The Importance of Writing an Outline

If you are a confident enough writer or simply looking for a way to shorten the writing process, you may find yourself skipping the step of writing an outline for your paper and going right into the first draft; however, outlines are an important step in the writing process that should not be breezed over. They can help you to brainstorm and lay out your ideas in such an organized way that, when it comes to writing the actual paper, the job will be much easier.

Just last week, a student came into the MTMC looking to put together her first draft of a Global Issues essay. We sat down with a blank piece of paper, and she started to think of the perfect sentence to begin her introduction paragraph.

“Do you want to write an outline first?” I asked her.

“No, I don’t normally do those. They seem like a waste of time,” she replied.

Instead of pushing the idea of the outline, I asked her to explain to me how she would like to organize her paper. She explained that first she would write the introduction, then a paragraph about environment, next a paragraph about population, followed by a paragraph about sustainability, and then a conclusion. All the while, I wrote down these sections labeled with roman numerals. I handed the paper to her. It was a very simple outline for her paper.

Next, we broke her body paragraphs down even further, creating sub-bullets under the paragraph main ideas with examples from articles that would supplement her arguments in those sections. By the end of our appointment, we had a detailed, organized outline put together.

The student left our appointment with the outline in hand and came back the next day to have her actual draft looked over. She said that the outline immensely helped when she sat down to write her essay since the plan was already laid out in front of her.

Although outlines may seem tedious to some students, it is always helpful to encourage students to complete them since it will make the writing process that much easier.

- written by Janelle Scheck

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