One of the best tools available to writers is the outline. The outline can be a very helpful tool for the inexperienced and experienced writer alike, for those who are struggling with writers block and for those who have their entire article laid out in their head. In fact, there’s rarely a circumstance under which a writer should consider skipping the outlining process, because it’s so universally helpful.
Value of an Outline
The outline is so helpful because it not only organizes an author’s thoughts but it also helps them to organize their research material prior to beginning to write. It can also assist writers in avoiding redundancy; to avoid mentioning the same material multiple times, referencing one’s detailed outline is a lifesaver.
Different writers may have different methods for creating their outlines. Some prefer to do it before gathering information for their article, while others prefer to research prior to creating their outline. Regardless of the timing, the following method can be helpful for those who are inexperienced in creating article outlines.
- Identify major categories
- Outline Each Body Paragraph According to Category
- Outline the Introduction and Conclusion
No matter how narrow your topic, you’ll find that your article itself will include information which can be divided into categories. Some ways to categorize information include chronologically, from general to specific (or the reverse), other topics the information relates to, etc. Deciding on how you will categorize the information your article contains is the first step to creating an excellent outline to work from.
You’ll want to create outlines for your introduction and conclusion last, as we’ll explain below. Initially, you should focus on creating a detailed section outline according to the categories you’ve decided to use. In creating your outline, you may find some categories are too broad and need to be further divided while others are too narrow and should be merged with another category. This is part of an outline’s value—it can give the writer a head’s up about these sort of issues before they begin writing the rough draft.
Because the introduction and conclusion should include highlights of the body of the article and touch upon your main supporting points, it’s a good idea to wait until the end to outline them. This is also helpful in writing the article—write the body of it first, then write the introduction and conclusion and edit as necessary.