When the blinking cursor and blank page mock you, when your paragraphs are a mess, when your thesis seems to have gone on vacation, when your paper is woefully long or frightfully short, what do you do? OUTLINE!
“Nah,” you say. “I hate outlines, because the rules don’t work for me/I don’t like lists/outlines are boring/I don’t need to outline/outlines don’t help me . . .”
Maybe you were taught a specific way to do outlines, and you don’t feel that they help you at all. We’ll let you in on a not-so-secret-secret: outlines have no rules! Just like the free-for-all step of brainstorming, you can outline however you want. Since neither brainstorming nor outlines are presented with the finished product, the way you do them is only restricted by personal taste and use. Outlines are extremely useful and can help you organize all of your thoughts before you spend hours struggling with full sentences and paragraphs. With outlines, you can quickly see how your core ideas flow into one another and how you can make the best argument. Outlines are the ultimate organizational tool for writing anything from creative pieces to research papers and argumentative essays.
So how do you outline? A good way to start is to think about how you learn best. Do you like to do everything digitally? Do you like to write long sentences, or jot down ideas shorthand? Do you prefer to know all the details beforehand, or make it up as you go along? Are you a visual learner, or auditory processor? Outline however works best for you! Use unconventional materials like sticky notes, index cards, or draw pictures and diagrams. Make lists on napkins, or write out detailed ideas on your computer. Whatever floats your boat and sails your goat, do it! Continue reading “Why write an outline? Why not!”