How to make an outline
Step 1 - selecting a topic from a writing prompt
Step 2 - brainstorming before making an outline
Step 3 - creating an outline from the brainstorm activity
Step 4 - writing an essay from the outline

examples of formal essay outlines
An outline is the foundation of an essay.
It organizes & shows support for ideas.
It unifies an essay, and illustrates how the writer develops ideas.
A good outline makes writing an essay & effective.
A constructive outline does not tell what a writer will do or learn - it tells what the write already learned, knows, & will support

Let's start from the beginning:


Step 1
Selecting a topic from the writing prompt
see: topic selection
Essay writing starts with a writing prompt (question\suggestion for writing etc) The purpose of a prompt is to get you writing. The topic you chose to write about is not really of much concern. You will be judged (graded) on how well your writing exhibits: Unity, CoherenceDevelopment.
ex: prompt
Write about an activity that you routinely enjoy"
A topic must be selected that responds to this writing prompt. Think about something you have much knowledge about that is suitable for a short essay. It can't be too large, or you will end up just writing abstractions. It can't be too small or there will be nothing to write about.
ex:  topic based on the above prompt
going to the movies


Step 2
Brainstorm before making an outlining

In order to see what we already know or learned about our topic we need to gather ideas.
Think about what makes your topic unique. see: The Writing Process & Prewriting Strategies

going to the movies
Do a preliminary brainstorm. Break this topic into several  components that comprise it.
Getting to the theater - The Theater itself - People in the theater

NEXT - cluster brainstorm about each component - smaller parts of the topic

The theater itself Getting to the theater Annoying patrons
carpets often smell from dripped food,  worn out seats that are not always stable to sit on,  some seats do not have adequate cushion support, small screens for large number of viewers,  noise leaking from next theater, sticky floors that get worse
endless advertisements,  never start on time
bad weather could occur
long waits for tickets
tickets are expensive
limited parking
parking can be a hassle
inexperienced theater personnel
possibility of traffic
bad behavior such as unruly children,  people often get up and down to use the rest room,  noise from chatting, cell phones, people eating

Next:  Create Main Ideas (MI)  based on your Brainstorm - what does all your knowledge tell you about each component.

MI = The theater itself  + is not always comfortable nor attractive
 component of topic  + apov (author's (your) point of view)
MI = Getting to the theater  + presents difficulty
 component of topic  + apov (author's (your) point of view)
MI = Annoying patrons  + are the worst part about going to the theater
  component of topic  + apov (author's (your) point of view)

Next: Create a THESIS (the controlling essay idea)  for your essay based on your Main Ideas - what do all your Main Ideas tell you about your Topic? State what all your Main Ideas tell you in one declarative sentence that encompasses all Main Ideas. Thesis is your message which you arrived at by looking at your Main Ideas

THESIS: Going to the movies + is not very enjoyable
                     Essay Topic                apov

Decide on a coherent order to present your ideas
Ex: For this topic "Order of least to most annoying" seem appropriate.

Fill in support for each Main Idea (you already have it - it is the brainstorm info you gathered)

The outline is now ready to go - writing the essay is now only a matter of Developing your ideas stated on the outline. see: development

Research Outline
 The process is the same when doing research. The difference is that what you outline for a regular essay will come from knowledge, experiences etc that you already have. For a Research Project, what you outline will come from what you learned about your topic from authoritative sources. Once you have thoroughly researched your topic, make the outline the same way as exemplified here.


Step 3
Create a Formal Outline from brainstorm\examples
Step 4
Write the essay from the formal outline

Color Key

       MI (I) Main Idea of a paragraph
         SD (A) development\supporting details
SSD (1)  smaller supporting detai

 Going to the movies is not very enjoyable.

  I. First of all, Just getting to the theater presents difficulties.
    A. bad weather
    B. long drive and l limited parking
    C. long waits to buy thickets

       1. inexperienced ticket sellers don't help

  II The theater itself is not always always comfortable nor  
     A. carpets often smell from dripped food
     B. worn out seats that are not always stable to sit on
1. some seats do not have adequate cushion support
     C. small screens for large number of viewers
     D. Noise leaking from next theater
     E. Sticky floors that get worse
     F. Endless advertisements
     G. never start on time

   III Annoying patrons are the worst part about attending a movie.
     A. bad behavior such as unruly children
     B. people often get up and down to use the rest room
     C. noise from chatting, cell phones, eating





