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Creating an outline can help you to plan a paper you’re writing. In an outline, you arrange your main points in a logical order, add your supporting points and perhaps some evidence, and indicate the relationships among the points.
An outline isn’t set in stone; you can change it as your thinking develops, but it is a helpful way to see the “skeleton” of your paper in advance. An outline is for you, the writer, as you think through your argument—not for your readers, who will see only the finished product.
Mind maps, lists, and flow charts can also be helpful ways to develop the “big picture” of your paper. Continue reading to see examples of formal and informal outlines.
Topic: the 2012 Quebec student protests
Narrowed topic: an examination of the scope, strength, and persistence of the 2012 Quebec student protests
- strong historical and cultural support of accessible post-secondary education in Quebec
- 2010 government plan to initiate tuition increases
- participation of other groups in protests such as opposition parties and workers’ unions
- creation of Bill 78 (incited further conflict)
- tuition freeze in September 2012
- change of government after next election
- former student leaders now involved in politics
- but lack of substantive discussion about equity in education in Quebec
Like the informal outline, a formal outline should be a single-page display of the line of thinking your essay will develop. However, a formal outline is usually more detailed. It begins with the thesis statement and then presents major and minor sections of the essay in a logical order, clearly showing the relationships between the thesis statement, main points, subordinate points, and examples. For an expository essay, you may simply use key words or phrases to delineate your sections; for a persuasive essay, it’s useful to write topic sentences for each supporting point to show how your argument will progress.