Outlining - Business Communication Network

Why create 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
Constructs an ordered overview of your writing.
Defines boundaries and groups
Step #1
• Do your research
– How much research should you do before you
start your outline?
• Tentative thesis statement
• Have a grasp of the main points that will be
required to support your thesis.
• Fill in the rest of the outline as you do your
research OR
• Complete your research and then begin your
Step #2
• Determine the thesis, audience and
– All parts of the outline should support your
– Know your purpose and intended audience.
– You will REVISE your thesis after you
complete your outline- use a “working thesis”
to begin with.
Step #3
• Brainstorm: List all the ideas 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.
•Topic Outline: short word or phrase without
•Sentence Outline: full sentence with punctuation
Important: Choose one structure and be
consistent throughout the outline.
•Outlines can be in either Roman numeral,letter,or
number form as long as you are consistent.
4 Main Components
How do I accomplish this?
• Each heading and subheading should
preserve parallel structure. If the first
heading is a verb,the second heading
should be a verb.
I. Choose Desired Colleges
II.Prepare Application
All of the information contained in Heading
I should have the same significance as the
information in Heading 2. The same goes
for subheadings (which should be less
significant than the headings).
I. Visit and evaluate college campuses
II. Visit and evaluate college websites
A. Note important statistics
B. Look for interesting classes
The information in the headings should be
more general, while the information in the
subheadings should be more specific.
I. Describe an influential person in your life.
A. Favorite high school teacher
B. Grandparent
Each heading should be divided into two or
more parts.
I. Compile Resume
A. List relevant coursework
B. List work experience
C. List volunteer experience
Main Categories
Write down your main categories.
Your thesis statement is at the top of the outline and omit
your introduction and conclusion.
– Decide on your main categories: The main categories are the
key points of your thesis, the main divisions of your paper.
– Put the main categories in logical order. This maybe
chronological or thematical, but it should make sense.
•Each main category of the paper may consist of several
•Each subcategory typically correlates to one paragraph
within your paper,but subcategories in longer papers may
include many paragraphs.
•Indent each subcategory by 5 spaces (tab).
Third Level Categories
• Within each sub category, list and arrange
your specific notes to support or expand
the argument or point made on that
• The third level categories will often
correlate to the order of sentences in each
• Topic outlines are more brief and quicker to write, but
sentence are generally easier to read and more
If you can’t figure out what level (main, subcategory,
third level) a given point should be, ask yourself whether
that point adds something completely new or different to
the paper or whether it simply supports or explains a
point that is already there.
Each category should have at least two entries.