Getting StartedOutlineWriteHereWriteNowWriteOn

Line it out

by Carlie Sanderude

If I had to guess, I would say that most students think writing an outline before a paper is the biggest waste of time. Maybe that is a rather large generalization, but I think that a lot of students just jump into writing the paper itself because they want to get it done as fast as possible. But, in actuality, writing an outline will make the process much easier and less stressful! That’s why they’re my favorite, and I won’t write a paper without one.

So why is an outline useful? Isn’t it extra work? Nope.  Here’s why. Outlines

  • are the surest way to an organized paper. They allow you to clearly list the main topics that you want to cover in your paper and make sure that each topic connects back to your thesis.
  • allow you to present your material in a logical form. You can move ideas around to make sure that the logical progression of your paper works helps you prove your main idea.
  • really are helpful in just getting ideas down while you are in the pre-writing or research stages of your writing. Place information in the appropriate category within the outline and watch your paper grow while staying fully organized.

Okay, now how do you create an outline?

  1. Figure out what your thesis is and what you are trying to prove.
  2. Brainstorm all of the ideas that you might want to include in your paper.
  3. Place those ideas in a logical order. For some papers this might be chronological, while for others it might be more of a cause/effect idea or another organization scheme.
  4. Create main and sub headings from those ideas that will become your paragraph main ideas in your actual paper.
  5. Fill in the blanks with your information, research, and analysis!

The biggest benefit is that as soon as you fill in your outline, the paper is pretty much already written! Simply convert your bullet points in your outline to sentences (and don’t forget transitions, which will appear in another post one of these days).

All in all, outlines are great organizational tools, and they will always help ensure clarity and the logical ordering of your paper. An outline may make the overall writing process a tiny bit longer—but maybe not—and your organization will see major improvement in the end!

Carlie Sanderude is a senior at Principia College studying business administration and philosophy. She plays on the college’s soccer and tennis teams and has been a writing tutor for two years. This is her first ever blog post, so be gentle…

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