How to Make An Outline

Updated July 12, 2018

Outlines are an important and relatively easy way to organize a paper, presentation, training document or anything that can benefit from pre-planning. Beginning with an outline can help save you time in rework later. The outline will also show you where you may have too much or need more information to support your topic and can be done in a reasonable amount of time.

Identify your topic and gather your materials. Keep this as focused as possible-it shouldn't be more than one sentence.

Decide the level of detail you want to include in the outline. You can make your outline as a word or two under each subtopic and key point, or you can use sentences and phrases if this will make your final product easier to complete.

Figure out the most logical flow of information, beginning with subtopics that support your main topic.

Create enough subtopics to define all the major points you want to make. The number or subtopics should be determined by how long your document or presentation is.

List the key points that you want to mention in support of each subtopic. There should be at least two supporting items under each subtopic of the outline.

Review your outline and verify that all the points are covered. This includes each subtopic being strengthened by the right key points, and most of all that you have accurately supported your topic.

Write your document or presentation. Change your outline where needed once your have begun your actual piece of work.

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  • Be sure to review your outline closely before working on your final product and confirm that you have well supported your topic and that it follows a logical order.
  • Although it is most common to organize an outline by switching between numbers and letters, use whatever numbering or letting system that makes the most sense to you for organizing your sub-topics and key points.
  • You should have at least two supporting items under each sub-topic. If you do not, revisit that item to see if it should not be a sub-topic and can instead become part of another section.


  • Keep your outline flexible. If you start writing up your document or presentation and find that your original outline may not work best to support your topic, change it!

Things Needed

  • Topic
  • Research materials
  • Subtopics
  • Key points

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