How to create a successful outline

Not enough people know how to properly create an outline and that amazes me. The first step is to actually understand the material you’re reading because if you’re simply taking chunks of the chapter, you’re not going to get anywhere. There are different types of outlines, there’s one that the professor wants you to hand in, outlining your research paper and there’s an outline of a chapter. This lesson is going to cover both.

Research outline

This will be the guts of your paper. Once you’ve figured out your topic and the general direction of your paper, creating an outline is pretty straightforward. You really need to know your thesis before completing the outline and my suggestion if you’re confused, is to not worry about the thesis until the end. Start with the information.

Once you’ve gathered your research, you generally know the idea of what you want to talk about first. If you’re completely lost, choose the idea that would be a great opener – something that’s controversial, interesting or your audience would agree with. To choose what’s next in line, ask yourself, “After idea A, what is an easy transition?” If you’re going from dogs to VCRs, there’s probably not going to be an easy connection. Transitions between different sections can be made very simple if you choose topics that seem to flow well together. Also remember that nothing is set in stone. If later you realize you should have put topic B where topic F is, change it.

Because this article is so long, I’m going to cut it off here and allow you to view the rest of entry if you choose to do so.

Depending on what your professor wants, sometimes you include your thesis and sometimes you don’t. Make sure you ask. Here’s a sample outline for an academic research paper:

United States’ policies on the War on Terrorism
I. Introduction
1. History of United States
2. Examples when U.S. gave up rights and negative effects
II. War on Terrorism
1. Modern terrorism
2. Compare modern to previous
3. Where is the end?
III. Legislation
2. Domestic Security Enhancement Act
IV. Policies
1. wiretapping
2. illegal search warrants
3. enemy detainees
V. Current laws
1. Constitution
A. 4th Amendment
B. 5th Amendment
C. 6th Amendment
2. Geneva conventions
3. International Humanitarian Law
VI. Conclusion

Chapter outline

Basically, this is just notes from the chapter(s) in an organized form to make digesting the information much easier. Take one chapter at a time and realize that if you outline it properly, this will be the last time you read this chapter. You’re making your life easier when the test comes.

All chapters have headings, sometimes they are listed at the beginning of the chapter. In this case, I create a short outline of the chapter headings and then fill in the information as I read. It works the same as online headings – h1 is the main, h2 is underneath that and so on. Here’s an example:

United States Bill of Rights
I. First Amendment
1. Freedom of religion
2. Freedom of speech
3. Freedom of the press
4. Freedom to assemble peacefully
5. Right to petition the government
II. Second Amendment – Right to keep and bear arms
III. Third Amendment – Soldiers shall not be quartered in houses of citizens without permission
IV. Fourth Amendment
1. Protection against unlawful search and seizure
2. Warrants to search/seize only issued with probable cause and affirmed by judge/magistrate
3. Warrant must give detailed description of place being search and item(s) being seized
V. Fifth Amendment
1. Right to a trial by jury
2. Protects against double jeopardy
3. Protects the right against self incrimination
4. Right to due process
VI. Sixth Amendment
1. Right to a speedy and public trial
2. Right to impartial jury in district where crime was committed
3. Right to confront witnesses against oneself
4. To have a defending attorney
VII. Seventh Amendment – Right to trial by jury in civil matters over $20
VIII. Eighth Amendment
1. Prohibition of excessive bail
2. Prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment
IX. Ninth Amendment – Protection of rights not specifically enumerated in the Bill of Rights
X. Tenth Amendment – Powers not granted to the federal government or denied to the states are reserved for the states