How to Outline a Newspaper Article

Millions of people turn to their local paper to find out what is happening in the world around them. From accidents and robberies to stock plunges and hurricanes, information is gleaned in moments from the black and white print that graces the daily newspaper. Nearly every newspaper article follows a specific format that allows readers to gather important information quickly and efficiently. Whether you're researching or writing a newspaper article, it's possible to break down the content into workable chunks of information.

Read the article closely while taking note of the overall objective of the piece. Having a strong grasp of the content will help you as you construct your outline.

Find out who the individuals are that are involved in the action or event in article. This should include specific names and titles of those involved. For example, the story might be about a robbery that took place at a local convenience store. The who would be the individual who committed the crime and the victims.

Determine what the article is about. This includes what specifically is going on and what has happened in the story.

Locate when the action or event took place. This includes the date and time. For example, if the event was a robbery, note that it occurred on a Sunday night at eleven o'clock at night.

Establish where the action or event occurred. Include the location of the action or event. For instance, the robbery occurred at the new shopping plaza at Broad and Fifth streets where a similar crime had been committed the prior week.

Find out why the action or event happened. This information might not be readily available in the article, but it is important to understanding the context of the piece. For example, the robbery might have occurred because the store owner may have disabled his security system the night before or that the robber was recently let out of jail after committing a similar crime.

Determine how the action or event occurred. For instance, investigators found that the robber was able to the pick the lock of the employee entrance in the back of the store.

Decide what new information you are left with at the end of the piece (this step may not apply to all articles). After the questions have been addressed, there may be information that adds value to the piece overall by providing additional details and/or context.

Draft your outline using the information from the previous steps. To organize your information you can choose to use a more traditional outline format. For example: I. Who II. What III. When III. Where IV. Why V. How List the information you found according to each heading.

Review your outline. Make sure you have answered all the questions and haven't missed any pertinent information.

Review your outline. Make sure you have answered all the questions and haven't missed any pertinent information. If you choose, you might consider taking all the highlighted information and transferring it to word document where you can organize it in a more formal outline. If you are outlining an article you have read, you now have all the most important information organized according to the Five Ws and an H (who, what, when, where, why, how). If you are writing a newspaper article, you now have all the information you need to begin drafting your piece.


Remember to consider the inverted pyramid structure (most important information first) when outlining your article.

Don't rush through an outline. If you do, you'll miss valuable information.