Rules to Remember When Outlining:
  • The title should be centered above the outline. The title should reflect the content of the paper.
  • The thesis statement should appear between the title of the outline and Roman numeral I.
  • The main topics of the outline should correspond to the thesis statement.
  • The main points of the body should be developed in the order in which they are presented in the thesis.
  • The correct order of ideas (and the numbering and lettering system) should follow the example below.
  • There should be a period after every number and letter in the outline except for those in parentheses.
  • The first word of each topic and subtopic should be capitalized. Do not capitalize words other than the first ones unless they are proper nouns.
  • The Roman numerals should be placed in a column so that the periods form a straight line. Indent subtopics so that all letters or numbers of the same kind will be directly under one another.
  • If any topic or subtopic takes more than one line, begin the second line directly under the first word of the first line.
  • There must never be a lone subtopic. You cannot divide something into less than two parts; therefore, every A must have a B; every 1 must have a 2.
Basic Structure:

I. Roman numerals = main topics

A. Capital letters = subtopics of the main topics

1. Arabic numerals = subtopics of the capital letters

a. Small letters = subtopics of the Arabic numerals

(1) Arabic numerals in parentheses = subtopics of small letters

(a) Small letters in parentheses = subtopics of the above








Additional Rules:
  • The outline may follow one of the three different types: phrase, topic, or sentence. The three different types should not be mixed within one outline.
  • All entries should be parallel in structure.
  • Meaningless topics such as "introduction," "body," or "conclusion" should not be included.
  • The outline should be single-spaced. (Please note: The example below is double-spaced due to web page constraints.)

Sample Outline:

Ezra Pound's "Canto" - a Modern Poem

Ezra Pound's poem "Canto" fits the characteristics of a modern poem.

I. Definition

A. Modern Poetry

B. Techniques

1. Negative tone

2. Poetic devices

C. Format

1. Structure

2. Word choice

II. "Canto"

A. Content

1. Sadness

a. Hope

b. Failure

2. Allusions

3. Images

a. Eyes

b. Helmet

B. Form

1. Free verse

2. Common speech

3. Layout


For addtional information about developing an effective outline, visit the following links:

*Adapted from the Franklin High School Guide to the Research Paper, Franklin High School, Baltimore County Public Schools, June 2003.