Outlining the Longer Composition Part 1

The composition of Several Paragraphs  You are now hopefully familiar with the principles that govern the organization of the paragraph.  A composition of several paragraphs is governed by the same principles.  Each begins with a statement of the paragraph’s central idea, which is developed in succeeding statements.  While the paragraph is built around the topic sentence, the longer composition develops out of what is sometimes called the topic paragraph – often the first one.  The paragraphs that follow then present supporting ideas just as the sentences in a paragraph support the topic sentence.

You plan a longer composition in the same way that you plan a paragraph.  Begin by writing your central idea (thesis statement).  In simple words:  What is it that you want the READER to know or “think” after reading the research you have presented in the last five to seven pages?  Think in terms of what you want the READER to learn, not what YOU want.  List all of the ideas you may wish to include on your subject.  Discard those that are unimportant or do not support your central idea.  Finally, in planning the longer composition, make a careful outline.

The outline is important because it helps you to group related ideas under the main topics they support.  The development of each major idea will probably, though not necessarily, require at least one paragraph.  A two-page composition, for example, may have three major topics, each developed by a paragraph.  A research paper will go into more support from a variety of sources and experts, personal experience will not be a part of research and you will need to go into detail over defining terms, explaining statistics, giving examples, go into causes and effects and, in the end, provide solution(s) based on what you have learned.

Before you prepare an outline for this unit, review the rules for outline form.

Rules for Outline Form  There are two forms of outline:  the sentence outline and the topic outline.  In the sentence form, topics are complete sentences; in the topic outline, the topics are phrases, subordinate clauses, or single words.  Because the sentence outline is cumbersome to prepare, it is rarely used outside of formal works such as Master Thesis’ and Doctorate papers.  The following rules apply to the topic outline:


  1. Center the title of the paper above the outline.  It is NOT numbered.  It is NOT lettered.  Your title is usually suggested by your thesis statement and shows how you have narrowed the topic down.  “Autism”, for instance, is a rather boring title and tells the reader really nothing about what is in the next five to seven pages.  “Recent Studies and Cases of Autism” is a title that tells the reader what he may find in the paper.  A title can be more catchy to interest the reader, such as, “Eat to the Beat of the Beatles:  How the Beatles Changed the World.”
  2. The terms “Introduction”, “Body”, or “Conclusion” should NOT be included in the outline.  There are not topics to be discussed in the paper.  They are merely organizational terms in the writer’s mind.  Yes, you will have an introduction and your paper will have at least one paragraph to conclude your research, but you will not be writing about “introductions” or “conclusions” so logically they will not be listed in your outline.

I guess that will be it for today’s post, but be sure to check the next one since this is not the end of this one just yet!