How to Write a Term Paper Outline: Points to Keep in Mind

Introduction

Staying organized is very important when writing your term papers.  In order to stay organized, you need to write an outline.  The outline is what will keep you from going off subject in the middle of your term paper.  Also, some instructors will require an outline before the final draft of the paper can be turned in.  Of course, the outline does not have to be completely representative of what the final draft will look like.  Sometimes, when writing your final draft, the main points will seem to flow better in a different order, or maybe some of the arguments you have do not hold up on paper as much as you thought they would.

There are other reasons why writing an outline are important.  Some of them are:

  • Writing an outline can save you time in the long run
  • You can be a more effective communicator if you have an outline
  • Outlines can help get rid of writer’s block - a horrible thing for any writer to go through
  • They can help you decide if the topic you have chosen is right for you

How to Write an Outline

The general format of an outline is to use the alphanumeric outline format.  Basically, you would use these characters:

  • Roman numerals - I, II, III, IV, etc.
  • Capitalized letters - A, B, C, D, etc.
  • Arabic numerals - 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.
  • Lowercase letters - a, b, c, d, etc.

Some instructors will require you to write full sentences for each point of the outline, but if they do not, it may still be helpful to write out full sentences for each point.  By writing out full sentences, you will be able to retain more information about each point rather than by looking at one or two keywords that you will have to look up again after writing your outline.  However, when writing an outline, it is up to you to decide if you want to write full sentences.

Some other great tips on writing an outline include:

  • Have a topic chosen before starting your outline
  • Some people might include their introductory and concluding paragraphs in the outline to help understand the flow of their arguments
  • Do not forget to add in a thesis statement at the beginning even if you do not include your introductory paragraph
  • Remember to write enough information down for each point so that you understand what you were trying to portray
  • Adjust the outline accordingly, especially if you find that your second point works better coming after the third point

Following these tips and suggestions will help you in your quest to write a great outline whether for a grade or for your personal use.