Instructions for Outline + Examples

There are many ways to outline a paper. Some are formal and highly structured, and some are very loose, and most are inbetween! An outline can be mostly or entirely textual, or it can include visual elements. An outline can be a graphic organizer for essay writing that you find online and fill in like this, this, or this.

You may have never written an outline before, or not really know what to do for this assignment, so I’ve compiled some examples for you. These are only SOME of the ways you can outline.

An outline might not make sense to someone else who is reading it, because it’s notes the writer is leaving their future selves to help with the drafting process. As long as it makes sense to you, that’s what matters.


I will just be grading your outline on completion (did you do it) and detail (did you actually put time and effort into this based on your research so far), not on any specific form or formatting. You should make an outline that will helpĀ YOU write your paper.

Outlines will be graded out of 6 points. 2 for doing it, 2 for level of detail, 2 free points that would have been for turning it in on time, except there’s a pandemic so whatever.

Example Outlines from Person 1

Okay, I’m Person 1, and these are some of my outlines from my sophomore year of college.

Outline 1: Witchcraft Outline
I like this one because of the color-coding. I wrote the main ideas/section headers in black, all of the things I wanted to talk about in that section in blue, and the names of the authors I wanted to cite in red. I also wrote out my thesis in full at the top to always remind me of what I was trying to argue. It helped keep me focused.

Outline 2: Amanda Palmer Project Outline
In this one, I didn’t use color coding, just loose nests of bullets and main ideas. However, you can tell when I copy/pasted a quote from a source, because the font and coloring is different. I did this to remind myself of what quotes/examples I wanted to use as evidence in each section.

Example Outlines from Person 2

These are from a colleague of mine, also from her early years of college. Notice that she uses a much more formalized structure of headings and subheadings (numbers, capital letters, roman numerals, lowercase letters, etc.) than I do. In one case, she wrote her entire introduction as part of the outline.

Islam outline

ps35, paper1 outline

Example Outline from Person 3

This person uses the standard structure of a scientific paper (Intro/Methods/Results/Discussion) but then added sublevels of bullets to her outline based on her specific topic. (This was for an advanced research course where psychology majors had to design and conduct their own studies.)

APA Study Outline

Once she had her outline, she wrote her paragraphs in the same document underneath each subheading. By the end, she had almost an entire paper and just had to paste the paragraphs into another document and add transitions/formatting.

Same outline with paragraphs: Copy of Outline

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