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How do you make an outline?

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Quick Answer

The basic form for an outline involves a clear listing of points or details, ordered through an alternating series of numbers and letters. Indenting allows the flow of the outline to be more effective by compartmentalizing portions of the material. It also allows headers or introductory statements to stand out more commandingly over succeeding material.

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Full Answer

As with formal papers, outlines also demand introductions. There, the writer can provide the basic subject matter of the outline along with a relevant thesis statement, should it exist or apply. This part might also be called the main idea section. After the introduction, the second section or "body" of the outline follows and is divided into the broadest sections of material. For example, an outline concerning the talents of Frederick Douglas may have separate body sections including his role as a lecturer, his publishing efforts and his political aspirations, followed by a conclusion. It is common for people to use Roman numerals to identify the main sections of the body of an outline. Letters are then added to delineate the specific subdivisions of each succeeding main point. If the author feels the need to further break down subject matter beyond the letter stage, another series of numbers, this time lower case, can be added. Of course, this process can go on ad infinitum, though the more minute and exhaustive the details of an outline become, the more the author runs the risk of corrupting its sought-for clarity and utility. As with papers, conclusions of outlines should restate any thesis statement made in the introduction and should mention how information in the outline supported the statement.

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