FROM THE WRITING
@ THE A.R.C.
Making an Outline
Writing an outline in addition to the paper may seem like a lot of extra work, especially if your
teacher doesn't require one. If you take the time to think about what you want to say and to put your
ideas into an outline, writing the actual paper will be easier. An outline is a listing of brief ideas that
will be in the paper.
In this Module, you will:
Understand how an outline can be useful to the writing process.
Learn how to create an outline.
Develop an understanding of how to format an outline.
Why create an outline?
Aids in the process of writing
Helps you organize your ideas
Presents your material in a logical form
Shows the relationships among ideas in your writing
Constructs an ordered overview of your writing
Defines boundaries and groups
How are Outlines Useful?
They are useful because:
◦ they help the writer organize their thoughts before getting bogged down in word choice
and sentence structure;
◦ they show which ideas need illustration or elaboration; and
◦ they help the writer decide on an organizational technique for the report, whether it be
logical, chronological, or categorical in nature.
◦ they help you discover connections between pieces of information that you weren't aware
How do I create an outline?
Determine the purpose of your paper.
Determine the audience you are writing for.
Develop the thesis of your paper.
Brainstorm: List all the ideas that you want to include in your paper.
Organize: Group related ideas together.
Order: Arrange material in subsections from general to specific or from abstract to concrete.
Label: Create main and sub headings.
Four Main Components of Effective Outlines
Each heading and subheading should preserve parallel structure. If the first heading is a noun, the
second heading should be a noun. Example:
1. Choose Desired Colleges
2. Prepare Application
("Choose" and "Prepare" are both verbs.)
All the information contained in Heading 1 should have the same significance as the information
contained in Heading 2. The same goes for the subheadings (which should be less significant than
the headings). Example:
1. Visit and evaluate college campuses
2. Visit and evaluate college websites
1. Note important statistics
2. Look for interesting classes
(Campus and websites visits are equally significant, as are statistics and classes found on college
The information in the headings should be more general, while the information in the subheadings
should be more specific. Example:
1. Describe an influential person in your life
1. Favorite high school teacher
(A favorite teacher and grandparent are specific examples of influential people.)
An alphanumeric outline uses Roman numerals, capitalized letters, Arabic numerals, and lowercase
letters, in that order. Each numeral or letter is followed by a period, and each item is capitalized:
Sample alphanumeric outline
Thesis statement: E-mail and internet monitoring; is it really an invasion of the
employees' rights in the workplace?
I. Why do over 80% of today's companies monitor their employees?
A. To prevent fraudulent activities, theft, and other workplace related violations.
B. To more efficiently monitor employee productivity.
C. To prevent any legal liabilities due to harassing or offensive communications.
II. What are the employees privacy right’s when it comes to EM/S (Electronic
Monitoring and Surveillance) in the workplace?
A. American employees have basically no legal protection from mean and snooping
1. There are no federal or State laws protecting employees
2. Employees may assert privacy protection for their own personal effects.
*Note that each category above has at least two subcategories.
Basic Outline Form
I. MAIN IDEA
A. Subsidiary idea or supporting idea to I
B. Subsidiary idea or supporting idea to I
1. Subsidiary idea to B
2. Subsidiary idea to B
a) Subsidiary idea to 2
b) Subsidiary idea to 2
II. MAIN IDEA
A. Subsidiary or supporting idea to II
B. Subsidiary idea to II
C. Subsidiary idea to II
III. MAIN IDEA
The Working Outline
A Working Outline might be only an informal list of topics and subtopics which
you are thinking of covering in your paper.
The working outline can be revised as you discover new material and get new
ideas that ought to go into your paper.
Most word processing programs have outlining features with automatic formatting
that make it easy to create and revise outlines.
It is a good idea to keep copies of old outlines in a computer folder in case new
versions of the outline lead you in false directions that you will later have to
Topic Outlines vs. Sentence
A final outline can be written as a topic outline, in which you use only short phrases to suggest
ideas, or as a sentence outline, in which you use full sentences (even very brief paragraphs) to
show the development of ideas more fully.
The Final Outline
A Final Outline should enhance the organization and coherence of your research paper.
Material that is not relevant to the purpose of your paper as revealed in your outline
should be excised from the paper; if portions of your outline seem weak in comparison
to others, more research may be required to create a sense of balance in your argument
Try to bring related material together under general headings and arrange sections so they
relate logically to each other.
An effective introduction will map out the journey your reader is about to take, and a
satisfactory conclusion will wrap up the sequence of ideas in a nice package.