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UMGC Effective Writing Center The Sentence Outline

There are potentially as many different types of outlines as there are writers. That's because all an outline really has to be is some type of list, whether in a Word document or on a dinner napkin, that serves as a strategy for writing your first draft.

You Mean Like the Harvard Outline?

We do not.  Producing a "Harvard Outline," with its perfect pattern of Roman numerals, capital letters, and lower-case letters is tantamount to writing the paper itself. Such outlines can be helpful after the project is written, but few writers consider it a viable model for a working outline.

Then What Do You Suggest?

Simply put, we encourage anything that works for you. The more you write, the more you will know what type of outline best fits your needs for any given writing project, from a scratch list to an organized hierarchy of ideas and details.  However, when it comes to writing the basic academic response essay (often called the expository essay), there is a type of outline that can be helpful for this particular assignment: the "sentence outline."

The Sentence Outline Explained

A sentence outline usually consists of at least four sentences. Keep in mind that, depending on the length of the assignment, there could be more. The first sentence that you should write is your thesis statement—the sentence that contains your overall controlling idea, your position or slant on the topic assigned to you. It is this overall idea that will be developed throughout the essay.

Then, based upon that thesis, your job as a writer is to come up with at least three main points to support the thesis. Each of these points will be expressed in topic sentences. A "topic sentence" will be the first sentence of the body paragraph that discusses the main point.

An important part of this outlining is to use sequence words to signal the beginning of a new body paragraph. Words like "first," "second," and "third" are common. But other words and phrases like "to begin," "next," "finally," or any combination will achieve your purpose: to signal the beginning of a topic sentence. 

Academic Essay: The Sentence Outline 
(with signpost and echo words)

Thesis: Earning a degree online has been harder but more satisfying than my other school experiences

Topic Sentence 1: The first reason online study is harder is that the student works in isolation.

Topic Sentence 2: The second reason studying online is harder is that it requires more writing, reading and computer skills.

Topic Sentence 3: The third reason the online experience is harder is that the student is expected to be an adult professional at the same time.

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