How To Write an Outline

An outline serves as a map for a presentation or paper, summarizing subjects and subtopics. Learn how to write a well-written outline that’s concise and easy to follow


  • Step 1: Expand a subsection with tertiary points. Indent and identify tertiary points with a number followed a period.
  • Step 2: End your outline with a conclusion that restates your thesis.
  • FACT: Did you know? Roman numerals were commonly used in Ancient Rome and Europe until about 900 B.C.E., when they were replaced by modern Arabic numerals.
  • Step 3: Indent under a main point to create a subsection. Indicate each subsection with a capital letter followed by a period.
  • TIP: Many word processing programs offer outline templates. Plug your information into the corresponding line and delete or rearrange as needed.
  • TIP: Outlines are presented in either topic or sentence format. Headings are single words or brief phrases in a topic outline and as complete sentences in a sentence outline.
  • Step 4: Draft a thesis statement, which presents the paper's central idea. Write your thesis statement as a complete sentence, expressing your point of view on the subject.
  • Step 5: Organize the body of your outline chronologically, writing your main points, and leaving enough space between points for subsections. Denote each main idea with a Roman numeral followed by a period.
  • Step 6: Decide on the topic to be detailed in your outline. Research information to include in your points.

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