There are many types of outlines. Some take a few seconds to make, others a lot of time and careful thought.

World's Least Useful Outline*

  • I. Introduce Topic
  • II. Main Idea
  • III. Discuss the Topic
  • IV. Research on the Topic
  • V. Conclusion

*This out line has no evidence of any actual ideas. It would be useless in getting started writing this paper. If you use an outline, be sure it looks nothing like this one.

The simple truth is, the more time an outline takes to write, the more useful it will be when you get to the drafting stage. A sentence outline requires you to write out the ideas of your paper before you get to the drafting stage. This is the very best way to check the logic of your paper.

A topic outline is much rougher and quicker to write, but it is usually far less helpful when you start drafting your paragraphs. The least useful topic outline is one you create mechanically before you’ve even completed your research or have thought through your ideas.

The most helpful outline to create is one that plans out all of your paragraphs and includes actual topic sentences (full sentences that state the main idea of a paragraph).

The least helpful includes only topics or the function of each paragraph. When you get to the drafting step, this kind of outline can be more frustrating than helpful.

Read more about the different kinds of outlines.

Try something different

If you enjoy using your computer, you may want to experiment with using theOutline View function in your word processor.

This function can help you sort your ideas then organize them into unified paragraphs.

The outline can be transformed into your first draft without retyping, and before you know it, you’ll be in the middle of the drafting step.

To find out more, check out this Microsoft tutorial, or use the help menus in your own word processor.