Reliable Sources to Help Me Write an Outline for a Paper


There are basically two ways of writing an outline: linear, or non-linear. If you can write your outline in a linear fashion, then just go do it. But if you are like most people you don’t think linearly and you need a little help organizing your thoughts.

First, you need to walk away from your computer.  Print out this article, shut off your computer and follow these directions.


  • - Blank white paper
  • - Pens of varying colors
  • - Sticky notes or 3 x 5 cards

There are two approaches you can take: Old school and new school

The old school method:

  • - Write your thesis statement on a 3 x 5 card.
  • - Write supporting arguments with a different color on 3 x 5 cards.
  • - Write evidence for each argument in a different color on 3 x 5 cards.
  • - Arrange the cards on the floor in logical order.
  • - Write your outline based on the 3 x 5 cards.

The new school method is to create a mind map. There is software for creating mind maps, but save that for another day when you have the time to learn how to use the software and you are not staring down a deadline.

The new school method:

  • - Write your topic in the middle of the paper and draw a circle around it.
  • - Under that, write your argument in a different color, and connect it with a line.
  • - Get another color and start writing all of the reasons that you can think of that support the argument you are making.
  • - Connect all the supporting evidence up to your main argument.
  • - Write out your statements either on 3 x 5 cards or sticky notes.
    • If you use 3 x 5 cards, arrange them on the floor in a logical order and write your outline. If you use the sticky notes, you can arrange them either on a mirror or a window and once they are in logical order, you can go ahead and write your outline.

Whether you go old school or new school doesn’t matter. You have all the information you need in your head to write an effective outline. The trick is simply taking your thoughts out of your head and putting them down on paper in a logical order. Follow these tips and you will do great.

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