Good outlines are easy to create once you know the basics. Having an outline editor - like PERRLA Online's - helps you stay focused on the content of your outline, instead of formatting it.
Here are a few things you should know to create a good outline. Our sample outline is for a paper entitled "The mythos of the unicorn."
Some Style Rules for Outlines
- Equal levels have equal importance.
Outlines consist of many different levels that are determined by how far they are indented. If two points in your outline are on the same level, then they are considered to be of equal value.
Sub- points are beneath them and are on a lower level (indented further to the right). In this example, I and II share a level and are equally important.
- Items of the same level should be similar.
Keeping items on the same level similar to each other helps your outline maintain its logic. For instance, if one point starts with a verb, then other points on that level should also start with verbs.
Here’s an example of non-similar levels:
This would be correct:
- There should always be more than one sub-point.
If you only have one sub-point, then it should be a part of the main point. You only need to create sub-points if you need to expand on the original point.
Sub-points should be more specific than their main point.
As your points start on higher levels, it is important that they also get more specific. A sub-point should never be less specific than the main point.
Topic outlines are great way to start the outlining process. Each line of the outline is a word or phrase that carries a general topic or idea. You don’t have to dive into a lot of detail and can work through the major motions of your paper quickly.
As you can see, even though this outline could be turned into a few paragraphs, it only takes up a few lines as a topic outline.
Sentence outlines make each sentence of your paper into a step in your outline. You can convert a topic outline into a sentence outline by adding details and including your research notes. Although a sentence outline can take more time to complete, once it is finished you already have a functional first draft in outline form.
Here’s an example:
A sentence outline usually takes up more space than your actual draft, so make sure you’ve got lots of room.
The Best Outline Is...
The best type of outline is an outline that makes writing your paper the easy. So, whether it’s a topic, sentence, or sticky-note amalgamation, make sure you find an outline style that fits you. Although you may have to think about how you create an outline the first few times, it will quickly become second nature and you’ll create amazing outlines with ease.
Tip: It’s always easier to write a paper from an outline with too much detail than not enough. You may not need to put something in your outline for every sentence you write, but make sure it is enough so that you can remember what you meant to say after a few days.