What Are the Steps to Writing an Outline?

An outline is the framework of an essay; to write an effective outline, first have the thesis statement ready. Then, make a list of points the essay discusses. Organize this list of ideas in a way that makes sense, and add supporting details under each idea or subtopic.

The first step of planning an essay after choosing the topic is writing the thesis statement. Even for an outline, the thesis is the starting point. Once you have that, coming up with a list of subtopics or ideas that the essay will include is the next step. Then, organize that list of possible subtopics into an order that makes sense for the overall point the paper is trying to make. The final step is adding in the supporting details underneath each subtopic to flush out and define your ideas.

The Purdue Online Writing Lab lists four key elements to an effective outline, so incorporate these as you go through the above steps. The first element is parallelism. If the first subtopic header begins with a verb, so should the rest of them. The second is coordinating the headers of the outline, or making sure they are all that the same level of importance to the paper.

The third is the hierarchy of the information underneath each heading. The headings should be general subtopics, and the information in the bullets within those headings should be more specific. The final element listed is the division of information. This means dividing each heading into at least two parts and having at least two bullet points underneath each heading.