Guide to Creating a Topic Outline



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Mr. Johnson’s Guide to Creating a Topic Outline (Adapted from Purdue Online Writing Lab)

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Why and How to Create a Useful Outline

Why create an outline? There are many reasons; but in general, it may be helpful to create an outline when you want to show the hierarchical relationship or logical ordering of information. For research papers, an outline may help you keep track of large amounts of information. For creative writing, an outline may help organize the various plot threads and help keep track of character traits. Many people find that organizing an oral report or presentation in outline form helps them speak more effectively in front of a crowd. Below are the primary reasons for creating an outline.



  • Aids in the process of writing

  • Helps you organize your ideas

  • Presents your material in a logical form

  • Shows the relationships among ideas in your writing

  • Constructs an ordered overview of your writing

  • Defines boundaries and groups

How do I create an outline?

  • Determine the purpose of your paper.

  • Determine the audience you are writing for.

  • Develop the thesis of your paper.

Then:

  • Brainstorm: List all the ideas that you want to include in your paper.

  • Organize: Group related ideas together.

  • Order: Arrange material in subsections from general to specific or from abstract to concrete.

  • Label: Create main and sub headings.

Remember: creating an outline before writing your paper will make organizing your thoughts a lot easier. Whether you follow the suggested guidelines is up to you, but making any kind of outline (even just some jotting down some main ideas) will be beneficial to your writing process.

Types of Outlines

Alphanumeric Outlines


This is the most common type of outline and usually instantly recognizable to most people.

The formatting follows these characters, in this order:



  • Roman Numerals

  • Capitalized Letters

  • Arabic Numerals

  • Lowercase Letters

If the outline needs to subdivide beyond these divisions, use Arabic numerals inside parentheses and then lowercase letters inside parentheses

Example

Mr. Johnson’s Dog Maynard

  1. Introduction

A. Hook Statement-Story of how I met Maynard

B. Background information about Maynard

C. Thesis Statement: Maynard is the greatest dog ever because he can play fetch, he likes to nap on the couch with me and he is very loyal


  1. First Main Point- Maynard can play fetch

A. Maynard and I play fetch and it is fun

B. Number of times we play fetch



      1. EX: Yesterday we played fetch and he brought it back 30 times

C. Analysis:

D. Concluding Sentence and Transition



  1. Second Main Point- Maynard likes to nap on the couch



  1. Third Main Point-Maynard is very loyal



  1. Conclusion

A. Restate Thesis Statement

B. Summary of Main Points



C. Global Comment

Full Sentence Outlines


The full sentence outline format is essentially the same as the Alphanumeric outline. The main difference (as the title suggests) is that full sentences are required at each level of the outline. This outline is most often used when preparing a traditional essay.

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