Organization and Outlining

By Benjamin Loar

The concept of organization and outlining seems to be a lost art among early college-level writers.  Good organization practices can be utilized by students in order to avoid the chaotic and sloppy writing that tends to occur when writers are in too much of a hurry and do not take the necessary time to figure out a game-plan for their paper, essay, or project.

Because I’m so familiar with this chaotic writing, I’d like to explain my personal method for organized outlining.  Following some basic steps of outlining can allow the writer to see ways to structure their writing in a manner that is logical, ordered, flows smoothly and is easy to understand by whoever the intended audience may be.

The first step for this method begins with basic layout concepts.  Here is an example of one way to begin an outline using a paper about Obedience Schools for Dogs as a topic:

I. Introduction – Obedience Schools for Dogs
     1. Why do dogs misbehave?
     2. What is an Obedience School?
     3. Why is it important?

Along with the three sub-topics listed here, a student can also come up with more details that may be considered relevant to each one.  For instance, along with the sub-topic ‘Why do dogs misbehave?’, the writer may include examples for both disobedient and obedient dogs.  This would change the layout of the outline as follows:

I. Introduction – Obedience Schools for Dogs
—-1. Why do dogs misbehave?
——–A. Dogs that chew up your shoes
——–B. Dogs that do not respond to commands
——–C. Dogs that obey their owner’s commands
—-2. What is an Obedience School?
——–A. How it works
——–B. 
What happens at an Obedience School
——–C. What are the benefits / costs for taking your dog to an Obedience School
—-3. Why is it important?
——–A. The dog behaves in an appropriate manner
——–B. The owner appreciates the dog’s understanding of commands
——–C. The relationship between owner and pet is developed and enhanced

By breaking down topics into even smaller segments, the writer can create an in-depth introductory paragraph that describes key details that can be important for the foundation of the project.  It also allows for easier transitional phrases and enhances the flow of thoughts used throughout the essay.  At the end of the Introduction, a thesis statement can usually be incorporated, and will serve to further explain the remainder of the essay:

I. Introduction – Obedience Schools for Dogs
—-1. Why do dogs misbehave?
——–A. Dogs that chew up your shoes
——–B. Dogs that do not respond to commands
——–C. Dogs that obey their owner’s commands
—-2. What is an Obedience School?
——–A. How it works
——–B. What happens at an Obedience School
——–C. What are the benefits / costs for taking your dog to an Obedience School
—-3. Why is it important?
——–A. The dog behaves in an appropriate manner
——–B. The owner appreciates the dog’s understanding of commands
——–C. The relationship between owner and pet is developed and enhanced
—-4. Thesis Statement – Dogs can be very obnoxious if they have not been trained properly, and obedience schools can help the dog understand basic commands and can significantly enhance their relationships with their owners.

A thesis statement used at this point in the process is essentially just a broad, generalized statement that includes the topics and ideas of the body paragraphs. As you work on drafting your paper, you can go back and make your thesis more specific. As described in the introductory paragraph, it will be necessary to not only utilize the topics from the thesis, but to go further into detail in the subsequent body paragraphs, while still maintaining the outline format:

II. Body 1 – Untrained Dogs
—-1. Common behaviors of untrained canines
——–A. Barking
——–B. Chewing up your stuff
——–C. Bathroom mishaps
—-2. Problems between untrained dogs and their owners
——–A. Abuse or neglect of the animal
——–B. Feelings of resentment and anger
     3. End results
——–A. 
Dog is removed from a household
——–B. Most problems potentially avoided by proper training
III. Body 2 – Obedience Schools
—-1. What an Obedience School does for your pet
——–A. Training for appropriate and desired behaviors
——–B. Enhances the relationship between dog and owner
—-2. Basic Commands and Behaviors for Dogs
——–A. Sit, Stay, Lay Down, Heel

The writer can continue outlining this paper in the same fashion, using the overall paragraph topics, sub-topics and smaller details throughout the remainder of the paper in the same style.  This pattern can also be used for the conclusion, but typically the thesis statement connects to the thesis, and I like to craft my conclusion and thesis together.

 

 

This entry was posted in General Writing Advice and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Organization and Outlining

  1. Pingback: Prewriting: Planning For a Successful Paper | University of Nevada, Reno – UWC

Leave a Reply