While you don’t need a detailed, four-page outline that encompasses every point you want to make or every theory you purport, a simple outline can assist you in organizing your thoughts, narrowing your topic, helping you decide exactly what you want to say, and ensuring that you cover every important aspect of your subject.
An outline also helps you jump over the writer’s block hurdle that plagues nearly every writer at one time or another.
Organize Your Thoughts
Before you even begin to write, spend some time brainstorming. Grab a sheet of paper and a pen, or a blank computer screen and a keyboard, and write down everything you can think of that relates to your topic. Include ideas that are only slightly relevant, ideas that you may eventually discard, but don’t filter your thoughts at this point. Spend about 10-15 minutes writing down EVERYTHING you can think of about this subject.
When you’re finished, go back over what you’ve written and eliminate duplicate thoughts, unnecessary or irrelevant ideas, or anything else you don’t want to include.
Now you have a fairly thorough list of the general ideas you want to discuss.
Narrow Your Topic
Next, look at your ideas more closely. Do you really want to cover every one of them? Are some of these topics better left unsaid or some such common knowledge that you don’t need to mention them? Only you can decide what’s important, but focus on what you really want to say. Ask yourself some questions, such as:
Who am I trying to reach with this writing?
What do I want my readers to understand?
Are each of these ideas necessary to my central theme?
Have I left anything out?
Decide Exactly What You Want to Say
Once you have each general topic area defined, it’s time to think about each area in more detail. Decide what makes each…