Developing An Outline

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This page is about developing an outline and it describes why outlines are useful, what types of outlines exist, suggestions for developing an outline and how outlines can be used as an invention strategy for writing.

Four Main Components for Effective Outlines

Ideally, you should follow these 4 suggestions to create an effective outline. The examples are taken from the Sample Outline handout.

Parallelism - How do I accomplish this?

Each heading and subheading should preserve parallel structure. If the first heading is a noun, the second heading should be a noun. Example:

  1. Choose Desired Colleges
  2. Prepare Application

("Choose" and "Prepare" are both verbs.)

Coordination - How do I accomplish this?

All the information contained in Heading 1 should have the same significance as the information contained in Heading 2. The same goes for the subheadings (which should be less significant than the headings). Example:
  1. Visit and evaluate college campuses
  2. Visit and evaluate college websites
    1. Note important statistics
    2. Look for interesting classes

(Campus and websites visits are equally significant, as are statistics and classes found on college websites.)

Subordination - How do I accomplish this?

The information in the headings should be more general, while the information in the subheadings should be more specific. Example:

  1. Describe an influential person in your life
    1. Favorite high school teacher
    2. Grandparent

(A favorite teacher and grandparent are specific examples of influential people.)

Division - How do I accomplish this?

Each heading should be divided into 2 or more parts. Example:

  1. Compile resume
    1. List relevant coursework
    2. List work experience
    3. List volunteer experience

(The heading "Compile resume" is divided into 3 parts.)

Other Pages in This Section :

  • Why and How to Create one? : Creating an outline before writing your paper will make organizing your thoughts a lot easier.

  • Sample Outline : Here is an example of an outline that a student might create beforewriting an essay.

  • English Writing Resources Index

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