What is the best approach for creating a working outline?

Expert Answers
lhc eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Anytime one begins a project, an outline can be a helpful tool to get past that initial, and sometimes difficult phase of just getting started.  The purpose of an outline is to identify the major topic of the project or paper, the main points one wishes to communicate about the topic, and then the details that give more depth and meaning to the main points.  For example, my students recently wrote a personal narrative about a place that is special to them.  One student's outline included the topic (a tree on his parents' property), three main points (when the tree was planted, when he first began "visiting" the tree, and his most recent retreat to the comfort of the tree), and the details about his main points, which gave the who, what, when, where, why and how's of the main points.  On paper, his outline looked something like this:

              My Special Place:  An Oak Tree

  • A.  The planting of the tree
  •       1.  Dad received it at an office party for Arbor Day when I was 6
  •       2.  We had a place in a field where shade was needed
  •       3.  Dad allowed me to help him dig the hole and get it planted
  • B.  The first time I "visited" the tree
  •        1.  I came home from school after a bad day
  •        2.  My third grade girlfriend had broken up with me
  •        3.  My lunchbox lid had come off
  •        4.  I sat under the shade of the tree until dinnertime
  • C.  My most recent retreat to my tree
  •        1.  I did poorly on a science test at school
  •        2.  I forgot my gym clothes and had to borrow a pink shirt
  •        3.  My best friend invited someone else to vacation with him
  •        4.  I sat under the tree listening to raindrops on the leaves