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Writing Outline

Teacher/Instructor Katie Aquino
Katie Aquino

Writing, Grammar, Literature, ACT Prep
Education: M.Ed.,Stanford University

Katie is an enthusiastic teacher who strives to make connections between literature and student’s every day lives.

A writing outline visually represents the direction of an essay. Outlines help the writer organize thoughts and encourages coherence. Outlines typically are divided by paragraphs and include only important ideas.

Let's talk about outlining your paper. This is another crucial step after you've prewritten your paper, getting things organized, because an outline visually represents the direction of your essay. I'm a very visual learner, so these help me extremely well.

What an outline does then, is help you organize, and make sure you're coherent. So that's what I really like. Is I can see all of my information in a very simplified format, and then from there I can check, and make sure everything is matching up to make sure everything is working to prove my thesis.

So my pointers for an outline are; number 1, divide by paragraphs. It's important to remember that outlining for an essay that you're writing, is going to look a little bit different than outlining say a chapter in a Science textbook. It's not necessarily going to be in as much detail. Instead of dividing by ideas, you're going to divide by your main paragraphs, which are somewhat governed by ideas.

Then make sure you include only important ideas. So you're not getting into all the big details. You're just including important ideas. The important idea should be your thesis, your topic sentences, the evidence that you're going to use, and analysis or at least some notes for analysis.

What you're going to do, is you're going to organize your outline starting with Roman numerals. Then you go to capital letters, then you go to regular numbers, lower case letters, then lower case Roman numerals. So generally with an essay, I don't get much further than the first three.

Let's take a look at an example of an outline. If I'm going to write a paper about Wrigley Field, and how it's far superior to the new modern stadiums popping up all of our major league baseball, I have it out here with a Roman numeral one, because this is my thesis statement. So this is my paragraph number 1. The main idea, the most important idea in my first paragraph, my introduction, is that thesis. I'm not going to worry about putting my hook, or background information into there. I know that when I sit down to write, I can get that stuff generated, but I want to make sure I keep the most important ideas.

I've got my thesis here. Now I've got to move to body paragraph number 1. So I'm going to start thinking about the first reason that Wrigley Field is far superior. So I'm going to go ahead and craft my topic sentence. What's that first sentence that's going to guide my first body paragraph.

It maybe something like; the classic architecture of Wrigley Field, I'm going abbreviate, brings fans much closer to the game than modern ball parks. Now, when I sit down to write, I've got my first sentence already done. I may refine the wording a little bit, but I've got the main idea here.

But, I also want to make sure that I include my evidence under the sporty paragraph. So I may have found the quote here. I'm going to make this a capital letter a, because I'm moving in one section on my outline, because this is going to go in paragraph two. At Wrigley, spectators feel impossibly close to the field. So now I've got my piece of evidence that I'm using there.

If I wanted to take some notes on the analysis that I was going to do, of this evidence, I could put that under b. The second important idea that's going to go into this paragraph, is I'm going to make sure that I talks about how the stands are tiered, and how fans really can't see everything. So these are the notes that I'm going to use to govern my analysis.

You'll see if I walk into writing the paper with a complete outline, if I've done this for all of my body paragraphs, it's going to make that writing process a lot easier, because I already have the ideas. I have already done the difficult thinking. So hopefully this will help you with generating outlines.

One note also, is that you can use this outlining skill to reverse outline paper when you're done. So after you're done writing it, look at your paper. Then try to create the outline from that paper, match it up with your original outline, and see if you're on track with where you wanted to go.