How To Write An Outline: Top 11 Steps To Follow

Even if you are writing a simple five-paragraph paper, an outline can be helpful. A framework is provided by an outline, which shows you how to arrange all your ideas. The outline will also help you to stay on topic by providing boundaries. It will be much easier to write a paper if you use a well-planned outline. You can then fill in details and use your sentences to connect ideas.

It may be difficult to learn to outline if this is your first time. You will learn that once you have outlined, outlines are an excellent tool to help you write. Outlines allow you to effectively organize your thoughts and create a paper. If you want to know how to outline your paper, this guide will show you the steps.

Step 1: Identify Your topic

To write an outline, you must first define your topic. To begin, you must know why and what you will be writing. The information that you use will be determined by the topic. You may be given a topic by your teacher or an assignment. Brainstorm ideas to help you develop the central idea for your essay.

Be sure to choose a theme that provides enough details to allow you to write a long-form work. Some topics can be too general and others too specific. Research and brainstorm to find a good, interesting, and useful topic.

Step 2: Create a thesis statement

It is important to distinguish between your thesis and topic. It is the main purpose of the essay and determines the structure of the outline. The thesis is your argument, entertainment or information.

It is important to make it clear what the outline’s goal is. This could be either to entertain, educate, or even argue. The readers of your paper must be able to understand what they’re reading from the very beginning. It is essential to have a clearly defined thesis before writing an outline. The thesis statement is the basis for a good outline.

Step 3: Identify Your Target Audience

You are still not quite finished writing your outline. It is important to know the audience for your paper before creating a detailed plan. It is important to know who you will be writing for. For instance, if your dissertation will be read by a team consisting of experts, you might not need to include basic details. When writing for students in a classroom, it is important to provide simple details so that they can understand your message.

If you’re writing a school paper, your audience will know some of the basics about your topic. If you’re writing for school, your target audience will be obvious. You may have a harder time identifying your target audience if you’re writing an article you intend to publish. You should consider your audience’s requirements and build an outline around them.

Step 4: Do preliminary research

Now it’s time to get started with your research. You must know the details of your topic in order to write an outline. Make notes about your topic, and use your professional or personal experience to inform your research. Google is a good place to start if your topic is unknown. However, don’t just limit your research on the internet. Instead, take detailed notes and link them to each source as you conduct your research. The notes you keep will come in handy when you begin to outline the paper and write the bibliography.

Before you begin writing, make sure to finish your outline. Research is necessary before you can write an outline.

Step 5: Organise Your ideas

As soon as you have finished your research, it is time to start putting the final touches on the points that are most important. The outline should have three to five points that are the main ones, and sub-points under them. You can divide your outline into categories if you find that your research fits neatly into a few distinct areas.

You can easily organize your thoughts with the notecard method. You can easily organize your notes if you use notecards to write down research notes. In no time, you’ll have a rough outline of your research in mind. If you haven’t used a card, create an outline of your thoughts on a sheet.

Draw lines to connect the subpoints and main idea. You will soon see that your subpoints and points will combine to create an interesting paper.

Step 6: Select a template or structure

You can choose from several different types of outline for your project. You must select one if your teacher does not specify. Alphanumeric outlines are popular. Roman numerals are used as the main points. (IIIIIIV etc.) Arabic numerals (I, II, III, IV, etc.) are then followed by capital (A, B), lowercase (a,b,c,d), and uppercase (b,c,d). Each subpoint beneath the main part is slightly indented. This is a common outline. Here’s how it will appear:

  • I. Each main point can be started with a sentence.
    • A. Use action verbs if you can.
    • .B. Avoid using passive voice
      • 1. Passive Voice is less direct compared to active voice
      • 2. Use the active voice when possible.

Decimal outlines are used to highlight the main and subpoints. Each point begins with a short phrase. The subpoints will be indicated by an indented numbered bullet beneath the preceding point. Here’s how it would look:

  • Start every main point with the verb
    • 1.1 – Use action verbs if you can
    • 1.2 – Avoid Using Passive Voice
      • Active voice is more direct than passive voice
      • 1.2.2 – Use active voice when possible

You can select a topical outline or one that uses a complete sentence. Each point is covered by a complete sentence in a full sentence outline. Topic outlines use single words or phrases for each point. The examples given above are full sentences. Here is an example of a topic summary:

  • I. Mammals
    • B. Features
      • 1. Babies born alive
      • 2. Feed Milk
      • 3. Hair or Fur
    • B. Exceptions to the rule
      • 1. Platypus
      • 2. Aquatic Mammals

A detailed outline will be more thorough and provide a better structure for a paper that is in-depth. Topic outlines can be useful for short research papers, particularly if it is a student’s very first paper.

Step 7: Write Your Introduction

This is where you introduce your thesis or topic sentence. It is here that you introduce your topic sentence or thesis. It should provide context and background to explain why the remainder of the paper will be important. You may use it to outline your research or to define important terms. It will end in a thesis statement or purpose, which may not be written down, but should be set up as you write it.

Your introduction should have a hook that will draw your audience in. This can be a sub-point or a main point so that you don’t forget to include it in your paper.

Step 8: Write your main points

You will now write down your main points. Each is an argument that supports your thesis. They can be referred to as important points. These points must be complete sentences and clear. They should be related or built on one another; all of them need to relate back to your main sentence. You can write a five paragraph essay and each main point will be one paragraph.

Your first point should be your topic, thesis statement and the facts and statistics that support it. Next, you will have three supporting arguments and the last point will be your concluding thought. Other papers might follow a format similar to this, but include more paragraphs on each major point. Consider learning to create this five-paragraph essay.

Step 9: Fill out the subpoints

You can now add supporting points to the sub-points or minor points. These supporting points are not independent, but support the main point. Each main idea should have two sub-ideas. Add subpoints to subpoints if you want. A single subpoint can never be added to an outline point. Each level supports the point below it. Roman numerals and capital letters are both a great way to add detail.

Your Arabic numerals add detail to your capital letters above. Subpoints can be few or many.

The length will depend on how long you want your project to be and the information that you have. Once you’ve completed your subpoints you should review what you’ve written. Has anyone written too many points in comparison with the rest? You might be able split the point in two.

Step 10: Write your conclusion

It is important to note that your conclusion should be the final point of your outline. The conclusion must include all the main points and claims of your paper. This will include a review of the thesis, as well as a discussion on how the main points fit in. You can include any new steps that are necessary based on your research or the information you have provided in the conclusion. You can still add new information or excitement to the final point, even though you will be restating your thesis and main points. You don’t need to be repetitive, so make sure you connect your conclusion logically to the rest.

Step 11: Edit Your Draft

Your outline is now ready for a revision. Additional research may reveal subpoints, ideas, or other information that you would like to include. You might also find more redundancy you need to remove. It is important to read it over again and see if anything was missed. After that, you will need to edit it so it’s neat and proper. You can then submit it along with your essay. This part can be skipped if the outline is only used for personal purposes.

It is best to make any necessary changes before writing your paper. Once you have a paper outline that you are happy with, you will be able to write it by adding details, quotes, and connecting ideas.

Before publishing or submitting a writing, it is important to take the time and improve its readability.


  • tenleylancaster

    Tenley Lancaster is a 34-year-old educational blogger and student. She enjoys writing about topics related to education, including but not limited to student motivation, learning styles, and effective study techniques. Tenley has also written for various websites and magazines, and is currently working on her first book. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, reading, and traveling.