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Unformatted text preview: l CHAPTER 13 “a OUTLINING l A CARRIE HANNIGAN i} ll Outlining is a way of organizing ideas and research for essays and other complex documents. Students who are eager to get to the writ- ... ing part of the assignment often overlook this tool. Furthermore, you "i" might have recollections of creating outlines back in high school and u— how it felt like torture when teachers insisted on specific formats and “1‘ . outcomes. As a college student, you are typically allowed more free- I- dom in the creation and use of your outline, so try to shed any pre- existing notions and anxieties about outlines. Ultimately, creating an outline saves you time in the overall writing process, which is a benefit no student can ignore. THE BENEFITS OF CREATING AN OUTLINE a, The primary benefit oftaking time to create an outline is that it gives you the chance to figure out the whole organization ofthe essay’s potential ‘.. content. Students often have many ideas swirling in their heads, and an outline compels the student to logically note each idea in the appro- priate order to best serve the topic and reader (see Chapter 14, Essay _ Development, pp. 159-204, to learn more about essay organization options). Jumping right into the essay-writing process and writing ideas 1- as they pop into your head might not give the essay a logical or smooth «I flow. Listing these ideas early on in the writing process allows inherent ' _. connections to surface and be represented in the essay. --' Creating an outline puts the essay content into a format that you can easily scan and interpret duringthe writing process. You can quickly 143 a. a .I III-IIIIII_IIIIIIII 1M RESEARCHING, OUTLINING, AND CRAFTING YOUR ESSAY look at the completed outline and see where more content might be needed, or where a point is overemphasized or off topic. Furthermore, when research is required for the essay. the outline reveals where you intend to insert evidence from sources; looking over the outline quickly reveals which paragraphs will have research and which paragraphs still need information from sources. The outline serves as avisual road map of the content. Looking at it not only gives a sense of where you are going. but also how long it mighttake to get to the end. Although professors might have requirements for the assigned essay, the work involved to achieve those requirements might not be clear at the onset ofthe writing process. You might know that you have five pages to write and need to include research, but you might not know how much work is needed to actually write a complete essay. An outline can help give students a sense of what it might take to reach that goal. For example. the outline reveals that you‘ll need six paragraphs. beyond the introduction and conclusion paragraphs. to adequately make your argument and provide all relevant research. Actual writing time will vary based on writing style and the amount of research needed. but the outiine should reveal the complexities of the writing and help you estimate a timeline for completion ofthe essay. No matter your writing style, writer's block is an issue most stu— dents encounter at some point in the process. Without an outline, when you write yourself into a corner. it might not be immediately clear where the essay needs to go next. With an outline already writ‘ ten. you can refer to the outline to get back on track. A detailed out- line is ideal for curing writer's block. but essentially the outline format should appeal to your own writing style and needs. HOW TO FORMAT AN OUTLINE Unless the outline‘s format is Specifically dictated by an assignment's requirements, your outline can take on a variety offorms, from formal to an informal list. The obiective oforganizingyour ideas and research is typically more important than the actual format ofthe outline; most DUTLINING importantly, the outline should be easy for you to go back to and review duringthe writing process. Although not initially intuitive to write, a formal outline is a com- prehensive means to organize main and subtopics for the essay. A for- mal outline uses Roman numerals for the main-level topics (e.g.. I. II. III). The second-level topics use uppercase letters (e.g.. A, B. C); the third-level topics use Arabic numbers (e.g.. 1. 2, 3}; the fourth-level topics use lowercase letters le.g.. a. b. c): and, if necessary, the fifth- leve! topics use lowercase Roman numerals (e.g.. i, ii, iii). See Table 13.1 for a list of the first 10 Roman numerals. To help make the outline easierto follow. each level should be indented five spaces beyond the previous level. The example at the end of this chapter (p. 153) uses a formal outline format, although it does not reach the final level of lowercase Roman numerals. Table 13.1 ROMAN NUMERALS. 