by Chris Angelopoulos
Outlining is often the last step in creating the structure you need for your essay or project. If you still don’t have a solid idea about the topic you are writing about, now would be a good time to review the article about brainstorming before continuing with outlining. Creating an outline is not something every writer must do for every project, but it can be a big help for many assignments. Whether you are trying to weave a fictional tale, write an essay for a class, or craft your business strategy for the next few years, you can use an outline to make sure all necessary elements are present to successfully communicate your intended point to readers. This technique works with the tendencies of the human brain. We often perform better on tasks when it is possible to break down a complex end goal into smaller bite-sized pieces that are much easier to solve on their own.
Most essay writing follows a fairly rigid structure, as anyone who has ever written one can attest. You have your introduction and thesis, main points that support the thesis, and a strong conclusion that neatly sums up the central idea. It’s very easy to wander off the intended writing trail, and an outline is one of the best ways to keep from doing so. Each section refocuses writing to support the thesis. This helps writers tie all parts together into a coherent whole.
Along with the basic essay structure, there are several ways to organize a writing project. One of the most basic organizational structures is time and event order. Time order is often critical for storytelling and is often the difference between whether or not a reader understands what is happening in the story. Listing events or steps in order is invaluable to anyone writing a news story or a how-to article. The easiest way to accomplish this with Speare is to enter all events, rearrange them in the order they should go, and add content to those parent nodes when filling in the outline with supporting details. In a research paper, often the author is arguing that X factor is influencing Y in a certain direction. When this is the case, it makes sense to talk about X first, and then work towards Y. The last step is to make the connection between the two items. With an outline, it’s easy to make decisions about order ahead of time.
There are many different styles of writing. For a story, an outline would be an informal sketch of the main story points in order. If it is more than a brief tale, there will likely be chapters listed at the beginning of the book. More formal writing, like a technical document, often requires an official outline with sections and subsections so that any important part can be referenced by the organizational scheme of numbers, letters, or roman numerals.
While outlines are often a helpful writing tool, they are not a necessary part of every project. Even if an outline is eventually needed, it is possible to generate one after the content has been created. The main idea to remember is that outlines can be a helpful organizing tool for many writing projects, but should be used to enhance rather than restrict creativity.