The Amazing Outline

 

Outlines are like the Skeleton of your Essay!

Outlines are like the Skeleton of your Essay!

Maybe you’re in the middle of your semester finals, or maybe you’re just starting to work on those final papers for the semester. Either way, it’s that time of year when all of the information that you’ve been jamming in your head for months needs to get organized and come out as a beautifully crafted and sometimes terribly long paper. So where to begin…

For me, outlining is one of the most underrated steps in writing. An outline is like a skeleton of your essay. Before you go to write full sentences, you can plan the general ideas and what evidence you will use in each paragraph. Then when you sit down to write your first draft, all you will need to do is fill in the extra words that connect your thoughts and make your essay more fluent than a list. In high school, I NEVER made outlines and I was ok. Then, I got to university and did terribly on my first paper. My teacher told me to go back, make an outline and pay attention to whether everything was connected to my thesis. My grades went WAY UP and I was sold as an outliner forevermore.

It’s easy to jump ahead to the first draft writing stage based on the following arguments:

  • I’ve already thought about what I want to say
  • I’ve been organizing my notes already all semester long
  • I don’t have time

If you are thinking any of these things right now, take a moment to reconsider. Making an outline is a great way to organize your thoughts on paper and make the actual writing process WAY easier later on.

Outlines can be as simple or as complex as you want them to be. Also, there are many different formats you can use. Really, it doesn’t matter as long as you are feeling organized. Each line in your outline typically stands for a sentence or source used in your paragraph. You can have as many supporting detail sentences or “evidence” as you need to support your topic sentence and ultimately your thesis!  Here are some different options for your body paragraphs (Notice the Paragraph Sandwiches 🙂 ):

The numbers and letters format:

image1

Or you can use the Roman numerals format:

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Or if that’s really just too fancy, you can always just use bullet points/dashes:

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The more you write in your outline, the less you will have to write when you go to write your final draft. So, if you actually write out your thesis and topic sentences in your outline, all you have to do is plug them in and then expand on them when you write your essay. Even if you don’t do this though, just jotting down the notes you will use in each paragraph will make your thoughts come across clearer when you actually go to write out your paper. Here’s an outlined paragraph of the example we looked at of a Paragraph Sandwich in the previous post!

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Here’s a final skeleton you can use when you go to write your paper. Just copy, plug in your information, organize and then start drafting. Happy writing!

P1: Introduction

  • Hook/Opening Sentence
    • Support/Evidence
    • Support
    • Support
  • Thesis!!

P2: Body Paragraph Topic 1*

  • Topic Sentence
    • Support**
    • Support
    • Support
  • Concluding Sentence

P3: Body Paragraph Topic 2

  • Topic Sentence
    • Support
    • Support
    • Support
  • Concluding Sentence

P4: Conclusion

  • Restatement of Thesis
    • Support
    • Support
    • Support
  • General concluding sentence

*You can have as many body paragraphs as you would like.

**You can have as much support or amounts of evidence as you need.

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The Paragraph Sandwich

For many years, writers have broken down their ideas into paragraphs, or sections of an essay that help the reader (and writer) to keep the thoughts of the essay organized. However, a paragraph is not just an arbitrary stopping and starting of thoughts. A good, clear, and crisp paragraph is carefully constructed so that the flow of ideas is easy to follow. To remember this careful construction, we can use the idea of a “sandwich.”

Now, a sandwich is typically something to eat that involves 2 pieces of the same bread, with some meat/cheese/vegetables/really anything in the middle. The 2 pieces of bread add structure, while the insides support the sandwich and give it “meat” or substance. See diagram of a sandwich…

Now see a diagram of a sandwich with information about writing a paragraph! Voila!

Let’s break it down:

Topic Sentence (Top Bread): The mini thesis statement or main idea of your paragraph. Your topic sentence should always tie in with your main thesis of your ENTIRE essay, however this first sentence of your paragraph tells what the topic of you paragraph will be. If the paragraph is in the middle of the essay, this sentence is also good for transitioning from your ideas from the paragraph before.

Supporting Details (Sandwich Insides): The ideas and examples that prove your topic sentence to be true. You can use however many supporting details as you feel necessary—just like you can add however many yummy ingredients to the inside of your sandwich.

Concluding Sentence (Bottom Bread): The final sentence that ties your supporting details to your topic sentence, and ultimately your thesis statement. You couldn’t have a sandwich without the bottom slice of bread otherwise it would fall apart! Sometimes this sentence feels a bit redundant, but it shows the completion of your ideas for the paragraph and signals to your reader that you are about to start on a new path (paragraph) that will support your main thesis.

Example

Now, let’s look at an example paragraph structure:

 Topic Sentence: Going to a concert is one of the most exciting ways to listen to music.

Supporting Detail #1: The energy of a live performance enhances the quality of the music that you ordinarily hear through a recording.

Supporting Detail #2: Beyond the music, performers also often include lighting and video effects to create a larger experience for the audience.

Supporting Detail #3: In addition to the performance itself, the ability to enjoy the music with other fans creates a strong bonding atmosphere in the audience.

Supporting Detail #4: Therefore audience-members are absorbed into the world of the concert and can concentrate entirely on the music.

Conclusion: Concerts provide a unique and unifying way to listen to music that goes beyond listening to the works of an artist in isolation.

***See how the underlined words are all contributing to the main idea of the topic sentence***

The Bigger Picture

Look at this example paragraph, what might be the thesis statement for this example essay?

Maybe something like this…

  • In the 21st century, live performances are increasingly popular as a way to enjoy music within fast-paced modern society.

Or this…

  • Music is more highly appreciated and remembered when it is tied to a tangible memory.

Really, this paragraph could fit into the larger puzzle of many different essays. The most important thing is that it can stand-alone as one complete thought process and most importantly, one complete sandwich 🙂 Are you hungry yet?

Happy writing!

**All images from Google Images**