1-10 ARABIC RD M AN 1 I 2 fl 3 I” 4 l' V 5 V 6 Vi 7 WI 8 VIII 9 1X 1 0 X Ht! 146 RESEARCHING, OUTLINING, AND CRAFTING VOUR ESSAY You can achieve formal outline formatting by using a multilevel list in Microsoftm Word. Several options are available, so choose the format that follows the numbering system noted previously. In Microsoft® Word 2007, you can use the button with leveled numbers in the Paragraph section on the Home tab; in Microsoft® Word 2003, you can access the outlining numbering system using the Bullets and Numbering command. found on the Format menu. Beyond the numbering system itself, there is another rule dictated by the use of a formal outlining format: “Where there is an A, there needs to he a El; likewise. where there is a one, there needs to be a two." This means that when dividing the information into sections, try not to break the information down so far that there is only one subtopic. For example, if under Roman numeral N there is an A, then there should also be a B; ifthere is only an A, consider elaborating on that subtopic to make sure it is covered with enough depth, or revise Roman numeral Il’s text to accurately reflect the Content of a single topic (i.e.. no sobtopic is needed). Unless required bythe assignment, try not to get too caught up in the accuracy of the numbering and level- ing as long as the information is logical to you as the writer. Ifa formal outline seems too overwhelming or doesn't match your writing style, you can instead rely on an informal outline. which serves to simply list the potential content in the essay. In an informal outline. you can use standard numbers for each paragraph, with a briefnota- tion as to what will be included in the paragraph; you can then use bullets for any subtopics in the paragraph, It is most important for an outline, whetherfmmai and informal. to clearly and accurately reflect all the information needed to create an effective essay. DECIDING OUTLINE CONTENT A5 tor what to actually write in each level of the outline, you should first decide how much information you need to remember what you intend to write in the essay. Typically, it is best to use complete sen- DHTLINING tences, or at least long phrases. for each level in the outline: using one or two words per entry might not be enough information to help you organize the essay overall or readily recall what you intended to write in the paragraphs, Writers generally benefit from the use of both short and long phrases in an outline; you can also include exact quotes and paraphrases from your sources, though be sure to note the source information so you can cite it accurately in the essay. The outline should speak to the content for each paragraph in the essay by listingthe paragraph’s main topic and subtopics or support- ing information, More specifically, this process includes listing each paragraph’s potential: Focus (i.e., topic sentence) Support from research (when needed) Examplesfillustrations Explanations of ideas and key words or concepts Analysis of research or example/itlustration Your opinion or perSonal insights (if appropriate forthe assignment) 0 Conclusions or transitiunfconnecliun to the next topic Based on the preceding list, each section in the outline will likely consist of three to four subtopics, which correlates with the upper- case-letter level of the outline format: further subtopics or tevels below the first subtopic level can be added to be sure the essay has depth and breadth in each paragraph. Subtopics below the first sub» topic level might include the following: o Specific quotes, summaries, and paraphrases from sources - Details about a relevant example a Path of logic for analysis and conclusions 147 *1 1103 RESEAREHING. OUILINLNG. AND ERAFTIIIG YOUR ESSAY Unless you are creating an outline for an assignment that calls for a specific format, you can also add notes to yourself beyond the previously mentioned subtopics. For example, you can note research questions to remind yourself to look for more sources to prove your conclusion on a subtopic. Because an outline's goal is to help guide you through your writing process. the content of the outline is depen- dent on yourwriting needs. It is importantto remember that strict formal outlines dictate that the content of each level in the outline is parallel. To make the con- tent of each level parallel, the words in the phrasei‘sentence ofeach level should be grammatically alike; for example, each level should be written in the same verb tense. Although a parallel structure makes the outline easier to read overall. you can abandon this structure if it interferes with the clarity ofthe information you plan to include in the essay—especially if it is not a required part of an assignment. Keep in mind that the outline is a gathering of potential ideas; therefore. the content is flexible and can change as you develop your essay. Ideally. the outline is your best estimate of the information to be included because writing with an outline constantly in flux is like trying to hit a moving target. With that said, don't feel adamantly tied to the content of the outline so that the essay seems