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Developing an Outline

Four Main Components for Effective Outlines

Ideally, you should follow these 4 suggestions to create an effective outline. The examples are taken from the Sample Outline handout.

Parallelism - How do I accomplish this?

Each heading and subheading should preserve parallel structure. If the first heading is a noun, the second heading should be a noun. Example:1. Choose Desired Colleges
2. Prepare Application
("Choose" and "Prepare" are both verbs.)

Coordination - How do I accomplish this?

All the information contained in Heading 1 should have the same significance as the information contained in Heading 2. The same goes for the subheadings (which should be less significant than the headings). Example:
1. Visit and evaluate collegecampuses
2. Visit and evaluate college websites
1. Note important statistics
2. Look for interesting classes
(Campus and websites visits are equally significant, as are statistics and classes found on college websites.)

Subordination - How do I accomplish this?

The information in the headings should be more general, while the information in the subheadings should be morespecific. Example:
1. Describe an influential person in your life
1. Favorite high school teacher
2. Grandparent
(A favorite teacher and grandparent are specific examples of influential people.)

Division - How do I accomplish this?

Each heading should be divided into 2 or more parts. Example:
1. Compile resume
1. List relevant coursework
2. List workexperience
3. List volunteer experience
(The heading "Compile resume" is divided into 3 parts.)

Why and How to Create a Useful Outline

Why create an outline?
• Aids in the process of writing
• Helps you organize your ideas
• Presents your material in a logical form
• Shows the relationships among ideas in your writing
• Constructs an ordered overviewof your writing
• Defines boundaries and groups
How do I create an outline?
• Determine the purpose of your paper.
• Determine the audience you are writing for.
• Develop the thesis of your paper.
• Brainstorm: List all the ideas that you want to include in your paper.
• Organize: Group related ideas together.
• Order: Arrange material in subsectionsfrom general to specific or from abstract to concrete.
• Label: Create main and sub headings.
Remember: creating an outline before writing your paper will make organizing your thoughts a lot easier. Whether you follow the suggested guidelines is up to you, but making any kind of outline (even just some jotting down some main ideas) will be beneficial to your writing process.

Sample OutlineHere is an example of an outline that a student might create before writing an essay. In order to organize her thoughts and make sure that she has not forgotten any key points that she wants to address, she creates the outline as a framework for her essay.

What is the assignment?

Your instructor asks the class to write an expository (explanatory) essay on the typical steps a high schoolstudent would follow in order to apply to college.

What is the purpose of this essay?

To explain the process for applying to college

Who is the intended audience for this essay?

High school students intending to apply to college and their parents

What is the essay's thesis statement?

When applying to college, a student follows a certain process which includes choosing the rightschools and preparing the application materials.

The College Application Process
1. Choose Desired Colleges
1. Visit and evaluate college campuses
2. Visit and evaluate college websites
1. look for interesting classes
2. note important statistics
1. student/faculty ratio
2. retention rate
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