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  • Writer's picturePrem Sundaram

The Different Types of Outlining

Outlining is a crucial part of the writing and research process, helping writers organize their ideas and structure their work in a logical and coherent manner. Whether you are a student working on a school project or a researcher writing a paper, creating an outline can be a valuable tool for ensuring that your work is well-organized and clearly presented. An outline can be thought of a writing center or skeleton for your paper or book.

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Writing a paper or essay can be a daunting task, especially if you have a lot of information to organize and present. Outlines can be a helpful tool for breaking down the writing process into manageable steps and for organizing the information you have gathered.

There are several different approaches to outlining that you can use depending on your needs and preferences. Traditional outlines, such as topic and sentence outlines, use a hierarchical structure with Roman numerals and letters to organize ideas by level of importance. This type of format is often used in academic writing and can be especially useful for long or complex papers.

Faculty members and other instructors may require students to use a specific type of outline when writing papers or completing other assignments. It is important to follow any guidelines provided by your instructor and to make sure that your outline is well-organized and clearly presented.

Outlines can also be a helpful tool for writers who are struggling to get started on a paper or who are having trouble organizing their ideas. By breaking down the writing process into smaller, more manageable steps, outlines can help writers overcome writer's block and improve the overall structure and coherence of their work.

It can be very helpful to outline your work, even if you're just beginning. Not only does it allow you to organize your work, but it can also help you get a clearer picture of your plot or paper and the general direction you want to go in.

In this article, we will explore the different types of outlining and how they can be used effectively for various writing and research projects. Outlining is also a powerful technical for high level project planning. At the end we'll also touch on an outliner software app that can be used to create and share outlines.

What is Outlining?

Outlining in the context of writing a novel or book is a method used to organize the story plot, characters and setting. This is a useful tool in many areas of writing, from nonfiction to fiction. An outline allows you to create a logical order and establish an appealing flow.

If you are writing a book, a good outline should include a few key elements, including a topic sentence, a list of scenes, a list of characters, a plot summary, and research notes. You should also leave room for scene purpose questions, which will reveal how you will use your characters and settings in the story.

If you are writing research paper then before you begin writing you should think about the assertion or conclusion you are working towards and structure your thinking and writing in an appropriate way to convey your case. The main objective is to summarize the most important points, citing relevant sources or quotes to back up your claims. You will likely have many sections.

An outline can be formal or informal. Some writers prefer to work free form, while others are better off with a more structured method. Most word-processing applications are equipped with an outlining feature which can also work as bullet points or in number format.

Types of Outline

There are several types of outlines, and each one has its advantages and disadvantages. The outlining process is a valuable pre-writing tool, but a poorly constructed outline can hinder the development of your story, paper or project.

The main goal of an outline is to present the most important elements of your subject. Before you begin outlining you might select different formats that help you organize your thoughts.

Topic outlines

A topic outline is a type of outline that organizes ideas by topic, rather than by order of importance or chronology. It is a useful tool for organizing research and writing projects that cover a wide range of topics. A topic outline allows writers to see the relationships between different ideas and can help them determine what information is relevant and what can be left out, and which are supporting ideas to the main ideas and major points.

Sentence outlines

A sentence outline is a type of outline that consists of full sentences rather than just topic headings. This type of outline allows writers to see the relationships between different ideas more clearly and can be especially useful for longer or more complex projects. A sentence outline also helps writers ensure that their ideas are fully developed and that all of the necessary information is included.

Concept maps

A concept map is a visual representation of the relationships between different ideas or concepts. It is often used in conjunction with other types of outlining to help writers see the connections between different ideas and to identify gaps in their research or writing. Concept maps can be especially useful for projects that involve a large amount of information or that cover a wide range of topics.

Mind maps

A mind map is a visual representation of ideas and concepts that is organized around a central theme or idea. It is often used as a brainstorming tool to help writers generate ideas and to see the connections between different concepts. Mind maps can be especially useful for projects that involve a lot of creative thinking or for writers who prefer a more visual approach to organizing their ideas.

Outlining an Essay or Research Paper

Outlining an essay is a useful prewriting tool that helps writers organize ideas, keep their arguments focused on a single point, and determine the best appeals to make. It is an important step in writing a paper, and many professors will make it mandatory. But when you write an essay, you don't just need to outline; you also need to have a good thesis statement, evidence, and supporting details.