I am a movie fanatic. When friends want to know what picture won the Oscar in 1980 or who played the police chief in Jaws, they ask me. My friends, though, have stopped asking me if I want to go out to the movies because I do not enjoy sticky seats covered in spilled soda, or talking throughout the entire picture, or especially noisy children. If I want to be annoyed for the cost of a small mortgage payment, then its off to the local movie theater. Movies are a great way to escape reality; however, it is not enjoyable to see them at a professional theater. Stay at home to get the most benefit from them. The problems of getting to the theater, the theater itself, and the behavior of some patrons are all reasons why I often wait for a movie to show up on TV or DVD.
see: Introductions


First of all, just getting to the theater presents difficulties. Leaving a home equipped with a TV and a video recorder isn't an attractive idea on a humid, cold, or rainy night. Even if the weather cooperates, there is still a thirty-minute drive to the theater down a congested highway, followed by the hassle of looking for a parking space. And then there are the lines. After hooking to the end of a human chain, a perspective ticket buyer must worry about whether there will be enough tickets, whether seats will be together, and whether many people will sneak into the line going straight to the head.


The theater itself is not always always comfortable nor attractive. The older run-down older theaters are a musty smell of seldom-cleaned carpets. Escaped springs lurk in the faded plush or cracked leather seats, and half the seats seem loose or tilted so that a viewer sits at a strange angle. The newer twin and quad theaters offer their own problems. Sitting in an area only one-quarter the size of a regular theater, moviegoers often have to put up with the sound of the movie next door. This is especially jarring when the other movie involves racing cars or a karate war and you are trying to enjoy a quiet love story. And whether the theater is old or new, it will have floors that seem to be coated with rubber cement. By the end of a movie, shoes almost have to be pried off the floor because they have become sealed to a deadly compound of spilled soda, hardening bubble gum, and crushed Ju-Jubes. God forbid a movie should actually start on time.


Annoying patrons are the worst part about attending a movie. Little kids race up and down the aisles, usually in giggling packs. Teenagers try to impress their friends by talking back to the screen, whistling, and making what they consider to be hilarious noises. Adults act as if they were at home in their own living rooms and comment loudly on the ages of the stars or why movies aren't as good anymore. And people of all ages crinkle candy wrappers, stick gum on their seats, and drop popcorn tubs or cups of crushed ice and soda on the floor. They also cough and burp, squirm endlessly in their seats, file out for repeated trips to the rest rooms or concession stand, and elbow often poke out of the armrest on either side of a seat.


After arriving home from the movies one night, I decided that I was not going to be a moviegoer anymore. I was tired of the problems involved in getting to the movies and dealing with the theater itself and some of the patrons. The next day I arranged to have cable TV service installed in my home. It will probably be cheaper in the long run because there is no parking to pay, criminal cost of popped corn kernels, and no tickets to purchase. I may now see movies a bit later than other people, but I'll be more relaxed watching box office hits in the comfort of my own living room.
see: conclusions


Examples of Formal Essay Outlines

Example 1

THESIS = Topic of Essay + APOV  about this essay topic
             MI (I, II, III)  = topic of the paragraph + APOV about this smaller topic = (it clearly supports the THESIS)
                    SS (A, B, C...) = They clearly support the MI 

Thesis:  Styles of marriage have been redefined in the present time.

I. Traditional Marriages are heterosexual marriages based on a format that has been utilized for a long time.

A.      These marriages are firmly rooted in gender roles.

B.      Some of these gender roles have been challenged over time.

C.       Many people believe this to be outdated.

D.      Traditional marriages still have a place in society.


II. Modern Heterosexual Marriages are similar to that of traditional marriages, but have several important

A.      These marriages focus less on gender roles, and more on equal partnership.

B.      They are the updated form of traditional marriages.

C.       Modern heterosexual marriages are becoming commonplace in today’s society.

D.      They are replacing the historical norm for marriages.


III. Gay Marriages are romantic commitments in which the two people involved are of the same gender.

A.      These marriages operate without a concept of gender roles.

B.      Gay marriage has not been approved as a legal right.

C.       There is opposition in today’s society to this type of marriages.


IV. Convenience Marriages are marriages that exist simply for the benefit of legal rights.

A.      These marriages often lack romantic connection.

B.      Marriage affords a couple privileges in areas such as taxes, decision making, and benefit upon death.

C.       People may seek to have these benefits, and romantic connection is not a prerequisite for marriage.

D.      These marriages are often considered immoral in society.


V. Open Marriages are marriages in which romantic and/or sexual connections with people outside of the
     marriage is expected and allowed.

A.      These marriages can be either heterosexual or homosexual.

B.      Partners will agree to this sort of lifestyle before engaging in activities outside of the marriage.

C.       These marriages are often misunderstood as being marriages without commitment.


Example 2

Note: THESIS = Topic of Essay + APOV  about this essay topic
             MI (I, II, III)  = topic of the paragraph + APOV about this smaller topic = (it clearly supports the THESIS)
                    SS (A, B, C...) = They clearly support the MI

Note: THESIS = Topic of Essay + APOV  about this essay topic
             MI (I, II, III)  = topic of the paragraph + APOV about this smaller topic = (it clearly supports the THESIS)
                    SS (A, B, C...) = They clearly support the M

Thesis - Education is not an option in the current employment market.

