Step 3: Organizing with Outlines

After you have finished your research and before you draft or design your project you need to organize your research and other ideas. Typically at this stage you outline your paper.

First review Technical Writing chapter 7 “Outlines.”  Then begin to organize your research and other ideas. As you learned in chapter 7 begin with the big ideas and then work towards making a more detailed outline. We recommend that you write a detailed enough outline that you list the topic of every paragraph you plan on writing in your paper. Any quotations or sources that you plan on using should also included in your outline to make it easier to draft your document.

If you are unsure what structure your outline should take, then think about what format your paper should be in. You could look at Technical Writing chapter 10 “Technical Reports” to see the basic format. Or if you are writing in the sciences you can look through the chapter, “Introduction to writing in the sciences” included in this textbook to learn the IMRaD format.

If you are designing a document such as a website or a video an outline still is useful. If you have a website you will want to make a preliminary sketch of the layout and consider where you will place the content. If you are making a video then you will want to sketch out a storyboard showing the sequence of shots, accompanying dialogue, etc. so that you are prepared to make the video. Organizing your information and planning out your document is an important and time-saving step in writing or designing.

For further information on outlines see Purdue OWL “How to Outline.” Also explore the topics related to outlining on the left hand menu of Purdue OWL.


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