Making an Outline

Posted by msandhu on October 10, 2011 under Writing Process | 2 Comments to Read

Starting a paper, organizing your thoughts and structuring your essay can be
very stressing. You have all the important information and research you need,
but you just cannot decide what information will go where and the order of your
paper. This is when making an outline can be very helpful and time saving.
Doing an outline is an easy task that can assist you with structuring your paper
and organizing your thoughts. It can also help you figure out the order of your
essay and choose the main topics you would have to write. One can think of the
outline as a “map” that will lead you to your destination, which will be your
finished paper. Outline can also help you stay on track and only write about
what will relate to your thesis or your topic sentence. Making an outline can
also help you see that you are not jumping from one point to another in your
paper.

Creating an outline can assist you in different types of writing. For example,
if you are doing a research paper, making an outline can help you organize
large amount of information or if you are doing creative writing, an outline
may help you organize the plot and keep track of the character traits in your
writing. Organizing your ideas in an outline for a presentation can help you
speak more effectively and help you get your ideas across to the audience more
easily.

To start your outline, the first thing you need is to have a complete thesis
statement. When writing your thesis statement you should focus on who is the
audience and what is the purpose of your paper? There are many different forms
of outlines that a student can create. Many instructors want you to follow a
specific form of an outline. However, if outline is not required by your
instructor, but you would like to construct it to stay organized and detailed
then you have different options to choose from. The two most common forms of
outlines are: the topic outline and the sentence outline.

The topic outline only uses short phrases throughout the outline. It only uses
one or two words. The other type of outline is sentence outline, in which you
use complete sentences throughout the outline. You can start with an informal
outline which will include the general key points that you will be covering in
your paper. One can think of informal outline as a rough draft. A formal outline
will have your main ideas and the supporting points. Formal outline is also the
one that you will turn in to your instructor if it is required.

Example of a topic outline:

Thesis: By lowering the barriers of physical appearance, the unique anonymity
of Internet communication could build diversity into community.

  1. No fear of being prejudged
    1. Unknown physical attributes
      1. Gender
      2. Age
      3. Race
      4. Style
    2. Freer communication
    3. No automatic rejection
  2. Inability to prejudge others
    1. No assumption based on appearance
      1. Body type
      2. Physical disability
      3. Race
    2. Discovery of shared interests and concerns
      1. Sports and other activities
      2. Family values
      3. Political views
    3. Reduction of physical bias

Example from *The Little Brown Compact Handbook, Sixth edition by Jane E. Aaron

The roman numerals (I, II) are used for the main topic sentence and Capital
letters are used for subtopics. The Arabic numerals (1, 2) are used for
supporting details or examples.

Example of sentence outline

Thesis: Though all fuel-efficient vehicles have different technological
strengths and weaknesses, hybrids currently represent the best option for
drivers today.

  1. Currently available fuel-efficient vehicles have different technological problems.
    1. Electric vehicles lack versatility
      1. Their batteries limit them to city use, preferably in flat regions.
      2. Their electric batteries are heavy, expensive, and slow
        to change.
    2. Diesel vehicles can be truck-like.
      1. Their emissions are laden with harmful particulates.
      2. Their fuel is smelly and toxic.
  2. Fuel-efficient vehicles have significant strengths.
    1. Electric vehicles are simple and civilized machines.
    1. They emit no measurable pollution where theare used.
    2. Their motors are almost silent and free of vibration.
  3. Diesels are robust vehicles suitable for all road conditions.
    1. Their engines are based on well-proven and robust
      technology.
    2. They use fuel efficiently.

Example from How To Write Anything by John J. Ruszkiewicz

It should not matter what form of outline you construct, as long as it is
helpful and guiding for you. The completed outline should have a thesis, topic
sentences, subtopics, and supporting details or examples.

  • Ghabby said,

    a minute ago, i was able to scan a website same topic as here “making an outline”… i just want to ask why is it Headings for parts of the paper of speech such as, Introduction and Conclusion, should not be used?… is it for optional… because i can see some of the outlines made by the other writers they do have introductions and conclusions??…. thanks

  • Rachel Fraser said,

    This was very helpful considering I had little knowledge about a formal outline. I now know how to properly structure and organize it. Thank you!

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