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Writing Center

Outlining for Successful Writing

So What?

People often do not prepare thoroughly for writing projects. They may jump directly from the writing prompt to the rough draft, or they may do some brainstorming and then immediately begin writing. However, the steps of the writing process cannot be skipped; they exist for a reason. In a related writing guide, you can review the importance of Brainstorming. After brainstorming comes outlining. Outlining is frequently underestimated, yet a strong outline can save time in the long-run and help writers avoid a lot of frustration. An effective outline can make or break a written text. Writing a text without an outline is like a chef who simply dumps a ton of ingredients into a pot without considering how much of each is appropriate and in which order they should be added.

Summarized Explanation

  • Outlining produces the skeleton of a written text.
  • Outlining should consider all elements of a written text, from the beginning to the end.
  • Outlining should be based on tried-and-true templates for developing ideas.

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Detailed Explanation

A good outline is the foundation of a successful written text. Whether it is a research paper, blog post, presentation, or website, a written text needs to be organized. And organizing a text occurs before a rough draft is compiled. An outline allows a writer to visualize the written text, ensure that all necessary components are included, and confirm that all ideas are cohesive. The most common format for an outline is a hierarchical list with bulleted points.

Examples

The following examples are taken from the related writing guide about Understanding Writing Expectations. The brief, preliminary outlines have been turned into detailed, full outlines.

Writing Prompt for School:

Detailed, Full Outline:

 Introductory Paragraph (0.5 pages)

Body Paragraphs (2.5 pages)

  • Paragraph 1: 1st literary device comparison
  • Counterargument(s)
  • Paragraph 2: 2nd literary device comparison
    • Topic sentence
    • Support from readings
    • Support from textbook
    • Support from lecture notes
    • Concluding sentence(s)
  • Counterargument(s)
  • Paragraph 3: 3rd literary device comparison
    • Topic sentence
    • Support from readings 
    • Support from textbook
    • Support from lecture notes
    • Concluding sentence(s)
  • Counterargument(s)

Concluding Paragraph (0.5 pages)

  • Restated thesis
  • Summarized comparative analysis about literary devices
  • Clincher

 

Writing Prompt for Work:

Detailed, Full Outline:

Introduction (5 slides)

  • Hook
  • Background information on safety training
  • Thesis statement
  • Relevant engaging images

Body Section

Section 1: Pillar 1 (5 slides)

  • Topic Sentence
  • Support from the training manual
  • Concluding sentence(s)
  • Counterargument(s)
  • Relevant engaging images

Section 2: Pillar 2 (5 slides)

  • Topic Sentence
  • Support from the training manual
  • Concluding sentence(s)
  • Counterargument(s)
  • Relevant engaging images

Section 3: Pillar 3 (5 slides)

  • Topic Sentence
  • Support from the training manual
  • Concluding sentence(s)
  • Counterargument(s)
  • Relevant engaging images

Section 4: Pillar 4 (5 slides)

  • Topic Sentence
  • Support from the training manual
  • Concluding sentence(s)
  • Counterargument(s)
  • Relevant engaging images

Concluding Slides (5 slides)

  • Restated thesis statement
  • Summarized pillars
  • Clincher

 

Writing Prompt for Ministry:

Detailed, Full Outline:

Introductory section (2 minutes)

  • Hook
  • Brief background information about the virtual Bible study (who, what, when, where)
  • Thesis statement

Body section (7.5 minutes)

  • Why people should register
    • How to do it
    • Counterargument(s): Refute excuses people might make about not registering
  • Why people should invite their friends
    • How to do it
    • Counterargument(s): Refute excuses people might make about not inviting friends
  • Why people should expect
    • How to prepare (e.g., materials and prayer)
    • Counterargument(s): Refute excuses people might make about not preparing

Concluding Section (30 seconds)

  • Restated thesis statement
  • Summarized key ideas about registering, inviting, and preparing
  • Clincher