Creating an Outline

An outline is a vital step in the writing process. It gives you the conceptual design of your paper; it is a logical pattern that organizes your ideas. An outline allows you to group ideas together and arrange them from general to specific. It also helps you to visualize your essay and check that your ideas are relevant to your thesis, logically organized and sufficiently developed.

Below are the steps necessary for writing an outline, arranged in outline form.

  1. Thesis statement: make sure it is clear
    1. Notice the purpose of your essay
    2. Take into account the audience
  2. Order
    1. An outline uses major and minor headings, therefore you need to organize ideas in terms of
      1. General to specific
      2. Abstract to concrete
    2. This clear order will:
      1. Show the logical flow of your essay.
      2. Show the relationship between the various parts and arguments.
  3. Divide
    1. When you divide your ideas you are showing their rank in relation to the whole
      1. The fist Roman numeral refers to the first paragraph. Include the ideas you will discuss in the introduction and perhaps also your thesis.
      2. The second Roman Numeral refers to the topic sentence of the first body paragraph or your background paragraph, and so on.
        1. Within each Roman numeral you may have two or three ideas or arguments, these you should label as A, B, C etc.
        2. b. Within these subdivisions you may have relevant examples and supporting claims, which you can label as 1, 2, 3 etc.
    2. To divide you always need two parts, therefore you can't have an A without a B, or a 1 without a 2
  4. Form
    1. Subdivisions of each higher division should always have the same relationship to the whole
    2. The most important rule for outlining form is to be consistent.
      1. An outline can use topic structure
        1. Uses words or phrases for all entries, and uses no punctuation after entries
        2. Presents a brief overview of work and is easier and faster to write than a sentence outline
      2. An outline can also have a sentence structure
        1. A sentence outline uses complete sentences for all entries and uses correct punctuation
        2. It presents a more detailed overview of the work including possible topic sentences, and it is easier and faster to write than the final paper
    3. An outline can use Roman numerals/letters or decimal form.
      1. Roman Numeral
      2. Decimal 1.0 1.1 1.1.1

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