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Section 4.3 Outlining

While outlining might take up precious writing time in your schedule, the payoff is worth it! By clearly organizing your ideas in a way that makes sense to you, you give yourself a guide to follow while you're writing. The act of making an outline also requires you to write down all of your brilliant ideas so that, by the time you start writing, you don't forget what you've come up with. Use what you've developed during your brainstorming and planning sessions to create a more cohesive, organized, and complete outline that contains the major parts of your argument: your introduction, thesis, supporting claims, evidence, and conclusion. Remember that while ordering your claims you should try to think of your essay as a progression rather than a series of points; each claim should both respond to and build off of the previous one. Just as with brainstorming, your outline can be in any form that works best with the structure of the assignment and the way you want to think about your paper. While you're creating your outline, ask yourself these types of questions:

  • Do each of your claims follow a purposeful pattern or sequence?

  • Is this pattern chronological? Logic-based? In order of importance? Compare-contrast?

  • Are you giving your audience everything it needs to fully understand your argument?

  • Does the order of your claims merely list points or does it culminate toward a larger argument?

  • Does your argument naturally follow from the claims you presented, in the order you presented them?

  • Does the order of your claims roughly follow the arrangement of your thesis?

Here are a few (but not all!) format options to try: