Final Outline

Contributor: Jodi Powell. Lesson ID: 12007

A mature tree has branches strong enough to hold its leaves and perhaps some nests and a few squirrels. Similarly, a mature outline forms a strong structure on which to hang the words of your paper!



English / Language Arts
learning style
personality style
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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The Final Outline

There is a very important word in that title: Final. It means you're nearing the end. There's a light at the end of the tunnel!

Just a few more steps, and you will see the fruit of your labor: a finished, polished research paper.

But first, you must master the final outline!

If you are viewing the research process like a plot line, the note-taking step can be viewed as the climax.

Every step after that is a part of the falling action. It's just a matter of putting all the pieces into place.

The next piece is the final outline. The good news is, if you made detailed and accurate note cards, all you do at this step is transfer the information from your note cards into an outline.

At this step, you already have a preliminary outline prepared, so you will technically just be updating the preliminary outline by adding all the facts you collected while making note cards.

Review the basics for creating an outline with the following resources.

The preliminary outline you created contained the basics: five main topics and your thesis statement. To create your final outline, build from your preliminary outline.

Each note card you created has a slug or topic heading at the top of the card. The slugs will direct where each information should go in your outline.

There are two types of outlines: topic outline and sentence outline. Your preliminary outline is a topic outline, and your final outline will be a sentence outline. Review Outline the Paper to see the differences between these two outlines.

It is unnecessary to use a sentence outline for every outline you create, but you will use it for this research paper.

Below are the six steps to using your note cards to create an outline. Read them carefully since you will soon be applying them.

  1. Organize your note cards into five piles, one for each main topic.
  1. Begin with the introduction cards. Scatter the cards out and read over all the information that you collected. Determine the best order for the information and record it in your outline in that manner. Remember, your outline's last note card (and therefore the last point in this section) must be the thesis statement.
  1. Next, scatter all your note cards for Topic One. Determine the most logical order for presenting the information. Then copy it into your outline.

Remember, when doing a sentence outline, only one sentence is permitted per Roman numeral, letter, or number.

Look over the example outlines at Writing an Outline. Your outline should closely follow Sample Outlines #2 and #3 because they are both sentence outlines. Your outline will contain more information than these examples; however, they still serve as good examples of proper formatting.

  1. Repeat Step 3 with Topics Two and Three. Each main topic is a new Roman numeral.
  1. Finally, follow this same procedure to fill out the section of your outline for your conclusion. Scatter the cards out and read over all the information you collected. Determine the best order for the information and record it in your outline in that manner.
  1. It is imperative to transfer the citation information from your notecards onto the outline. For example: Hawaii became the 50th state of the United States of America in 1959 (Smith 16).

For more information on in-text citations, read the In-Text Citations, found in Downloadable Resources in the right-hand sidebar. More detailed information on using in-text citations will be covered in the next Related Lesson on drafting the body of your paper.

Take a moment and think about your outline before you create it.

  • Is there anything about the outlining process that confuses you?
  • Have you created an outline before?
  • What part do you think will be easy for you?
  • Which part may be difficult?

Work out any of those kinks before you apply the steps later in the lesson.

Just a tip: At this point, your introduction and conclusion may be rather short, and that's fine. You will learn more about the type of information to include in both your introduction and conclusion in future lessons.

Next, prepare to use your organizational skills again to master the art of outlining in the Got It? section.

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