Methods for outlining a paper vary by subject and content. Generally, outlining a paper involves deciding on your main topic, choosing subtopics, and listing what information you wish to include with each subtopic. You need a writing utensil and paper or a word processor.
- Narrow your main topic
Make sure your topic is specific enough to cover in your paper. Gather the research you have for the paper, and create a central question to answer in your paper.
- Choose sub-topics
Based on the information you have and the question you plan to answer, subtopics probably emerge. For example, if you are writing about the health benefits of kale, you may organize your information under subtopics such as kale's positive effects on the mind, body and spirit.
- Organize subtopics and put them in a list
You may want to organize subtopics chronologically, from oldest to newest, or from broadest to more specific. Thinking about the purpose of your paper can help you make this decision. Once you decide what order to put them in, write it down in list form, leaving at least three lines underneath each subtopic. Start and end the list with an introduction and a conclusion. Include a thesis statement if necessary.
- List the information you want to include in each section under the subtopic
Ask yourself what you want to include to cover each subtopic. Usually three, four or five main points suffice. List this information under each subtopic.