Skip Nav

C. Creating an Outline

The Importance of an Outline

❶It also helps to "road-map" your writing when you get to that step.

Don't want to cite by hand?

Essay Outline
Creating an Outline for an Essay
How to Make an Essay Outline: Content Plan

Although outlining a paper can help you to develop and organize your ideas, you may need to do some other prewriting exercises to get started. List all the ideas that come to mind good or bad and then look over the list you have made and group similar ideas together. Expand those lists by adding onto the list or by using another prewriting activity.

Write nonstop for about minutes. When you are done, review what you have written and highlight or underline the most useful information. Repeat the freewriting exercise using this information as a starting point. You can repeat this exercise multiple times to continue to refine and develop your ideas.

Write your subject down on the center of a piece of paper and circle it. Then draw three or more lines extending from the circle. At the end of each of the lines you have drawn, write down a new idea that corresponds to your main idea.

Then draw three or more lines from each of those new ideas, and write ideas that corresponds to those ideas. Continue developing your cluster until you feel that you have explored as many connections as you can.

Respond to each questions in as much detail as you can. This exercise will help develop your ideas and identify areas of your topic that you need to learn more about. Ask yourself what you want to accomplish with your paper. Are you writing this paper in order to persuade, entertain, enlighten, or something else? Just make sure that your purpose is in line with what the assignment asks you to do.

Look for keywords in the assignment guidelines to help you figure out what your purpose should be. Think about who will read your paper. Identify the needs and expectations of your audience by considering what they do and do not know about your topic.

Anticipate their reactions as well. How they might react to the information that you will be sharing with them? Will they be angry, sad, amused, or something else? Once you have developed your ideas and considered your purpose and audience, you should be ready to write a thesis statement.

A thesis should not be more than one sentence in length. Do not state facts or matters of taste. For example, something like "George Washington was the first president of the United States," would not be a good thesis because it states a fact. Likewise, "Die Hard is a great movie," would not work because it expresses a matter of taste. In other words, avoid simply saying that something is "good" or "effective" and say what specifically makes it "good" or "effective.

Choose a standard alphanumeric structure for an easy outline structure. An alphanumeric outline is the most common, easily recognized outline type, and each subdivision is identified by Roman numerals, capitalized letters, Arabic numerals, and lowercase letters, in that order. You will typically have three for an essay outline: Choose a decimal outline structure to show how your ideas are related.

A decimal outline is similar in structure to an alphanumeric outline, but it only uses a series of numbers to identify each subsection. Some people prefer this structure because it shows how each section contributes to the essay as a whole. Therefore, the first section would read "1. For instance, under the "1. Further subsections can be added by adding another decimal, followed by a number that corresponds to the new information. For instance, under the first "1. Determine whether to use full sentences or brief phrases in your outline.

For most outline essays, full sentences will prove more useful because they allow you to provide more thorough information. Use parallel structures for outline sections. For example, if one section of your outline begins with a verb that uses the present tense, then the next section should also begin with a verb that uses present tense.

Coordinate section titles and subordinate subsections. Each section title should feature information that is equally important to other section titles and subsections should contain information that is less important than your main section titles. Present your second point and supporting evidence. Present your first point and it's supporting evidence, which also refutes one of your opposition's claims. Present your second point and it's supporting evidence, which also refutes a second opposition claim.

Present your third point and it's supporting evidence, which also refutes a third opposition claim. Basic 5-Paragraph Argument Essay Outline: This outline also serves for other essays such as research papers, or the basic 5-paragraph essay. Highlight-and-print outline to fill in. Another Argument Essay Outline: This outline asks questions that help you critically think about your topic. This outline can help guide you through a series of questions. You can highlight-and-print this outline, but it's not a fill-in-the-blank outline; use it as a guide.

Many of my students like to use this outline for both research papers and argumentative papers. Another Argument Outline Template. Audience and how you plan to appeal to them: Explain the interest in this topic. Assemble your notes, research or supporting materials, if applicable. You might incorporate some of the following: Brainstorm to identify your argument or main ideas.

Jot down your ideas, important bits of research, and any questions you might want answered. For a creative project, you might write down scene ideas or plot points. Write down everything you might include in your outline.

You can always eliminate ideas later! Here are some ways to organize your thoughts: Create a mind map. Write your thoughts on index cards.

