29 Create an Outline

Using an outline will help you organize your information and present your ideas clearly.

Step 1:  Create a thesis statement

When writing an essay or research paper, begin by writing a draft thesis statement.  A thesis statement is the main argument/idea that you will develop in your paper. You can revise this later if needed.

Step 2: Identify the main ideas that relate to your thesis statement

Based on the readings and research you’ve already done, list the main points you’ll be discussing in your assignment. Put your ideas in the most logical order and think about how each idea supports your thesis/main topic. These main ideas will become the topic sentences for each body paragraph.

Step 3: Identify the supporting points and evidence for each major idea

Each main point will need supporting ideas, details, and evidence that you’ve collected from other sources. Remember, each piece of information or idea must be cited whether you’ve quoted directly, paraphrased, or summarized the information. the APA citation style is used most often at NSCC. The APA Citation Style Guide will help you get started with examples of how to cite different types of sources, create a reference page and format your paper.

Step 4: Create your outline

Outlines are used to help identify your main ideas and supporting ideas.  In the example below, main ideas are numbered, while the supporting ideas are indented and labelled with letters.  Each level of supporting detail is indented further.

Research paper outline highlighting the thesis statement, main points that relate to thesis, and supporting points for major ideas.

Try it!

Create an outline for a paper or assignment for 1 of your courses.

  1. Write a thesis statement that clearly presents the argument that you’ll make.
  2. Write topic sentences for each body paragraph.
  3. Use a multi-level outline, similar to the one in the example above, to create an outline before you begin writing.

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