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February 1, 2008

Why You Should Write An Outline

    Teachers are always trying to ingrain in you to outline. Outline, outline, outline. Well, though I hate to admit it - your teachers are right. Outlining is the best way to get organized, write a paper that makes sense, and save time.

    Here is a helpful outline example:

I. INTRODUCTION:

    A. THESIS: Outlines are invaluable tools to successfully completing an essay.

        i. A thesis is a premise to your argument. This is what your ENTIRE paper is about, so feel free to spend a lot of time thinking about just the right sentence or couple sentences to use here. Also, if you come up with a good enough one now, you can just copy/paste it into your paper later on when you might be rushed for time.

    TIP: Your Introductory Thesis Paragraph should include all the major points you will talk about later. Think of it as a way of warning your reader what you're about to argue. Don't give them too much - that's what the paper is for. Just whet their appetite. Like any kind of creative writing, the beginning needs to pull your reader in and let them know what they're getting into.

II. 1ST BODY PARAGRAPH:

    A. An Outline Is a Good Way To Get Organized

        i. Provides a visual reference

        ii. Forces research and thoughts to be written and organized linearly before the paper.

    B. "They are useful because they: 1. help the writer organize their thoughts before getting bogged down in word choice and sentence structure" - wikipedia

    TIP: Each Body Paragraph should talk about something different, like points on a map to get to your final destination. This entire Body Paragraph should be about its topic sentence, in this case, An Outline is a Good Way to Get Organized. Jot down quick talking points to guide you later on when you sit down to write (i. and ii. are examples of this). If you have to use quotations in your essay, it's a good idea to jot the appropriate ones here in your Body Paragraph notes for future reference. That way, when you go to write, the quotes you've written down will help guide and structure your paragraph, and you won't have to go digging through piles of notes or books to find them.

III. 2ND BODY PARAGRAPH:

    A. An Outline Helps A Writer Make Sense

IV. 3RD BODY PARAGRAPH:

    A. An Outline Saves You Time

        i. If you've put a lot of effort into your outline, your paper won't take as much time, nor will you find yourself scrambling to tie everything together and make sense; particularly useful if you're a procrastinator.

    TIP: See an outline as a connect-the-dots sort of map. Put the major dots on there, so that when you sit down to write the paper, you just have to fill in the gaps. Almost no matter what, your paper will be linear, organized and well-argued if you start with this basic but detailed outline.

V. CONCLUSION:

    A. This is where you sum up everything you've just talked about. End on a clever note if you want to, but only if it suits the tone of your essay. Most importantly, think of the Conclusion as your last effort to convince whomever's reading your paper that you're right. Now's not the time to bring up new points here. Instead, rephrase and recap. Wrap it up, like a present, neat and tidy and with your own flourish.

    P.S. In April Teen Ink is doing a special College issue, so send us your college essays, personal statements, or college reviews. Tell us about what it was like visiting a certain campus, or about how stressful or inspiring it is to apply to college. You can submit your work by clicking here.

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