When you outline your essay, you'll want to include the main point, or thesis statement, along with an introduction paragraph and a conclusion. The thesis statement should be a clear and concise statement of your primary argument, or point.

Another reason to include an outline is to help you keep track of what you've written. Having a template will keep your ideas organized, and will make it easy to revise and re-order your ideas.

An outline can also be helpful in making the process of writing an essay less daunting. For instance, it can remind you to make a transition between different points. This can be especially helpful for longer essays.

While outlining an essay, you may want to include subheadings and headings. Headings represent the major ideas, while subheadings provide details that support those ideas. Using an outline can help you create a logical flow from point to point in your essay.

In terms of size, an outline can be anything from five to ten paragraphs. You may also wish to include an introduction, body, and conclusion.

Outlining your Speech

Regardless of what kind of speech you are giving, a good outline can be a valuable tool. It can help you visualize the subject matter of your speech and organize the information you want to discuss. Using an outline can also guide you through the speech.

An outline should contain main points and sub-points. In the final draft, the sub-points should be connected to the main point. The speaker should revise the outline several times before delivering it.

A good presentation outline includes an Opening, Main Content, and Conclusion. This helps you structure your material and provides a sense of overall flow.

Another type of outline is a skeletal outline, which is used to prepare a speech. During the preparation of a speech, a writer should focus on finalizing the purpose of the speech and deciding where supporting material should be placed.

When planning a speech, it is important to determine what is most interesting to the audience. Then, you should research the topic and identify major facets. After you have a list of ideas, write down the key phrases, definitions, stories, or analogies that relate to the topic.

Outlining a Novel or Book

Outlining a novel or book is a crucial part of the writing process. It can be easy to get stuck without an outline. A good outline will help you organize your thoughts before you begin.

An outline can be written on paper or in the form of a visual mind map. Creating an outline is a great way to plan your storyline and character development.

A good book outline should include all of the main points of your story, as well as chapter summaries and character breakdowns. This way, you can see the big picture and sell your book to readers.

As you write, your outline will change. You can cut unimportant points or add new ones. In addition, you can plug in contents or make adjustments to your template. Once you have an outline, you'll have a solid foundation to work from. The outline will help you find gaps in logic or story. It will also help you avoid gaps in your plot.

One of the best ways to do this is to ask yourself questions on the page. You can use similar books as ideas, or you can ask yourself questions about unique angles.

Another great technique is to start by thinking of a premise. This premise is what will hook your potential readers, and it should answer the questions that a potential editor or agent might have.

Outlining a Project

In the realm of planning and scheduling, the project outline is your ticket to success. It allows you to map out your tasks and visualize the distribution of effort. And if you're a project manager, this can help you nudge team members towards their responsibilities. Using a Gantt chart can also help.

Of course, your project may vary in size and scope. Depending on the complexity of the project, it may not make sense to create an elaborate outline if the project is small. Fortunately, there are tools like NoteDex to make the task a breeze. This software makes it easy to outline project phases, stages and tasks right onto notecards, so you can spend less time managing your projects and more time making them happen.

The best part about simple tools like NoteDex is that you can easily add to or remove cards as you go, so you can keep your project plan up to date.


Outlining an essay, book, research paper or project can be a good idea. It allows you to get a clear picture of the ideas you want to include and helps you organize them into a coherent piece.

There are many different types of outlining. Some examples include the editorialization, which uses anecdotes and commentary to make a point. You can also use a call to action, which helps your readers know what to do with what you have written.

When outlining a paper, start with the introduction. The opening paragraph should be a short, eye-catching one that summarizes the topic and gets your reader's attention. Your next step is the body. Each body paragraph should list the key points of your paper. Be sure to include a thesis statement. The conclusion should tie together the ideas in your paper. For instance, you could describe how a research study helped fill a gap in the literature. In the same vein, you could describe how the study helped people understand the importance of the concept.

In a narrative essay, your conclusion should wrap up the story. Make sure to include some lessons learned and takeaways. Also, consider linking the conclusion to the introductory paragraph. This will create a full circle narration for your readers.

Lastly, don't forget to include a call to action in your conclusion. Including a call to action in your conclusion makes your work seem more genuine and gives the reader something to engage in next.

If you are interested in using an app to outline your thoughts try NoteDex - you can create 'index card' style short notecards that allow you to build out and organize your structure and thoughts.


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