Mindful Outlining

Mindful Outlines –

Creating an outline need not be difficult. Think of an outline as a frame for your wonderful ideas.

For more on outlining, consult C: 12-14; C: 13-14, A: 73-74, and MLA: 426 in your Diana Hacker guide.

Outlines take on various forms. I like to tell students that my favorite metaphor for an essay outline is a restaurant menu.

You can even create your very own style of outline. But the important thing to remember is that the purpose of an outline is to organize your thoughts. Without a method for organizing your thoughts, you may find it difficult to start writing. You may, for example, worry about what to say, or what to analyze. An outline prevents you from scrambling at the last minute for evidence to back up your thesis statement, or commentary to explain your assertion. An outline shows all of the items that you will discuss in your essay. Therefore, an outline lists the selections that are offered in the menu. The menu is your essay. There are several different ways to approach writing an outline. The following section provides examples of how to create two different kinds of outlines: A). An informal, or sketch, outline and B). A formal outline.

Informal Outline (aka, a sketch, or a sketch outline)

How to write a sketch outline

Place your working thesis on the top line.
Each subsequent line contains a discussion of your thesis.
Present your discussion with bullet points.

For example:
Working thesis: College students formally educated in the United States of America may benefit from studying the governmental structures of other countries.

– By studying the various ways other nations organize governments, college students will broaden their understanding of organizational structure.
— Students will learn that not all governments have the same expectations for public participation.
— Democracies may, or may not, be absolutely democratic.
— Forms of democracy have pre-dated the United States of America and therefore, students can appreciate how concepts such as equality have evolved over time.

How to write a formal outline

Place your actual thesis on the top line.

I. Use the Roman Numeral or the Harvard Numeral system to organize each part of your essay.
Make sure to use complete sentences, or at the very least, phrases that are clear and descriptive.
II. You must include at least two items per level (or section).
Keep your major sections to a minimum.
You may add more subsections if necessary.

For example:
Thesis: Aristotle laid the groundwork for the way modern scholars analyze governmental structures. Researcher Dante C. Simbulan’s book The Modern Principalia: The Historical Evolution of the Philippine Ruling Oligarchy (2005) echoes Aristotle’s study of of oligarchies and democracies by focusing on 20th Century elites in the Philippines. Students of politics and government may appreciate the examples provided in this text in order to gain insight into oligarchic governance.

I. Aristotle writes about the various forms of government in the essay, “Democracy and Oligarchy.”
A. Aristotle defines oligarchy as rule by the rich (63).
B. Aristotle defines democracy as rule by the free (63)
II. Ironically, this binary implies that under an oligarchy, although the rich may not, necessarily be free, they are able to use their resources to control society.
A. One example of a modern-day oligarchy is the pre-21st Century governmental structure of the Philippines chronicled by scholar Dante C. Simbulan in the book, The Modern Principalia: The Historical Evolution of the Philippine Ruling Oligarchy (2005).
This book details the cultivation and recruitment of people from elite families into the political life of the Philippines, mostly during the 1940s and the 1960s.
B. Simbulan examines wealth, privilege, educational, and land-owning status of native and immigrant populations in the Philippines in order to come up with a theory of modern-day oligarchy.
C. Simbulan asserts that an oligarchical structure, in this case, does not facilitate democratic governance, but instead facilitates dysfunctional societal and cultural norms.


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