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Effective Writing Center (EWC)

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Online Guide to Writing and Research

Chapter 2 Table of Contents


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Chapter 2: The Writing Process

Writing

Outlining What You Will Write

Your planning outline will probably be informal at first as you think in writing and organize your thoughts. As with your thesis, you may revise your outline many times before you are ready to draft your paper, as you gain knowledge of your topic and make decisions about how to organize the information for your audience. In fact, some teachers may even require you to create a planning outline of your paper first and submit it for review.

Outlining is just another way to organize your ideas and can be used at every stage of the writing process. Outlining, especially in the planning stages, may be informal, a scratch list of points you want to make. Ideas are often simply jotted down in an order that appears to make sense to the writer in thinking about the topic. At a more developed stage, an outline may expand on several aspects of the thesis and controlling idea.

A formal outline, on the other hand, may contain complete sentences that expand the major and minor supporting statements for the clearly delineated thesis statement. How formal and detailed your outline is depends on the demands of the writing task and what kind of writer you are.

To summarize, outlining can help you plan and manage your writing assignment in several ways:

  • It helps you organize information.
  • It facilitates sharing information with your peers and your teacher to see if you are on the right track.
  • It helps you to think in writing as you are deciding what to say for your first draft.

When you can see all the main information items in your writing project, you can then plan your research and writing schedule.

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