Making an Outline

An outline is a way to organize your paper. It helps you to connect ideas, organize thoughts, give you tangible evidence to see if you have enough support for your points, and in essence gives you an “overall picture” of your paper.

Here are some answers to why we create an outline: (taken from )

  • It aides in the writing process
  • Helps to organize your ideas
  • Material is presented logically
  • Presents the relationships in your writing
  • Shows an order to your writing
  • Defines boundaries

When creating an outline consider the following things:

  • What is the purpose of your paper?
  • What audience are you writing for?
  • What is the thesis of your paper?

Once you do that….

  • Come up with the ideas you want to have in your paper and list them.
  • Organize those ideas into relative groups
  • Arrange the material in order of importance, main ideas, support ideas, etc.
  • Create your headings from this information.

There are 2 kinds of outlines:

  1. Topic                                     2. Sentence
  • The Topic Outline is just that… it consists of short topics or phrases in the heading and subheadings.
  • The Sentence Outline is completed in full sentences.

Both outlines follow the format I described in class. (See below) Either outline is fine. It is dependent on what works best for you.  But the purpose is to give you something to follow and keep you on track.

Thesis: (Main point of the paper)

  I.     Heading

a.        Subtopic

b.        Subtopic

II.    Heading

a.        Subtopic

b.        Subtopic


In Class I told you there were 4 main points for effective outlines. I found this on

  1. Parallelism- heading and subheadings should reflect one another. One source says that even staying in the same figure of speech is important.  Truly try to reflect the same style through out the outline.
  2. Coordination – Coordinate your headings in order of importance, placing your most important points first and subsequent points following.
  3. Subordination -Have the topics in the headings be of more weight than the subtopics. The headings are general and the subtopics are specific.
    1. Heading:              I. New Testament Boots
    2. Subtopic:                             a. The Gospels
    3. Subcategory:                                     1. Matthew.
    4. Division – Each heading is divided into 2 or more parts and if you have an ‘a’ sub-point then you need a ‘b sub-point.


To Review:

To make an outline follow these steps:

1.       Decide on your thesis statement. What is the main point of your paper?  If you can put  your main idea in 1 sentence it will be helpful to keeping you on track and give you the direction you need to stay focused.

2.       Decide what your main points will be.  This is usually your introduction where you set the stage for what you will write about.

3.       Develop your points and begin the first category you will discuss.  Again it is important to put the most relevant topic first and then the subsequent ideas after.   You will restate them in your conclusion.

4.       Using subtopics you will give detail to the body of your paper but supporting information. You can use as many sub-points as you want to but the rule is if you have 1 heading you will need at least 2 and if you have 1 subtopic you will need at least 2.