Now that you have the textual evidence to back up your argument, outlining is a useful next step. Outlining can be a pre-writing step as well as a tool you can return to throughout the writing process. This section of the guide will help you come up with an initial outline as well as give you strategies to outline once you have a draft of your paper.
Outlining is where you plot out the ideas and structure of a paper anytime during the writing process. It is helpful to outline both before and after you write your paper. According to Professor Sarah White, the initial outline will serve as a roadmap for your soon to be written paper, and any subsequent outlines will show you what is already there. Outlining helps a writer see the organization of their paper more clearly.
The basic outlining form gives each main point a Roman numeral. Each main point should be the focus of a paragraph. Each sub-point or supporting idea will take a capital letter and is indented. If a capital letter has a sub-point, then it will be indented further and given a numeral. Here is an example:
When writing an analytical paper, you can use one Roman numeral for each paragraph. The main point would be a topic sentence for a paragraph, and the capital letters would be the supporting ideas/what you want to prove. Professor White recommends placing textual evidence either at a capital letter or a numeral, depending on the structure of the paragraph and the ideas you want to get across. Here is an example of the first part of an outline from a paper comparing and contrasting Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado" and Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown":
An outline can help you shape your paper at any stage of the writing process. According to Professor White, it is often helpful to make an initial outline before you start writing and another outline when you are finished with each draft. Outlining what is actually in the paper after you write a draft will help you see how your paper is progressing and also how the organization is working.