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How to Make an Outline
What is an Outline?
An outline is a formal system used to think about and organize your paper. For example, you can use it to
see whether your ideas connect to each other, what order of ideas works best, or whether you have
sufficient evidence to support each of your points. Outlines can be useful for any paper to help you see the
There are two kinds of outlines: the topic outline and the sentence outline.
• The topic outline consists of short phrases. It is particularly useful when you are dealing with a
number of different issues that could be arranged in a variety of ways in your paper.
• The sentence outline is done in full sentences. It is normally used when your paper focuses on
complex details. The sentence outline is especially useful for this kind of paper because sentences
themselves have many of the details in them. A sentence outline also allows you to include those
details in the sentences instead of having to create an outline of many short phrases that goes on page
Both topic and sentence outlines follow rigid formats, using Roman and Arabic numerals along with
capital and small letters of the alphabet. This helps both you and anyone who reads your outline to follow
your organization easily. This is the kind of outline most commonly used for classroom papers and
speeches (see the example at the end of this paper). There is no rule for which type of outline is best.
Choose the one that you think works best for your paper.
Make the Outline
1. Identify the topic. The topic of your paper is important. Try to sum up the point of your paper in one
sentence or phrase. This will help your paper stay focused on the main point.
2. Identify the main categories. What main points will you cover?... [continues]
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