Outlining

When you write an essay or any academic paper, outlining is a vital part of the process.

In an outline, you list your major points and your supporting minor points and sub-points. This can be fairly extensive depending on the level of your writing. Here is the basic idea that can be adjusted to suit your needs:

  • Each Roman numeral indicates a new paragraph. This includes the introduction, the major points in the body, and the conclusion.
  • Each capital letter indicates a minor point supporting the major point.
  • Each Arabic numeral represents a sub-point under a minor point.
  • Each lower case letter is for a point that expands a sub-point.
  • Each Arabic numeral with a parenthesis indicates even more detail.
  • Notice that the order in an outline is numeral, letter, numeral, letter, numeral, and it can continue further in the same pattern for advanced writing.

I.    Introduction should include the following:
        A.    Broad, relevant introductory statement to stir the reader's interest
        B.    Thesis statement or premise or focal point of the essay
        C.    Statement of major points to follow in the essay
                1.    First major point
                2.    Second major point
                3.    Third major point (of course, there can be more)
II.    First major point
        A.    Minor point supporting major point (perhaps a fact)
        B.    Next minor point supporting major point (perhaps a case study)
                1.    Some minor points will have related sub-points 
                        (perhaps an example)
                2.    Second sub-point (perhaps a statistic)
                3.    Third sub-point (perhaps another statistic)
                        a.    Some sub-points might need expansion
                        b.    Another sub-sub-point
                        c.    One more sub-sub-point, perhaps
                                1)    Even more detail, if necessary
                                2)    Another detail
        C.    Next minor point supporting the major point
III.    Second major point
        A.    Minor point
        B.    Minor point
        C.    Minor point
                1.    Sub-point
                2.    Sub-point
IV.    Third major point
        A.    Minor point
        B.    Minor point
V.    Conclusion
        A.    Brief summary of major points
        B.    The kernel of your argument---the point you are making---thesis 
                proved
        C.    Challenging statement or question


Alternatively, you could use the decimal outline format:

1.0      Introduction should include the following:
            1.1    Broad, relevant introductory statement to stir the reader's 
                      interest
            1.2    Thesis statement or premise or focal point of the essay
            1.3    Statement of major points to follow in the essay
                     1.3.1    First major point
                     1.3.2    Second major point
                     1.3.3    Third major point (of course, there can be more)
2.0      First major point
            2.1    Minor point supporting major point (perhaps a fact)
            2.2    Next minor point supporting major point (perhaps a case study)
                     2.2.1    Some minor points will have related sub-points
                                  (perhaps an example)
                     2.2.2    Second sub-point (perhaps a statistic)
                     2.2.3    Third sub-point (perhaps another statistic)
                                  2.2.3.1    Some sub-points might need expansion
                                  2.2.3.2    Another sub-sub-point
                                  2.2.3.3    One more sub-sub-point, perhaps
                                                  2.2.3.3.1    Even more detail, if necessary
                                                  2.2.3.3.2    Another detail
            2.3    Next minor point supporting the major point
3.0      Second major point
            3.1    Minor point
            3.2    Minor point
            3.3    Minor point
                     3.3.1    Sub-point
                     3.3.2    Sub-point
4.0      Third major point
            4.1    Minor point
            4.2    Minor point
5.0      Conclusion
            5.1    Brief summary of major points
            5.2    The kernel of your argument---the point you are making---thesis 
                      proved
            5.3    Challenging statement or question                                                                                                                                                                                             



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