Writing an outline for an english paper

How to Read a Citation 5c. APA Style with Examples 5d. MLA Style with Examples 5f. Other Citation Styles Get Help! Why Outline? For research papers, a formal outline can help you keep track of large amounts of information. Example Thesis: Federal regulations need to foster laws that will help protect wetlands, restore those that have been destroyed, and take measures to improve the damange from overdevelopment. Lost ability to prevent floods, clean water and store water II.

Floodplain overflow III. Water purification IV. How to Create an Outline To create an outline: Place your thesis statement at the beginning. List the major points that support your thesis. Write down everything you might include in your outline. You can always eliminate ideas later! Here are some ways to organize your thoughts: [5] Freewrite as ideas come to you. Create a mind map. Write your thoughts on index cards.

Example Outline

Develop a thesis or controlling idea for your outline. In most cases, this will be the thesis you use to complete the final product, such as an essay. For example, you may be writing a paper about policy change. Write an alphanumeric outline for the easy approach. Although you might not recognize the name, most outlines follow the alphanumeric format. Each level of your outline will be organized using a letter or number. Make a decimal outline to highlight the relationship between ideas. A decimal outline looks very similar to an alphanumeric outline.

However, a decimal outline only uses numbers, and each sublevel is set off with decimals. This allows you to illustrate that each sublevel is a part of a larger argument. Decide if you want to write full sentences or short phrases. Most outlines include short phrases, which are also called topic outlines. However, using full sentences can help you better understand your ideas. You might use full sentences to make it easier to write a final paper, to make a good study guide, or to fulfill the requirements of an assignment.

How to Write an Outline

Group your ideas together. Review your brainstorming, placing related ideas in the same group. You can always eliminate ideas you realize are unnecessary. These groups will become main points, so narrow your groups down until you have your desired number of main points. For an essay or speech, that often means 3, but a creative piece may have more. Sort your index cards, if you used them to brainstorm. Put cards with related ideas together. For example, you can put them in stacks, or you can line your cards out in rows to make them easier to read. Put each group in order from broad ideas to specific details.

Broad ideas are more likely to be your main points, while details are the bits of information you will use to support those ideas. Depending on the purpose of your outline, you may have many subpoints and supporting details. However, aim to have at least subpoints and supporting details for each main idea.

Writing Outlines

Your subpoints might be that Victor Frankenstein is restored by nature and that his scientific efforts create a monster. As supporting details, you might include quotes from the book.

A. Research

If you're writing a story or presenting a historical argument, a chronological order makes sense. For an essay or speech, pick the subtopic with the most supporting materials, and lead with this argument. From there, order your major subtopics so each one naturally flows into the next.

Your broad ideas should connect back to your thesis or controlling idea. Outline your introduction as the first main point for a speech or essay. You can use either phrases or full sentences, depending on which you chose to use. Some people prefer to write out their introduction, which is also okay. Here are the points you need in your introduction: [13] Hook to grab the audience general statements about your topic Thesis.


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The outline headings are your main points. These ideas should be drawn directly from your thesis or controlling idea. Frankenstein champions emotion over reason Full sentence outline: II. In Frankenstein , Mary Shelley champions the use of emotion over reason. Write at least 2 subpoints for each main idea. These are the ideas that further explain your main point. In an essay, they might be your reasons for making your argument. In a creative work, they might be parts of your plot point.

For example, a novel may have many subpoints. Similarly, a study guide will likely have several subpoints, as well. Add at least 2 supporting details for each subpoint. They might include direct quotes, statistics, facts, or examples.

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

For a creative work, you might include essential details you must include in that scene, such as an internal conflict in your main character. Similar to subpoints, you may have more supporting details, depending on your purpose. A novel or study guide will likely have more supporting details. Include more layers of your outline, if necessary.

Writing a Paper: Outlining

Most basic outlines will include 3 layers, but you may need more. If this is the case, you can continue creating sublevels using the formatting structure you chose, either alphanumeric or decimal. For example, you might need more layers to provide more details. In the Frankenstein example above, you might include a 4th layer to write out your commentary about the quotes you used to support your point.

Your subpoints might include the following: [18] Restate your thesis.

Writing for Success: Outlining | English Composition II: Rhetorical Methods–Based

Write a concluding statement. Your outline should relate back to your thesis or main idea, address the purpose you set out to achieve and reflect your audience. Revise your outline if ideas are missing or not fleshed out. In some cases, you may need to add more information, such as additional supporting details.

The revision process allows you to do that. You might also want to rewrite sentences or phrases to make your ideas clearer. Check for typos, grammatical errors, and formatting flaws. This will ensure you get full credit for your work. While you edit your outline, refer back to your assignment sheet or rubric to make sure you've completely fulfilled the assignment. If not, go back and correct the areas that are lacking. Add layers if necessary. If you need to add additional sub-layers, use lowercase Roman numerals i, ii, iii, iv, etc. In most cases, three or four layers will be enough.

Try to combine points first before you add a fifth. You might also include additional layers for a long creative work or a detailed study guide.