How to Write an Outline Step-by-Step: Rules, Components, Samples

How to Write an Outline Step-by-Step: Rules, Components, Samples

When you are a college student, you get tons of assignments that make you overwhelmed and hard to organize your thoughts. As a result, it takes a lot of time to transform the chaotic scope of sentences into a quality piece of writing. That is a perfect time for starting new habits and preparing a detailed outline before you start writing. A logicaL thoughtful outline will help you deal with the paper content twice or even three times quicker than usual. Try to catch the inspiration for writing a great outline and you will forget about sleepless nights spent on college assignments.    

What is an outline?

An outline is a concise plan that includes the main ideas and arguments of a paper to ensure you won't miss any essential information while writing. It provides you with the opportunity to make your article organized, structured, and well-thought-out. Also, such a tool helps keep your ideas in a logical order that closely connects all parts of an essay. An outline arranges the essence, subtopics, subdivisions, and additional details. You will make your plan more detailed by writing the main sentences for each element, otherwise, you can make it more general by adding just the keywords or some phrases.

Why should I create an outline

If you would like to get an impressive, persuasive, and well-written paper, you have to create an outline. Good planning for any piece of work is the first step to success. First of all, such a plan helps organize your thoughts and ideas as you find a lot of information during the research. Moreover, an outline encourages you to structurize and display your material in a logical form. Such a tool reveals the connection between all central points in your writing. Finally, a plan sets up an ordered overview of the paper and helps you don't miss any important details.

What to include in an outline 

Starting to work on your outline, you would surely ask yourself what are the core components of the proper outline and how to structure that scope of limitless ideas. Although there are numerous versions of what should be involved in a good outline, there are just five strong points that should be followed by every student who desires to improve their academic performance and succeed in outline writing. These are:

  • Thesis. You should clearly write your main claim in the outline to make the reader understand what problem is studied in your research
  • Parallelism. You should keep your headings and subheadings in parallel structure. This can refer to the tense of the points or part of sentences 
  • Coordination. The significance of major headings should be equal, as well as the significance of all subheadings 
  • Subordination. The information should be subordinated, in other words, narrowed from the major point to the minor one 
  • Division. Each heading should have several sub-headings

To organize the aforementioned components of an academic outline, you should organize all the written ideas related to your topic or research question into a logical order. This piece of writing should arrange the major topic, then sub-topic, and finally all supporting ideas and details. 

How to write an essay outline 

To start outlining effectively, you should get acquainted with the fundamentals of idea generation for your writing process. Although an essay outline is just a helpful guideline for you to structure your paper properly and keep it focused on-point, the plan that can be detoured, it is better to work on the quality of your outline. The more effective outline means the less time spent on the essay writing. To understand how to write a good outline step by step, there are some efficient points to follow, for example, doing reconnaissance reading, finding objectives, listing points, organizing, revising, and eliminating.   

  1. Doing reconnaissance reading. Find brief and useful information about your topic.
  2. Finding objectives. Define the purpose of your writing. 
  3. Listing points. Brainstorm ideas on the basis of the brief research  made. 
  4. Organizing. Prioritize your thoughtful points to find out which ones are the main points and which are sub-points. 
  5. Revising. Reread your outline to ensure the thoughtful manner of your thoughts flow.  
  6. Eliminating. Eliminate everything that doesn't help you answer the research question and support your thesis.

Sample Outline

If it is hard for you to get an idea of the outline structure and organization by reading long sentences with rules, here is a detailed outline example. It will show you how to organize ideas logically.  

“The Petrographic Characteristics of the Elk Basin Sandstones and Their Correlation with Joint Spacing”
I. Introduction
     -  Distribution of Joints about Folds
     -  Joint Spacing and Fracture Porosity in the Petroleum Industry C. Effect of Lithology on Joint Development
     - Objective
1. Perform Petrographic Analysis of Elk Basin Sandstones
2. Establish Correlation between Joint Spacing and Petrography
II. Background Literature
      -  Definition of Fracture Spacing Ration
      - Past Work on Fracture Spacing Ration in Sedimentary Rocks
1. Fracture Spacing Ration in Various Geological Localities
2. Fracture Spacing Ration as a Function of Rock Properties
     -  Possible objective of interpreting the record of the Eemain interglacial.
III. Geologic Setting of Big Horn Basin
    -  Stratigraphy of Big Horn Basin
    -  Structural Geology of Big Horn Basin 
    -  Description of Elk Basin
IV. Experimental Technique
    - Sampling of Fracture Spacing Ration
    -  Sampling and Preparation of Thin Sections C. Point Counting Technique
V. Results
    -  Formation versus Composition
    -  Formation versus Porosity
    -  Bed Thickness versus Porosity and Composition
VI. Discussion of Correlation between Point Counting Data and Fracture Spacing Ratio
    - Composition versus Fracture Spacing Ration
    -  Porosity versus Fracture Spacing Ration
VII. Conclusion 
VIII. References

How to write an outline for a research paper

To create an outline for a research paper, you should start with a research question/thesis statement, and place it at the beginning of the outline. Then, you have to list the main points that will strongly support your thesis statement and answer the research question. Such points should be labeled in Roman Numerals (I, II, III, IV, V). The following sub-points should represent the supporting ideas or necessary arguments for each of the major points and should be labeled in capital letters (A, B, C, D, E, F). Finally, there should be added some supporting idea to each sub-point, which may be labeled in numbers or small letters (1,2,3 or a,b,c).

How to write an outline for a speech 

To develop an efficient speech outline, you should start by stating a specific purpose of your speech. Next, your outline should involve a central idea and labeled sections (Introduction, Body, Conclusion).  Try to add some keywords in order to ease and improve your speech flow as seeing the particular word you will remember what you should talk about. Try to state your main points in full sentences. Finally, do not forget to label all your transitions and attach the bibliography. 

How to write an outline for a presentation

To organize thoughts, group ideas into core points, and present the material logically, each presentation should be also outlined beforehand. The whole writing process shouldn't take you a lot of time, as all you need to outline is a goal of the presentation, a skeleton for the presentation, a call-to-action, quotes or statistics, and a solution to the problem.

An essay aims to guide students in writing their academic papers according to the instructions. These guidelines will make you surprised how easy and quickly you will deal with your article following the prepared outline. Your essay structure will be strongly organized and focused on the research question or the problem of the study.  

To write academic assignments with more clarity and save time for rest, try to start outlining for the win. If you need any help with organizing your thought in the proper order or academic assistance throughout the writing process, our experienced academic writers are always happy to help you!