How to do an outline

I have put together a one page summary of guidelines on how to do an outline. This should help you in getting organized to write a paper, your proposal, or even your dissertation. These guidelines come from the book "The complete Stylist and Handbook" by Sheridan Baker. I used these notes when I was writting my dissertation and found them very helpful. Of course, you might want to check out the full book and/or other books on the topic.

  1. Write a one sentence thesis statement that presents the main idea of the paper.
    • THESIS: <one sentence>
  2. Begin paper with a jotted outline; all points are notes organized from least to most important. Note that the introduction/conclusion are not part of the outline; at this point the outline serves as an organization of ideas and not the paper structure.
    • <title here>
    • THESIS: <one sentence>
      1. <note 1>
      2. <more notes>
      3. <even more notes>
  3. Topic Outline - organize the jotted outline into heads, subheads, etc. Note that subheads should be balanced. If a heading has only one subhead, then combine it with its heading. The contents of the heading are phrases (noun phrases) with or without modifiers.
    • <title here>
    • THESIS: <one sentence>
      1. <noun phrases with/out modifiers>
        1. <noun phrases with/out modifiers>
          1. <noun phrases with/out modifiers>
          2. <noun phrases with/out modifiers>
        2. <noun phrases with/out modifiers>
          1. <noun phrases with/out modifiers>
          2. <noun phrases with/out modifiers>
      2. <noun phrases with/out modifiers>
  4. Next, sentence outline . Phrase each heading as a sentence; this helps with the organization of the logic. Remember that each sentence point here does not mean that it will be used identically in the final paper. Each outline point is not an indicator of how much space it will or should take in the final paper.
    • <title here>
    • THESIS: <one sentence>
      1. <complete sentence>
        1. <complete sentence>
          1. <complete sentence>
          2. <complete sentence>
        2. <complete sentence>
          1. <complete sentence>
          2. <complete sentence>
      2. <complete sentence>