Outlines serve several purposes. Sometimes they are a formal requirement for papers. However, they can also serve as a useful planning strategy during the pre-writing process or as a guide to revising. Outlines may also help a writer set up headings in the paper. Thus outlines guide both the reader and the writer:
For the paper’s reader:
For the paper’s writer:
Outlines can be either formal or informal, depending on the requirements:
Informal outlines have few restrictions and can provide a useful way for writers to personally plan and revise their writing. They usually include a thesis statement followed by the main divisions and sub-topics that will be included in the paper.
Formal outlines may be topic or sentence outlines (see back); both adhere to rather strict conventions in order to provide a clear layout of the paper’s organization and content.
Thesis statement (if required):
I. First main point
A. First sub-topic
1. First division of sub-topic
a. First supporting evidence
b. Second supporting evidence
c. Third supporting evidence
2. Second division of sub-topic
II. Second main point
(Continue with as many sections as needed.)
Within the formal outline, several important conventions must be followed:
The format and conventions on the previous page apply to all formal outlines. However, the formal outline entries differ depending on whether the formal outline is a topic outline or a sentence outline; the two are never mixed.
For a topic outline, each level contains a phrase that clearly summarizes the content of the section. The entries in topic outlines are not followed by periods.
Thesis statement: The way people eat is one of the factors that contributes to heart disease.
I. Consumption of saturated and unsaturated fats
II. Consumption of refined sugar
A. May cause inflammation in heart and arteries
B. Leads to vitamin B deficiencies
III. Lack of fresh fruits and vegetables in diet
A. Contributes to vitamin C deficiency
B. Leads to inflammation and tearing in arterial walls
IV. Mineral deficiencies
V. Ingestion of caffeine
A. Raises blood pressure
B. Makes heart work harder
VI. Good and bad cholesterol
In contrast to topic outlines, sentence outlines require more thought and detail because each entry is a complete sentence. However, the benefit of sentence outlines is that the entries can often serve as topic sentences in paragraphs, which may help in writing the paper. Also, a sentence outline makes it easier for readers to assess the logic of your argument. Since all entries are complete sentences, they are followed by a period.
Thesis Statement: Because it fails to improve student learning, and creates, rather than solves, problems for schools, year-round education is a waste of precious time and money for educational institutions.
I. The year-round education program has several key components.
A. A wide range of schedules are used in year-round education.
B. The concept of “tracks” is important to year-round education.
II. The National Association for Year-Round Education is a key proponent
of year-round education.
III. Participation in year-round education is exaggerated.
IV. Year-round education has not had a major impact on academic
achievement in students.
A. Summer learning loss may not exist.
B. Test scores reveal no significant differences.
V. Year-round education does not necessarily save districts money.
A. Saving money at the cost of quality education is a serious problem.
B. Existing costs of schools tend to increase with year-round education.
C. Implementing year-round education creates additional costs.
VI. Overall, year-round education does not deliver the benefits it often