Outline (list)

An outline, also called an hierarchical
outline, is a list arranged to show hierarchical relationships and is a type
of tree structure. It is used to present the main points or topics of a given
subject, often used as a rough draft or summary of the content of a document.
Preparation of an outline is an intermediate step in the process of
writing a scholarly research paper, literature review, thesis or
dissertation. A special kind of outline incorporates scholarly sources into the
outline before the writing begins. Writers of fiction and creative
nonfiction, such as Jon Franklin, may use outlines to establish plot sequence,
character development and dramatic flow of a story, sometimes in conjunction
with free writing. Merriam-Webster’s manual for writers and
editors recommends that the section headings of an article should, when read
in isolation, combine to form an outline of the article content. Garson
distinguishes a ‘standard outline’, presented as a regular table of contents
from a refined tree-like ‘hierarchical outline’, stating that “such an outline
might be appropriate, for instance, when the purpose is taxonomic. …
hierarchical outlines are rare in quantitative writing, and the researcher
is well advised to stick to the standard outline unless there are compelling
reasons not to.” Outline organization
An outline is a list of items, organized according to some consistent principle.
Each item may be divided into additional sub-items. Each organizational level in
an outline has at least two subcategories as advised by major style
manuals in current use. Types of outlines
=Outline styles=Sentence outline
A sentence outline is a hierarchical outline composed of sentences. Each
includes a heading or single sentence of a planned document about the subject of
the outline. It is the type of outline typically used to plan the composition
of books, stories, and essays. It can also be used as a publishing format, in
which the outline itself is the end product.
Topic outline A topic outline is a hierarchical
outline composed of topics. Each entry is a subtopic of the subject of the
outline. One application of topic outlines is the college course overview,
provided by professors to their students, to describe the scope of the
course. Another application is as a subject outline, such as for an
encyclopedia. A sample topic outline application: An
outline of human knowledge Propædia is the historical attempt of
the Encyclopædia Britannica of presenting a hierarchical “Outline of
Knowledge” in a separate volume in the 15th edition of 1974. The “Outline of
Knowledge” was a project by Mortimer Adler. Propædia had three levels, 10
“Parts” at the top level, 41 “Divisions” at the middle level and 167 “Sections”
at the bottom level, numbered, for example “1. Matter and Energy”, “1.1
Atoms”, “1.1.1. Structure and Properties of Atoms”.
=Outlines with prefixes=A feature included in many outlines is
prefixing. Similar to section numbers, an outline prefix is a label placed at
the beginning of an outline entry to assist in referring to it.
Bare outlines Bare outlines include no prefix.
Alphanumeric outline An alphanumeric outline includes a
prefix at the beginning of each topic as a reference aid. The prefix is in the
form of Roman numerals for the top level, upper-case letters for the next
level, Arabic numerals for the next level, and then lowercase letters for
the next level. For further levels, the order is started over again. Each
numeral or letter is followed by a period, and each item is capitalized, as
in the following sample: Some call the Roman numerals “A-heads”,
the upper-case letters, “B-heads”, and so on. Some writers also prefer to
insert a blank line between the A-heads and B-heads, while often keeping the
B-heads and C-heads together. If more levels of outline are needed,
lower-case Roman numerals and numbers and lower-case letters, sometimes with
single and double parenthesis can be used, although the exact order is not
well defined, and usage varies widely. The scheme recommended by the MLA
Handbook, and the Purdue Online Writing Lab, among others, uses the usual five
levels, as described above, then repeats the Arabic numerals and lower-case
letter surrounded by parentheses – I. A. 1. a. i. – and does not specify any
lower levels, though “(i)” is usually next. In common practice, lower levels
yet are usually Arabic numerals and lower-case letters again, and sometimes
lower-case Roman again, with single parentheses – 1) a) i) – but usage
varies. MLA style is sometimes incorrectly referred to as APA style,
but the APA Publication Manual does not address outline formatting at all.
A very different style recommended by The Chicago Manual of Style, based on
the practice of the United States Congress in drafting legislation,
suggests the following sequence, from the top to the seventh level: I. A. 1.
a) i) – capital Roman numerals with a period, capital letters with a period,
Arabic numerals with a period, italic lowercase letters with a single
parenthesis, Arabic numerals with a double parenthesis, italic lowercase
letters with a double parenthesis, and italic lowercase Roman numerals with a
single parentheses, though the italics are not required). Because of its use in
the US Code and other US law books, Many American lawyers consequently use this
outline format. Another alternative scheme repeats all
five levels with a single parenthesis for the second five – I) A) 1) a) i) –
and then again with a double parenthesis for the third five –.
Many oft-cited style guides besides the APA Publication Manual, including the AP
Stylebook, the NYT Manual, Fowler, The Guardian Style Guide, and Strunk &
White, are curiously silent on the topic.
One side effect of the use of both Roman numerals and upper-case letters in all
of these styles of outlining is that, in most alphabets, “I.” may be an item at
both the top and second levels. This is usually not problematic, because lower
level items are usually referred to hierarchically. For example, the third
sub-sub-item of the fourth sub-item of the second item is item II. D. 3. So,
the ninth sub-item of the first item is item I. I., and only the top level one
is item I. Decimal outline
The decimal outline format has the advantage of showing how every item at
every level relates to the whole, as shown in the following sample outline:
Integrated Outline An integrated outline is a helpful step
in the process of organizing and writing a scholarly paper. When completed the
integrated outline contains the relevant scholarly sources for each section in
the outline. An integrated outline is generally prepared after the scholar has
collected, read and mastered the literature that will be used in the
research paper. Shields and Rangarajan recommend that new scholars develop a
system to do this. Part of the system should contain a systematic way to take
notes on the scholarly sources. These notes can then be tied to the paper
through the integrated outline. This way the scholar reviews all of the
literature before the writing begins. An integrated outline can be a helpful
tool for people with writer’s block because the content of the paper is
organized and identified prior to writing. The structure and content is
combined and the author can write a small section at a time. The process is
less overwhelming because it can be separated into manageable chunks. The
first draft can be written using smaller blocks of time.
See also Outline of knowledge
Outliner Abstract
Concept map Hierarchy
Mind map Syllabus
eSyllabus Topic Map
Tree structure Notes
References Mary Ellen Guffey, “Organizing and
Writing Business Messages,” Business Communication: Process and Product, p.
160-161. “Numbers: Lists and Outlines,” Manual
for Writers and Editors, p. 103. White, Basil Developing Products and
Their Rhetoric from a Single Hierarchical Model, 1996 Proceedings of
the Annual Conference of the Society for Technical Communication, 43, 223-224.
[2] OWL: Online Writing Lab, Purdue
University “Report writing,” Britannica Student
Encyclopedia, Encyclopædia Britannica Online
William E. Coles, Jr. “Outline,” World Book Online
Ted Goranson’s About this Particular Outliner ‘Outlining and Styles’
Jon Franklin “Writing for Story”, Penguin 1994.

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