Why and How to Create a Useful Outline
This resource describes why outlines are useful, what types of outlines exist, suggestions for developing effective outlines, and how outlines can be used as an invention strategy for writing.
Contributors: Elyssa Tardiff, Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2018-01-24 02:21:43
Why create an outline? There are many reasons, but in general, it may be helpful to create an outline when you want to show the hierarchical relationship or logical ordering of information. For research papers, an outline may help you keep track of large amounts of information. For creative writing, an outline may help organize the various plot threads and help keep track of character traits. Many people find that organizing an oral report or presentation in outline form helps them speak more effectively in front of a crowd. Below are the primary reasons for creating 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 writing
- Constructs an ordered overview of your writing
- Defines boundaries and groups
How do I create an outline?
- Determine the purpose of your paper.
- Determine the audience you are writing for.
- Develop the thesis of your paper.
- Brainstorm: List all the ideas that 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.
Remember: creating an outline before writing your paper will make organizing your thoughts a lot easier. Whether you follow the suggested guidelines is up to you, but making any kind of outline (even just some jotting down some main ideas) will be beneficial to your writing process.
Sample Outline #2
Title: The FederalistPapers’ Influence on the Ratification of the Constitution
Thesis: The Federalist Papers influenced the ratification of the Constitution by making some of their most important arguments, including the importance of being in a Union by having a Constitution, answering to the objections made by the Anti-federalists about separation of powers, and defending opposing arguments made against the characteristics of the executive and judicial branch as provided in the Constitution.
a. Describe The Federalist Papers are and when they started
b. Thesis:The Federalist influenced the ratification of the Constitution by making some of their most important arguments, including the importance of being in a Union by having a Constitution, answering to the objections made by the Anti-federalists about separation of powers, and defending opposing arguments made against the characteristics of the executive and judicial branch as provided in the Constitution.
a. State when The Federalist was printed and published.
b. Discuss the intentions and purposes of The Federalist.
III. Argument for the benefit of a
a. A would guard against external dangers
b. A would guard against internal dangers
A. The “extended sphere” argument about how it will control factions. (Federalist 10)
IV. Argument of the problem with complete separation of powers
a. Anti-federalists wanted a complete separation of the judicial, executive, and legislative branches
b. The Federalist said the maxim of complete separation of powers is misunderstood. (Montesquieu)
c. The branches need some limited power of the other branches to protect themselves from encroachment of the other branches (Federalist 51)
A. The branches need to have the interests of maintaining their powers, and not letting the other branches take that away.
V. Argument for a single executive, and against a plural executive
a. Anti-federalists didn’t want a single executive, too much like a monarch
b. The Federalist need the executive to be “energetic” and a plural executive would make this impossible (Federalist 70)
A. It would take too long for the people in the executive position to make decision in an emergency, because they might disagree.
B. In a plural executive, it is hard to tell who is responsible for a wrongdoing because they can all blame each other, so a single executive would lead to more responsible behavior
VI. Argument in favor of judicial review and terms of good behavior for judges
a. Anti-federalists didn’t like judicial review and the term of good behavior
b. The Federalist argued that judicial review was necessary to protect the judicial branch from the Legislature.
c. A term of good behavior was necessary to get qualified people for the positions; it would also give them time to develop knowledge.
b. The dates of the ratification of the Constitution by the States
c. The Federalist’s influence beyond the ratification