Oftentimes students will have to turn an outline in with a paper, and if they’re anything like I was in college, they’ll do it last. This has its benefits, as you can go through the key points of your paper and just put them into outline format. Still, the accepted approach to most academic writing projects, or even a simple email that you want to get just right, is to make an outline first.
So what are some things you can do to make a great outline, either before or after your paper? Start by listing your key points, and then expand them further. When you’ve done that you’ll find that you have a great basis for a paper, and you might just want to skip the outline until the very end.
Start by listing all of the main ideas of your subject. Let’s say you’re talking about fur trapping. You could make this simple outline that has a lot of key points, even if you don’t know what all of the specifics about them are yet.
- Start of fur trade;
- Places that fur trade happened;
- Companies that conducted the fur trade;
- Famous fur trappers;
- Effect of fur trade on animals and environment;
- Fashions of fur trade;
- End of fur trade.
These will be your key points and they’ll get you through the rest of your outlining process.
Try expanding your outline to look like this:
- Start of fur trade: The fur trade began when the first Europeans arrived in America in the early 17th century.
- Places that fur trade happened: The fur trade happened mainly in Canada, but expanded into the Rocky Mountains and Pacific Northwest in the 18th and 19th centuries.
- Companies that conducted the fur trade: There were many companies that operated during the fur trade, including the Hudson’s Bay Company and the Northwest Company.
- Famous fur trappers: Some famous fur trappers and company founders were David Thompson and Jim Bridger.
- Effect of fur trade on animals and environment: Many times during the fur trade the animals that provided the furs, such as the beaver, suffered major declines in population, and this hurt the trade.
- Fashions of fur trade: People in Europe loved fur hats, and wore them all the time.
- End of fur trade: But people eventually got tired of the fur hats, and switched to silk hats around 1850.
But what about a thesis statement, some people may ask? Well, when you’ve finished your paper, read through it a couple of times and figure out what it’s about. Make your thesis statement from the overriding theme you pick up. Adapt it, or your paper, as necessary, and just like that, you’re finished with another academic piece of writing, and hopefully, an outline as well.
Read More About Outlines
Three Great Sites for Outline Formats