forced or under- developed; you’ll have the opportunity to verify the organization and content of the essay by way of a postdraft outline after the first draft is complete. The process for creating a postdraft outline is discussed later in this chapter (p. 150). THE PROCESS OF CREATING AN OUTLINE The process of creating an initial outline really depends on yourwriting style; some students need to follow each step in the process to produce a useful outline, whereas students more comfortable with the overall writing process can skip steps when creating an outline. lfyou are new to the outline process. you might want to follow each step. and then with experience you can determine which steps you can skip in the o o n‘n'wt't'l." f‘f‘f‘flflf‘l‘l‘flflll ———n . U‘U w—r Ingot"""" EU 00 i ‘— DUTLINiNG future. Before beginning tire process, it is ideal to have at least a work- ing thesis statement and some research on the topic. Typically. by this point, you have already completed other brainstorming techniques in an effort to create the thesis statement. research questions, and a list of relevant sources (see Chapter 12. Basic Citation Guidelines. pp. 12% 142, and Chapter 14. Essay Development, pp. 159—2oa). The following steps outline a suggested process for creating an outline: 1. Create an informal list oftopics to be covered in the essay. 3. This list can be a list of words or short phrases which wiil be refined duringthe creation of the full outline. b. Try not to list subtopics at this point. 1:. Most short essays have at least three to five main topics, plus the introduction and conclusion paragraphs. d. Here is a sample topic list for an essay on video games in classrooms: NV school. making learningfun, visual learning. counterargumentagainst games. future success ofchildren. 2. Take the topics from the informal list and use those as main topics (i.e.. Roman numeral level). a. Rewrite the phrases from the informal list to be more com— plate. so that the main topic is easily understood (even when read a week ortwo later). b. You might need to add more topics or combine like topics as you developthe outline. 3. Analyze each main topic, determining what information needs to be presented. a. At this point. start developingthe subtopics for each main topic. b. Subtopics may include examples, Iogicfarguments. details! descriptions, and definitions of key terms. to. Sort your sources and research to see which topicslsubtopics lheyfall under. a. As you decide what research to use. put the information into the outline as subtopics. 150 RESEAREHINE, OUTLINING. AND CRAFTING YOUR ESSAY b. Be sure to note the source ofthe information in your outline so you can easily cite the information in the essay. 5. Reviewthe outline. looking for logical ordering ofthe topics. a. Organization options include chronological, building on the previous point, least important to most important, or argument/counterargument. b. Consider adding transitional words or phrases as subtopics in each section to realize the overall flow of the essay. 6. Rely on the outlinewhile writing the essay. a. If new ideas develop during the writing process, try keep- ing track ofthose ideas in a separate document, and then add them after the initial draft is complete, ifthey are still relevant. h. Ifyou encounter writer’s block, refer to the outline to help initiate the writing process with your original ideas. c. Using an outline allows you to write paragraphs out of sequence. such as when research or ideas become available, and then piece the paragraphs together in the order dictated by the outline. Although you can continue to use and revise the original outline throughout the writing process, after writing the essay, you can go back and write a second outline to map the content actually seen in the draft. USING THE POSTDRAFT OUTLINE Once the first draft of an essay is compiete, many conscientious writ- ers use an informal postdraft outline to reveal possible problemswith the logical structure and content of the essay. The postdraft outline briefly lists the focus of each paragraph in the draft. As you will see in this section, to construct this type of outline, you will carefully read each paragraph in your essay and briefly describe the focus or main point of each paragraph using iust one sentence. Similar to the con- 11030 OflTLINIMG tent of the formal or informal outline, your description of the para graph should capture the overall focus or main point. It is crucial to write the sentence based on the actual content of the paragraph, as opposed to what you thinkthe paragraph should be covering, Here’s how to get started. Beginning with your introduction, if it is one paragraph long, it will be represented by the number 1 on the sheet of paper. Because the introduction establishes the thesis, its “point” will be the thesis. so you write the thesis after the number 1. Isolating the paragraph allows you to consider the placement of the thesis in that paragraph as well as the clarity