Many students don't believe in outlining. They feel that it's a tedious, time consuming step in the writing process that simply isn't necessary, that it's "busy work" that actually hinders their creative process. Not true.
Outlining is an essential part of the writing process, particularly so when writing papers that require research. Outlining gives you a plan of attack, a map to follow as you proceed from your introduction all the way to your conclusion. By using an outline, you can evaluate the logic of your argument, the relevance of your facts, opinions, and examples, and the effectiveness of your paragraph organization.
Being able to refer to your trial outline after completing your first draft allows you to see whether you've been true to your purpose--whether you've stuck to your original game plan. If you haven't, you can then examine why. If your ideas in the draft don't follow the same logical sequence you planned in your outline, then you need to either rearrange them so that they do or re-evaluate the outline itself.
As with the note card method of note taking, I strongly recommend using an outline.
Sample Outline from Comp 101 Student
Now That is Funny
Thesis: The definition of funny
has changed significantly over the last
I. The basic concept of funny hasn't changed.
A. Explain the definition of funny.
B. Funny is causing laughter or amusement.
C. Funny is anything intended or designed to amuse.
II. However, how we get to that level
of amusement seems to
A. I Love Lucy is a popular comedy from the 1950's.
B. The Mary Tyler Moore Show is a popular comedy from
C. South Park is a popular cartoon currently on the air.
D. Ally McBeal is one of TV's leading comedies.
E. Friends is one of TV's leading comedies.
III. Stand-up comedy has put a new
twist into the comic
A. Sinbad has a clear cut, non-offensive approach, but he
B. Chris Rock (conversely) is one of the most controversial
IV. Many of the leading Hollywood
comedies use shock
A. There's Something About Mary is a perfect example
B. Pulp Fiction did so as well but perhaps in an
V. Many movies, shows, and comedians use stereotypes.
A. Racial stereotypes are commonly played off, both in satirical
B. Gender stereotypes follow the same pattern: sometimes
C. The same is true for homosexual/lesbian stereotypes (Ellen).
VI. I conducted interviews with college
students asking them
A. Most frequent answer given was "I can
B. Second most frequent answer was "because they say
VII. The entertainment industry has
recently been targeting
A. I'll cite two recent viewing/demographic studies.
B. A 1998 study indicates target viewing ages for the
C. A 1999 study (different source) supports the 1998 findings.
VIII. Conclusion: Our generations
conception of what "funny" is has reached a level of sophistication that
depends heavily on satire, irony, and black comedy. In many ways, one could
argue that it's more sophisticated than those of the past. However, it
may be more dangerous too because not everyone appreciates nor understands
satirical humor--especially very young and very old audience--and the consequences
of misinterpreting this type of humor can actually reinforce negative stereotypes
and cruel, non-empathetic behavior.
On a more positive note, if the student's rough draft follows the organization of this outline, the student would be doing pretty well. It's a fairly solid game plan. And the outline allows us to see the plan's strengths and weaknesses more clearly and efficiently than a quick reading of the essay might.