Houston Community College Libraries

Library Instruction Tip Sheet

Making an Outline


The outline is a guide for you to follow when writing your paper. It should be well thought out since it will contain all the major points you will cover in the composition.

There are two major types of outlines: the sentence outline and the topic outline. Whichever style you choose, follow it throughout.

Following the outline title a thesis statement is often used. It is basically the theme or main idea. The remainder of the outline has the following form:

  1. First major division
    1. First secondary division
      1. First supporting example
      2. Next supporting example
    2. Next secondary division.

Here is an example of a sentence outline:

The Great Floods of 1993

Thesis statement: The Great floods of Summer 1993 were extremely devastating to property and people of the Midwest.

  1. The rain and snow contributed to the flooding.

    1. Rain began in the spring and continued into the summer.

    2. Melted snow from the past winter created an abundance of water.

    3. The Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio rivers overflowed their banks.

      1. Lakes and tributaries emptied into the rivers.

      2. Rising water created crests.

  2. The destruction of wetlands or marshes was one direct cause of the flooding.

    1. Wetlands are phenomena of nature that have existed for eons.

    2. The destroyed wetlands could have absorbed much of the water that overflowed.

Outlining continues according to the above example and the directions given by your instructor.