How to Write an Effective Outline?

You can make an effective outline by bearing in mind that your composition is only as structured as your outline. When your outline is well-structured, your composition will reap the benefit of your organized ideas.

You might wish to start by listing down important ideas, clustering those that are related and finding the similarities among them. You may now classify related ideas using a logical system of arrangement and find an appropriate heading for them. Your subheadings should follow logically from the ideas in your heading. When you are certain that your heading and subheadings are written in parallel forms (noun and noun, clause and clause, phrase and phrase, verb with another verb), then you have done the last step in sorting out your ideas for your outline.

To put the finishing touches to your outline, write an arguable thesis that reflects the direction that you would like your academic paper to take. Some people, however, start their outline by writing a thesis statement, while some write their thesis statement after they have completed the outline. Regardless of whether you start or end with the thesis, be sure that your outline reflects the content and structure of your academic paper.

Make the ideas in your heading and subheading consistent. If you used a verb in the first heading, the second subheading should also be a verb.

Example (Noun used as heading):

I. Causes of Anorexia Nervosa
II. Treatment for Anorexia Nervosa

Example (Gerund/Verb used as heading):

I. Tracing the Cause of Anorexia Nervosa
II. Finding a Cure for Anorexia Nervosa

For your subheadings, use specific ideas.


I. Tracing the Extent of Facebook’s Popularity in the Philippines

a. Among Digital Natives
b. Among Digital Immigrants


I. The many uses of Facebook

a. As an educational tool
b. As a means of expanding social network
c. As a business strategy


In school or a business meeting, it's good advice to come prepared with an outline of important ideas.