Develop a thesis or controlling idea for your outline. In most cases, this will be the thesis you use to complete the final product, such as an essay. For example, you may be writing a paper about policy change. Write an alphanumeric outline for the easy approach. Although you might not recognize the name, most outlines follow the alphanumeric format. Each level of your outline will be organized using a letter or number. Make a decimal outline to highlight the relationship between ideas.

A decimal outline looks very similar to an alphanumeric outline. However, a decimal outline only uses numbers, and each sublevel is set off with decimals. This allows you to illustrate that each sublevel is a part of a larger argument. Decide if you want to write full sentences or short phrases. Most outlines include short phrases, which are also called topic outlines.

However, using full sentences can help you better understand your ideas. You might use full sentences to make it easier to write a final paper, to make a good study guide, or to fulfill the requirements of an assignment.

Group your ideas together. Review your brainstorming, placing related ideas in the same group. You can always eliminate ideas you realize are unnecessary. These groups will become main points, so narrow your groups down until you have your desired number of main points. For an essay or speech, that often means 3, but a creative piece may have more. Sort your index cards, if you used them to brainstorm.

Put cards with related ideas together. For example, you can put them in stacks, or you can line your cards out in rows to make them easier to read. Put each group in order from broad ideas to specific details. Broad ideas are more likely to be your main points, while details are the bits of information you will use to support those ideas.

Depending on the purpose of your outline, you may have many subpoints and supporting details. However, aim to have at least subpoints and supporting details for each main idea.

Your subpoints might be that Victor Frankenstein is restored by nature and that his scientific efforts create a monster. As supporting details, you might include quotes from the book. If you're writing a story or presenting a historical argument, a chronological order makes sense. For an essay or speech, pick the subtopic with the most supporting materials, and lead with this argument.

From there, order your major subtopics so each one naturally flows into the next. Outline your introduction as the first main point for a speech or essay. You can use either phrases or full sentences, depending on which you chose to use. Some people prefer to write out their introduction, which is also okay. Here are the points you need in your introduction: The outline headings are your main points.

These ideas should be drawn directly from your thesis or controlling idea. Frankenstein champions emotion over reason Full sentence outline: In Frankenstein , Mary Shelley champions the use of emotion over reason. Write at least 2 subpoints for each main idea. These are the ideas that further explain your main point. In an essay, they might be your reasons for making your argument.

In a creative work, they might be parts of your plot point. For example, a novel may have many subpoints. Similarly, a study guide will likely have several subpoints, as well. Add at least 2 supporting details for each subpoint. They might include direct quotes, statistics, facts, or examples. For a creative work, you might include essential details you must include in that scene, such as an internal conflict in your main character.

Similar to subpoints, you may have more supporting details, depending on your purpose. A novel or study guide will likely have more supporting details. Include more layers of your outline, if necessary. Most basic outlines will include 3 layers, but you may need more. If this is the case, you can continue creating sublevels using the formatting structure you chose, either alphanumeric or decimal. For example, you might need more layers to provide more details.

In the Frankenstein example above, you might include a 4th layer to write out your commentary about the quotes you used to support your point. Your subpoints might include the following: Write a concluding statement. Your outline should relate back to your thesis or main idea, address the purpose you set out to achieve and reflect your audience. Revise your outline if ideas are missing or not fleshed out.


Main Topics

Privacy Policy

Using an essay outline helps you organize your thoughts so that you don't make that mistake. The more structured your outline is, the better organized and easier to write your essay will be. A well-structured essay outline helps you travel from point to point in your composition, creating a natural flow for the reader until you bring the "punch.

Privacy FAQs

Text only | Back. English Composition 1 Creating an Outline for an Essay. Most analytical, interpretive, or persuasive essays tend to follow the same basic pattern.

About Our Ads

Sample Essay Outlines Why Write an Outline? An outline will help you organize your main ideas and determine the order in which you are going to write about them. Writing an outline is a very effective way to think through how you will organize and present the information in your essay. An essay outline denotes how you’ll structure your paper. You can (and should!) make changes along the way. You can (and should!) make changes along the way. But you want to get everything written down so that you can refer to the outline while you’re writing your rough draft.

Cookie Info

Apr 16,  · To write an essay outline, start with a section about your introduction that includes an introductory sentence and your thesis statement. Then, make a section about the body of your essay that has subsections for each paragraph you'll be writing%(24). How to Create an Outline for an Essay. Essay writing is one of the modalities of sharing knowledge in our modern era. Through essays, we are conveying our subjective perspective in written form, wherein ideas are pure .