How to Create an Outline Using Proper Outline Format

Many professors and teachers require their students to use proper outline format when creating outlines for projects or homework. Proper outline format consists of a series of main ideas, details, and supporting details organized in a logical hierarchy.

Instructions:

1. Start your outline by organizing your main ideas. No matter what the subject is, your main ideas are the foundation of your outline and should all be thematically related. The number of main ideas you have will depend upon the depth of your subject matter. As a general rule, for most 4-5 page papers, you’ll generally have 3-4 main ideas.

2. Open a word processing program on your computer and label your main ideas with Roman numerals. Each main idea should have its own line on the page and there should be plenty of space under each main idea for the details and supporting details in your outline.

3. Think of details that are related to your main idea and list them underneath each main idea. The details should be preceded by a capital letter. Each main idea can have as many details as necessary, but 3-4 is usually sufficient to cover most subject matter.

4. Indent one space under each detail and list your supporting details. There is no set number of supporting details that should accompany each detail, but 3-4 is generally sufficient.

5. Review your outline for clarity and continuity. All of the ideas, details, and supporting details should flow together in a concise, cohesive manner.

Tips:

An outline that follows proper outline format should look like this:

I.     Main Idea #1
       A. Detail
            i. Supporting Detail
            ii. Second Supporting Detail
            iii. Third Supporting Detail
       B. Second Detail
            i. Supporting Detail
            ii. Second Supporting Detail
            iii. Third Supporting Detail

II.     Main Idea #2
       A. Detail
            i. Supporting Detail
            ii. Second Supporting Detail
            iii. Third Supporting Detail
       B. Second Detail
            i. Supporting Detail
            ii. Second Supporting Detail
            iii. Third Supporting Detail

III.     Main Idea #3
       A. Detail
            i. Supporting Detail
            ii. Second Supporting Detail
            iii. Third Supporting Detail
       B. Second Detail
            i. Supporting Detail
            ii. Second Supporting Detail
            iii. Third Supporting Detail

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