A paper outline is important because it facilitates the entire writing process and it’s your first attempt to structure your main arguments or ideas. Organize them in a coherent and clear manner. The main point of creating your detailed paper outline is that it acts as a helpful guide that makes it easier to draft and structure any piece of writing. An outline helps people organize general information for their academic papers in a logical or hierarchical order and offers a great way to develop or arrange their list of ideas. You have a lot of flexibility in making it.
What is a paper outline?
It’s formal system to organize your background data on one page, and an outline allows you to see if your thoughts on a specific topic or problem connect to each other or whether you have strong evidence to support each one. Your paper outline gives you an overall picture.
Basic outline types
Students can create either topic or sentence paper outline:
- The first one consists of short phrases (it’s suitable when dealing with different matters that you can arrange in many ways);
- The second one consists of full sentences (it’s perfect when your assignments focus on complex details or analysis).
Both paper outlines types follow rigid formats. There are no set rules for which one works best and you make this choice based on your personal preferences.
Why create a paper outline?
There are different reasons why students make a plan of their essays, and it’s helpful to when they need to show a logical order or hierarchical relationship of information. For your research paper, an effective outline can help you keep track of important information that you search in many sources. What about creative writing? It can help you organize different plot threads and character traits. Consider these basic reasons for making a paper outline:
- Organizing final thoughts and ideas;
- Simplifying the entire process of writing;
- Showing links or connections among all arguments;
- Presenting your materials in its logical form;
- Constructing an ordered review of your writing;
- Determining special groups and boundaries.
How to make your paper outline?
Develop your thesis and determine the targeted audience and purpose of your piece of writing to get started effectively. Take these steps:
- Brainstorm to list different ideas to include in your draft;
- Organize to group them all together;
- Arrange materials in relevant subsections;
- Write all subheadings and headings.
A paper outline makes it easier to organize your thoughts. It’s beneficial for your overall writing process and results, no matter if you follow the above-mentioned guidelines or not.
Basic format for many academic assignments
There is a standard paper outline that you can use for most written projects. What does it include? Regardless of your chosen or required length, a paper outline should have the main body, introduction, and conclusion. Learn what goes in every section.
Based on a specific type of paper, the outline of its introduction should contain these important elements:
- Start this section with a brilliant attention grabber, such as examples, short stories, historical context, or statistics, to catch readers’ attention instantly and introduce your given topic;
- Provide the targeted audience with a brief overview of different issues involved in this subject;
- Determine any key terms that other people need to understand your topic;
- Paraphrase or quote reliable sources that reveal a controversial nature of your subject;
- Share background information that readers need to understand a direction of your thoughts or arguments;
- Write a special antithesis paragraph that presents some opposing views or counterarguments.
Any introductory paragraph should end with a strong thesis statement, and you must cover it in your paper outline. How can you do that?
- Briefly state the main points of your assignment;
- Tell readers what it will focus on;
- Explain who you will support your stance.
The main body
It’s an important part of any paper outline that should do the following:
- Give strong details, examples, or explanations to support every major point that you make;
- Clearly present your major ideas or arguments;
- Address any possible counterarguments and refute them effectively;
- Use strong evidence from reliable and updated sources, including summaries, paraphrases, and quotes, to support your major points.
How to outline a conclusion of your paper? Take these simple and effective steps:
- Briefly sum up every major idea that you discuss in the main body;
- Restate a thesis from the introductory paragraph in different words;
- Make a statement of possible consequences of not embracing a given position;
- End with a strong clincher, which is a meaningful and appropriate final sentence that should tie the main points together (refer back to your attention grabber).
Additional paper outline tips
What else can you do? To end up with the best paper outline, use these extra tips:
- Decide on your thesis and major points first;
- You don’t have to start with the introduction (feel free to structure other sections before figuring out how to introduce your piece of writing);
- Use transition words and phrases to link all examples, ideas, and facts;
- Always take into account your thesis statement when structuring any paragraph because everything should point back to it.