Rebecca Writes: The Outline Continued
In the last issue, I discussed outlines and how one can use them when beginning to write a paper. Recently, I sat down with Liz Schylinski from the Academic Support Center and Laura Davies of the English department to discuss their opinions on the outline, and to share tips they had on how to make a successful outline.
Schylinski said that outlines are an essential step in the writing process.
“The more I was forced to do it, the more I saw the good and importance in it, and the effective nature of it,” Schylinski said. “Students typically have trouble with forming a thesis and can get the most important points down when they make an outline.”
Schylinski stressed that an outline does not have to be long or detailed, focusing on one, two or three main points. It is easiest to put the most general word at the top to keep it more focused. Without having a focused outline, one is more apt to get lost when writing a paper.
When you start to struggle with the outline, Schylinski suggested dividing all of your ideas into “buckets” and deciding what is the most important, or which points are the most similar and different.
“Everything should have an outline, as it is really effective when starting to write. Go to a tutor and make an outline, brainstorm and have a conversation to flesh the ideas out,” said Schylinski.
Davies suggested that the outline is essentially a rough rough draft of a paper.
“An outline is like framing a house,” Davies said. “You need to create the frame before you fill in the pieces. Once you step back, you will be able to see that it will be alright. It is easy to rip down the frame and put in a new one.”
Furthermore, Davies suggested that when you do an outline, you must have a sense of purpose. Know what the context is, as well as what your research is saying.
Author Linda Flower developed the type of prose that should be used by the writer when making an outline, a prose that Davies teaches to her students. There are two different types of prose: writer-centered prose and reader-centered prose. Writer-centered prose is when the writer is the only audience, whereas reader-centered prose is when the writer pushes the audience to be outside of themselves. This latter prose should be the type students use when making their outlines.
When making a reader-centered outline, Davies suggestedthat the actions should be based on verbs, not nouns. Therefore, when making the outline, the authors of the sources used should not be the main points of the outline, but rather the actions one hopes to accomplish when writing the paper.
“Verbs help remind you what you are writing about and do as a writer,” Davies said. “The outline should be action-oriented. There should be more than one source in paragraphs, communicating with each other. Sources should add to the paper, not dictate it. This allows the student to be the writer.”
The outline should be designed with a set purpose and focus on the overall action the writer hopes to accomplish.