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Writing Projects » Stages of Writing » Getting Started » Pre-Draft Outlines

Some writers start writing without a plan, others need to know before they start exactly what points they will make and in what order. If you don't know what to write, or seem to be writing drafts that go off in all directions, you might try writing a pre-draft outline.

There are many ways to write an outline, from elaborate and formal — with Roman numerals, capital letters, and indendation — to a simple list of the points to be made, in order.

If you are working on a fairly short writing project (say, one to ten pages), you can use the boxes below to construct a simple outline. Note: You don't need to fill in all the boxes, but if you stop before the end, you might want to scroll down and fill in the box for step 7, in which you plan your conclusion.

Step 1: Write down the main point, or thesis for your whole project:

Step 2: Write down some ideas for how you might introduce this idea:

Step 3: Write down the main idea you want to get across in your next paragraph or section. (If you are writing a short essay, you might use each paragraph to explain and illustrate a separate reason why you feel your thesis is true.)

Step 4: Write down the main idea you want to get across in your next paragraph or section.
Step 5: Write down the main idea you want to get across in your next paragraph or section.
Step 6: Write down the main idea you want to get across in your next paragraph or section.

Step 7: Write down some ideas for how you want to wrap up all your ideas and conclude your project:




Everyone has a different way of gathering ideas. If you didn't find outlining helpful, or if you feel you still have work to do before writing a first draft, follow one of the links below to another pre-writing activity:



If you feel you have generated enough ideas and are ready to begin drafting, we have some tips for writing the first draft and a place to write it.

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