of the thesis itself. Continuing on to the body paragraphs of the essay. if your paper does not make use of topic sentences, you need to read the paragraph as carefully and as objectively as possible to determine its point. Try to put yourselfin your audience’s shoes and do not read into a para- graph what is not there—that is, let the actual content suggest a point. Try to write the point in one complete, declarative sentence. If, how— ever, after reading the paragraph and thinking about the needs ofyour audience, you determine the point of the paragraph is not clear, so be it—you have learned something valuable that you can address in revision, After listing each paragraph's focus, go back and analyze this fist in make sure the essay is well organized and covers all the necessary information to support your thesis. Although you can simply compare the postdraft outline with the original outline. it is important to further analyze the postdraft outline forother issues beyond missing content. During analysis, consider the following questions. issues, and pos— sible solutions: 0 Does the paragraph cover several topics. rather than iust one main topic? This is Often a difficult question to answer, especially because every paragraph covers a main topic by way of presenting several subtopics. lust be sure that the topic covered in the 151 FTIMG VDLIR ESSAY 152 RESEARCNING, OUTLINING, AND CRA Olin-lam paragraph doesn't go offon separate tangents; tangents should be removed and developed into separate paragraphs if they are relevant and support the thesis statement. 0 Does the information appear in a logical order? Although you may be familiar with the topic as a whole, rememberthat the reader might be new to the topic; there- fore, it is important to reveal information in a comprehensible way that gives the reader necessary insights to understand the essay‘s argument, reflection, or description. Also, con- sider the organization method (e.g., chronological) that you set out to use in the essay. o Does each paragraph flow from one idea to the next? You might not have specifically noted transitions in your post- draft outline, but upon review ofthe essay, you might find that there are no clear connections between ideas. You can use the postdraft outline to see where these connections can be drawn by way of inserting transitions at the end or begin- ning of paragraphs. - Are there gaps in information, where the paragraph or argu- ment seems Incomplete? Small or underdeveloped paragraphs will need further research andlor explanation; the postdraft outline often reveals this need byway of a short, descriptive sentence about the paragraph. I Is the focus of the paragraph directly related to the thesis statement? While writing and researching, you will likely develop interest- ing information, but not all ofthat information will directly tie to your thesis statement. lithe postdraft outline reveals extraneous paragraphs, remove the paragraphs or alter the thesis statement ifthe information is important enough to keep in the essay. The goal ofthe postdraft outline is to help you step backfrom your writing and evaluate it objectively by seeing it in its entirety. lust as a predraft outline serves as a map, telling you where to turn next, the postdraft outline is like seeing the entire journey marked on a map. From here, you can evaluate which turn worked and which took you away from your goal. Again, try not to get caught up in the formatting ofthis type of outline; create it to meet your needs as a writer, but be sure to be accurate when writing the focus of each paragraph. W 'l'l't 1 EXAMPLES This section contains three outline examples followed by an expla- nation ol‘ the strengths andfur weaknesses of each. The examples should serve as guidelines rather than templates because your topic and contentwill likely dictate different formats and outcomes. Every example is based on creating a persuasive three—page essay arguing for the inclusion of video games in public, grade school classrooms. 0000100000 d-i-l arose Example 1: Formal Outline, Detailed 1. introduce the concept ofusing video games in grade school classrooms. A. [Quote from Times article} “67% ofchiidren from the ages of four to ten spend 3.5 hours playing video games" (Smith, 2009, p3). [Direct quote from source] B. Children typically get excited about learning when the educa- tion is in the form ofa game. J‘... 4L? C. Being comfortable with technology is important to children’s future success. D. THESIS STATEMENT: Public schools should adopt the use of video games in every grade school classroom to pique chil- dren's interest, help them to be comfortable with technology, and teach them problem-solving techniques. 5! ti m it in t: a! 3: “(HELP 15D RESEARCHING, 0UTL|NING.AND CRAFTING YOUR ESSAY ll. Provide an example ofa school with the entire curriculum based on video games. A. in New York City, there is a schoolwhere every class is b...
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