Within the last fifty years, I have found it the most profitable plan to meditate with my pen in my hand, writing down the outlines,as the Word is opened to me.
----George Müller

When evaluating an essay,consistency and order are essential.The best way to show the order of your ideas is no more than with an outline.The purpose of outline is to organize your thoughts and organize collected sources you are going to use to prove your thesis.Once you arrange those information logically,starting to write a paper will be easy for you and meanwhile your readers will be able to understand your point.


2.Types of Outlines
  1. Topic Outline and Example
  2. Sentence Outline and Example
3.Forms of outline
  • Model
4.Suggested Process in Making An Outline
5.Tips & Warnings
6.More Example
8.External Links


"An outline is a general plan of the material that is to be presented in a speech or a paper. The outline shows the order of the various topics, the relative importance of each, and the relationship between the various parts."(lavc.edu)
With an outline,you can clearly see the thesis that you are going to state in the essay.The outline distinctly shows the order you arrange in the writing paper and allow you to consider in what order the thesis can be performed best.It is useful to check the connection between the examples or the ideas.After finishing the essay,it gives you a chance to see whether you need to revise or edit your writing.
For readers,especially teachers,the outline allows them to grasp your thesis at a glance.Therefore,on the one hand,the readers can truly understand you points,on the other hand,they can also give you some proposition according to your outline.

Types of Outlines

There are several types of outlines.Here are two main types[1]:the topic outline and the sentence outline.

1.Topic Outline
A topic outline only contains your major points,that is,the key words in every paragraph of your essay.The advantage of the type of outline is brief and to the point.One can promptly and clearly grasp the thoughts.
Thesis:Travel broadens the mind
I. Opening remarkII.Reasons
  • A. My expectations
  • B. Knowledge widening
  • C. My goal through traveling
III. Conclusion

2.Sentence Outline
In the sentence outline,the ideas usually are expressed in complete sentences and shows more details of thesis.Just like a journey map,this type of outline leads you towards an effective destination.
Thesis: Travel broadens the mindI. IntroductionTravel has become part of our life. And more and more of us have come to know the significance of travel through our own experience.II.Reasons
  • A. Main Idea: Travel meets what I expect.

  1. This is the best way of pastime. I can enjoy eating various food and seeing beautiful sceneries.
  2. Through the travel, I will know much how to get along with strangers and maybe make some friends at the same time.
  3. I will walk a lot in my traveling time. Walking is a good way to exercise.

  • B.Main Idea: Travel widen my knowledge

  1. When I prepare for a travel, I need to research the information about the place. It will widen my knowledge of geography.
  2. Compared with my hometown, the traveling place must be much different. I will learn much about the local different lifestyle, customs and cultures.
  3. Language is important. Travel can help me exercise that.

  • C.Main Idea: Happiness is the goal

  1. I can know and understand what happiness is that I want.
  2. Where I can find my own happiness?
  3. How to chase or attain happiness that belongs to me.
III. Conclusion
In a word, we can benefit from travel. It is worth spending the time.

Format of An Outline

An outline can be written through following a specific form.Here is one format cited from the book Schaum's Quick Guide to Writing Great Research Papers[2]

Thesis statement: Write your thesis statement here.
I.Major topics or paragraphs are indicated by Roman numerals.These are made by using the capitals l,V, or X on your keyboard.
A. Subheads are indicated by capital letters.
  1. Details are indicated by numbers, followed by a period.
    • a. More specific details are indicated with lower-case letters.
    • b. These are written a, b, c, and so forth
  2. Begin each entry with a capital letter.
B. You can have as many entries as you like, but there must be at least two in each category.
  1. You cannot have a I without a II.
  2. You cannot have an A without a B.
  3. You cannot have a I without a 2.
  4. You cannot have a lower case a without a lower case b.
II. Entries should be in parallel order.
  • A. Entries may be word entries.
  • B. Entries may be phrase entries.
  • C. Entries may be sentence entries.

Suggested Process in Making An Outline[2]

  1. First, brainstorming your topics and write down your ideas.Then arrange your notes in a logical order that you can easily understand what you are going to write.If you have difficulty in placing the order,you may find out the clues in the sequence of your notes.The order is better to be written in progressively increasing that will add the attractiveness to your article.
  2. Think over the major headings.
  3. Put the materials to fit under each headings.
  4. Revise the headings.Look for the relationship among the ideas and group them into subtopics.
  5. As the outline proceeds,the editing and revising are necessary.Make the outline more coherent.
  6. After you finish the outline,let it rest for several days.Then look back at it and carefully think over the order again.Find out the awkward places, “what ideas don’t seem to fit,which points need to be expanded,and so on”.

Tips & Warnings[2]

  • When you cannot decide where something should be put,firstly put it in other places in the outline.Then as you write,you can decide where is the most appropriate.
  • If you are not quite sure if an idea fits,firstly write down a reminder and after you have finish the first draft,you can see where it belongs.
  • If an important idea doesn't fit,then you should write a new outline for it.The important idea is of importance for an article
  • Each topic idea must have at least two subtopics.
  • Each roman number should be equally important in relation to each other. Each lettered line must also be equally important to the other lettered lines.

More Example[3]

The Guide to Writing Research Papers has a special section on writing outlines* and we recommend you review that material. From that document, here is one image (below) that might prove especially helpful, a sample outline (from the MLA Handbook) of another proposed paper. The important thing to notice about it is how supporting details are arranged beneath more important ideas and the outline branches out (toward the right) as ideas become more supportive in nature. Logic demands that an "A" be followed by a "B." (If there is no "B," maybe there shouldn't be an "A," or "A" should be incorporated into the paper in some other way.)


[1].How to write an outline[Los Angles Valley College Library]
http://www.lavc.edu/library/outline.htm[2].Rozakis,Laurie.Schaum's Quick Guide to Writing Great Research Papers.New York:McGraw-Hill Publisher,1999
http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/composition/brainstorm_outline.htm[4]Basic Outling

External Links

1.How to write an outline[wikiHow]
2.Developing an outline[Purdue Online Writing Lab]
3.How to Create Research Paper Outline[ProEssay]
4.How to write an outline

5.Making an outline