Why and How to Write an Outline

Why and How to Write an Outline

Becoming a paper writing guru requires a long way up the mount of practice, trial, and error. It might seem that some people are born good writers, but this is not completely true: in order to be able to create a successful essay, one should dedicate plenty of time to reading books of different genres as well as constantly write to polish their language skills.

However, there are always things that can help you do a better job in any field. Since today we are talking about writing a good paper, we should consider ways to make this process faster and easier. One way to achieve this result is to create an outline before you start writing an actual paper.

What Is a Paper Outline?

You do not need to apply any format to your outline. Don’t get intimidated by terminology; in reality, this is just a structure, a plan of your future work. Not every student works with an outline, but this is a very helpful step that you should consider before you begin to write the paper.

Why do we recommend an outline? The beauty of the humans’ mind is that it can come up with numerous ideas instantaneously. However, when we work on a paper, this ‘talent’ does not always do us good. As you know, professors are very strict when it comes to essays and research papers, and good, clear structure is the first thing they are searching for. So, if you don’t want to get lost in the entire scope of ideas and decide to focus on a specific path, you should better create a plan that you will eventually follow.

There are different methods of organizing an outline: some use entire sentences as bullet points, some prefer to sum up the main thought of the section with the help of one word. This really doesn’t matter as long as it helps you organize your thought process and writing.

Before You Write an Outline…

You should already have a good understanding of what your paper will be about. Remember: each field is so vast that it is more than easy to get lost in multiple theories and methodologies. Please, before you begin to write, make sure you have read enough materials on the subject and decided which issues your work is going to highlight.

You need to take into consideration not only research by authors who share your opinion but also works written by those who have an opposite point of view. Your job will be to present both sides and provide adequate, persuasive evidence and argument to support one of them.

Starting to Write an Outline

Once you have chosen a path to follow and enough supporting materials, you are ready to begin your outline writing. Always keep in mind the major purpose of this plan is to help you structure your thoughts and keep everything under control.

  1. Package main ideas

    Since you already have a good idea of what you would like to present in the paper, you must know what your thesis and supporting points will be. A specific section of the paper will be dedicated to a specific argument or idea, and this is what you need to reflect in your plan, e.g.

    • Paper Outline Is the Best Way to Plan Writing
    • What Is an Outline?
    • Things to Do Before Creating an Outline
    • First Steps in Outline Planning

    Basically, this first stage requires students to write down the most important steps they are going to take in order to achieve their writing goal.

  2. Add categories to subtopics

    It goes without saying that each chosen subtopic is of great importance, which means there will be a lot of information you would like to present to develop each thought. From this we can assume that there will be at least two distinct categories that each subtopic will include. These categories will allow you to better analyze the internal structure of each subtopic and perform a more successful discussion later.

    • Paper Outline Is the Best Way to Plan Writing
      • Helps organize thought
      • Helps remember ideas
    • What Is an Outline?
  3. Elaborate on wide categories

    Depending on the volume of your work, it is quite possible that some categories will be so large that additional sub-points will be required. Don’t be afraid to add them below the overarching category and make your outline look ‘heavy’; on the contrary, such a detailed approach to the plan will let it be more developed and sophisticated.

    • First Steps in Outline Writing
      • Package main ideas
        1. Divide the paper into sections
        2. Find the main concept of each section

    As you could have already noticed, there is a particular way of enumerating the outline’s points. The first, major layer, is marked by Roman numerals, i.e. I, II, V, X, etc. The second layer, which represents subtopics, is characterized by letters A, B, C, and so on. Arabic numerals, in turn, mark the third layer, which present smaller sub-points.

    In case when you need to add even more layers, you will have to use lowercase Roman numerals (i, ii, v, x, etc.), lowercase letter (a, b, c, etc.), and Arabic numerals again (1, 2, 3, etc.) for the fourth, fifth, and sixth layers respectively.

    When you work on a paper plan, it is a good idea to add Introduction and Conclusion as your major points as well. Probably, you haven’t even thought about how you want to finish the paper; however; in the plan, you could have at least mention some ideas you could utilize when creating the conclusion.