proper document type.


If I had never written an outline before, this tool would have been fantastic. It let me write my thesis statement, gave me guidance on what information would follow, and even included a recommendation on how many supporting points each idea should have. The nice thing about these prompts provided by outlining services is that they keep your thoughts flowing. If you find that you often get stuck when writing an outline, use an outlining service, and you may find that your writing comes at a quicker pace than usual.

Should You Use It?

Using an outline services really a 50-50 split. If you have little experience writing outlines, then you’re going to benefit from using one of these tools. However, if you have written plenty of outlines in your academic career, you may find these tools take up more time than they are worth.