I.     Knowledge is beneficial to employment seekers and a big plus towards success.
        A.    Companies want employees to have a complete understanding of the position.
                1. Computer knowledge is necessary for many high level jobs
                2. Discipline specific skills are required for many white collar jobs
        B.     Person becomes more of an asset instead of a burden because less training is necessary.
                1. not having to train a prospective employee is very cost effective
II.     Higher Income are an expected result of higher degrees of learning
        A.  Degreed individuals usually start out in a higher position other than entry level.
        B.  Having a degree, license or certification warrants more money.
             1. degrees also get first preference on job interviews
        C.  Cost of living today is higher than ever and more financial security is needed.
III.    Resumes with educational accomplishments have a competitive edge
        A.  Resumes showing a college degree are viewed more highly than without.
             1. professional job openings are usually given preference to those with advanced college experience
        B.  Socializing and networking is more available through internships
             1. Other benefits are possible to those with knowledge
Example 3

      THESIS = Topic of Essay + APOV  about this essay topic
             MI (I, II, III)  = topic of the paragraph + APOV about this smaller topic = (it clearly supports the THESIS)
                    SS (A, B, C...) = They clearly support the MI

THESIS = Cooking and eating at home provides many benefits not found when dining out.

I.       An effect of cooking and eating at home is the complete control of one’s food

A.       The opportunity to hand pick the most quality ingredients

1.       Health and nutritional effects

B.      Cooking and preparing the food exactly as preferred

C.       Enjoying the experience in the comfort of one’s own home


II.       Economically, cooking and eating at home will save money

A.       Fewer trips out of the house

B.      Groceries and ingredients are much cheaper than dishes served in restaurants

C.       No need to tip wait staff


III.        Another effect of cooking and eating at home is a closeness between family and friends

A.       It is much more personal to cook for someone than to take them out to eat

B.      Family members and friends can teach and learn from each other in the kitchen


Example 4

      THESIS = Topic of Essay + APOV  about this essay topic
             MI (I, II, III)  = topic of the paragraph + APOV about this smaller topic = (it clearly supports the THESIS)
                    SS (A, B, C...) = They clearly support the MI

Thesis: Today’s advertising is ruining our society.

I.    Advertisement images create behavior that is less than desirable.

A.    People want to look like the people being advertised.

B.     Young people see celebrities or a famous person smoking cigars so they pick it up thinking it is cool.

C.     People becoming obese because of the obsessive advertisements of food.

II.    Misleading advertising is common and very detrimental

A.    Infomercials that claim so many good things but none are true.

B.     Reputable companies misleading consumers.

C.     Baiting consumer with price and having no or little items in stock (Think Black Friday).

III.    Consumers are flooded and constantly bothered by vertisements everywhere they go.

A.    Having companies sell consumer information to advertising companies

B.     Receiving spam mail from Mailboxes and email

C.     Having telemarketers call consumers trying to get them to buy something

D.    Riding your car down the street and having people solicit you for donations


Example 5

      THESIS = Topic of Essay + APOV  about this essay topic
             MI (I, II, III)  = topic of the paragraph + APOV about this smaller topic = (it clearly supports the THESIS)
                    SS (A, B, C...) = They clearly support the MI

THESIS: Due to economic uncertainty, married women have become more than stay at home moms.

     I The cost of living is going up.
         A. In particular, the cost of food in New Jersey has gone up.
             1. meat in particular has risen more in the last few years than ever before
             2. The fishing industry has experienced some natural disasters that have made fish costs soar 
         B. The necessities of life have sharply increased
             1. Gas is at an all time high
             2. Housing cost have risen beyond expectations
                 a Rent has tripled
                 b. mortgages are not available to those under the higher income levels
             3. Due to foreign influence on the clothing market,  prices have made the luxury of new clothes not always possible.

    II Men see women as equal.
       A. Women have proven that they can handle situation that men can.
           1. Women are prevalent in the police and fire departments in all major cities
           2. Professional careers such as: lawyers, doctors, and financial experts are not filling with women
       B. Women do not give up easily.
           1. Single female parents are at al all time high
           2. Women are getting degrees at a rate equal to men
       C. Women are not looked down upon.
           1. Females consistently run for and achieve political office
           2. There ar more female authors and counselors than ever before

    III Families are in need of role models for daughters.
       A. Women are generally seen as role models
           1. Young girls need models to learn form.
       B. Working moms show daughters teamwork.