What Is an Outline? There are two ways we can think of the outline: one highlights how the outline looks and the other one highlights how the outline is used. First, the outline is a skeleton of your essay. You write your essay by fleshing out the points and examples. Moreover, an outline is blueprint or roadmap for your essay. It guides you through the process of writing a rough draft, and it can help you make sure that every piece of information you include in that draft will fulfill a function of the essay or one of the requirements of the assignment. The only thing we would have to add to these two desсrіptions is that the outline, as part of the pre-writing stage, is tentative. Before you start writing, you can change your outline however you want; you can change it as you write; and the rough draft or final draft of your essay does not have to fit the outline you wrote in the pre-writing stage. Having provided this explanation, we can look at some of the common characteristics of the outline. • Your essay should have a section for each of the major parts of the essay (i.e., introduction, body, and conclusion). These sections will be identified using an uppercase roman numerals (e.g., I, II, III). • Each of these major section will include a minimum of 2 sections for the subparts of the essay. The thesis and the topic sentences are required. These sections will be listed with a capital letter (e.g., A, B, C). • Any sections corresponding to smaller elements than the subparts of the essay, such as the justification and topic sentences, will be listed using, Arabic numerals (e.g., 1, 2, 3), details that are even smaller (e.g., development, supporting sentences, evidence) will be identified with lowercase, roman letters (e.g., i, ii, iii), and any further item of development will be identified with a lower case letters (e.g., a, b, c). • With the exception of the first sections (corresponding with the major parts of the essay), you should indent each section farther to the right, so that the previous section stands out. • With the exceptions of the thesis and the topic sentences, you do not need to provide information in complete sentences. However, if you do so, you should not go beyond 1 short, simple sentence, since more information will make it harder for the outline to provide you with an overview of the essay in a few pages. This is an important function of the outline: it gives you an overview of the essay that allows you to check for problems with coherence and organization. For instance, the following example of an outline is less than 1.5 pages long but the paper written based on this outline can easily be 3 to 5 pages long. The difference in size between the outline and the essay allows you to see 2 to 3 points, or supporting ideas, in the same page easily (see the topic sentences in the example of the outline), so you can check if there is a relationship between these points and if there is a relationship between the points and the thesis. You cannot do this easily in an essay with fully developed paragraphs or if each item in the outline has 2-3 sentences. Example of an Outline* Topic: Thomas Paine’s Common Sense Title: Impact of Common Sense I. Introduction: A. Opening Remarks: 1. Background Information: General Political Ideas in the 18th Century i. Divine Rights of King and Absolute Monarchies ii. Constitutional Monarchies 2. Justification: Importance of knowing the origin of our democracy B. Thesis: Thomas Paine’s Common Sense significantly changed American political thought and is one of the points of origins of American democracy. II. Body: A. Body Paragraph # 1: 1. Topic Sentence: Common Sense challenged political believes. i. Development: Historic opinions that show how the English constitution was seen as a brilliant political document. (Evidence) ii. Development: Quotes from Common Sense demonstrating irrationality of hereditary government and call for Americans to renounce the British system and create a new one. (Evidence) B. Body Paragraph # 2: 1. Topic Sentence: Common Sense had an immediate effect on the colonists at the time. i. Development: Statistics pertaining to how many people in the colonist read the pamphlet. (Evidence) ii. Development: Historical evidence of the shift from reconciliation to independence in the political debate in the colonies. (Evidence) C. Body Paragraph # 3: 1. Topic Sentence: Paine’s long term influence on America and American democracy as a model for other democracies. i. Development: How Common Sense changed the connotative meaning of revolution from renovation to innovation. (Explanation) a. Further Development: Entry from the Oxford English Dictionary. ii. Development: Number of countries that follow the American model of government. (Evidence) V. Conclusion: A. Restatement of the Thesis: Common Sense’s eloquent, articulate, and unprecedented arguments led to a permanent change in American political thought and a change in the world. B. Closing Remarks: Suggestion for other influential books that can be studied next. * This outline is a version of a sample outline published by Dr. T. Thomas at Austin Community College. It has been significantly modified to fit the needs of this class. This is not a template; it is an example. Your outline does not need to have 3 paragraph if your essay does not have 3 points. It can also have 4 body paragraph if you plan your essay to have 4 points. Moreover, the outline can include a different number of items (1 or 3) for development under each topic sentence. What is important here is that your outline includes the major parts of the essay (i.e., introduction, body, and conclusion) and the most important subparts (i.e., thesis and topic sentences).