Sample Outlines for Better Reports Worksheet
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Outlines for Better Reports
By Brenda B. Covert
1 You may have suspected that people can write reports without creating an outline first. That's true; it is done. However, a good report without an outline could be a better report with an outline. An outline helps us organize our facts on paper. It is a tool that, once mastered, may come in handy for future assignments or careers.
2 Outlines aren't required only for class reports; they are often required for high school and college speech classes as well. Public speakers often use outlines to keep from rambling when they give talks at meetings or seminars. Many writers use outlines for works in progress such as novels and biographies. An outline is an organizational tool that can help even the most scatterbrained person pull together a first class report!
3 If a report were an animal, the outline would be its skeleton. If it were a house, the outline would be its frame. If it were a video game, the outline would be its game engine. If it were a piñata, the outline would be the balloon underneath the papier maché.
4 An outline contains three main parts: an introduction, the body, and a conclusion. Part of the organizing process involves using Roman numerals (I, II, III), letters from the alphabet (A, B, C), and sometimes Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3). Those are used in the body alone. The introduction and the concluding paragraph shouldn't be numbered. The Roman numerals identify the main points/topics/headings. The letters identify the subpoints (or subtopics or subheadings). If Arabic numerals are used, they identify the details of the subpoints. Whether a source calls them points, topics, or headings, they all refer to the same thing, so don't let that confuse you. The rule to remember is that each point and subpoint must have at least two parts. It is common to have three main points with two or three subpoints under each main point.
5 There are two types of outlines: the topic outline and the sentence outline. You can choose to design your outline with either brief phrases or whole sentences, but not both in the same outline. For example, if you were to write about a teen celebrity's life, the first draft of your topic outline might look something like this:
6 Outline: Teen Celebrity
|I. ||Early Childhood|
|II. ||Rise to Stardom|
|III. ||Current Projects|
7 The first draft of your sentence outline might look like this:
8 Outline: Ms. Teen Celebrity
|I. ||Ms. Celebrity was born and raised in a small town in Ohio.|
|II. ||Ms. Celebrity won a talent competition and gained national exposure.|
|III. ||Ms. Celebrity recently released her third album and is on a world tour.|
9 You may have noticed that the introduction and conclusion sections don't share information with us. That is fine. When you write your report, your introduction's job is to capture the reader's interest with your topic. The conclusion will tie in with your introduction; it will also explain the significance of the report's findings. However, your outline will reveal only the key points of your report. The facts and details, as well as the introduction and conclusion, are set aside for use in the report itself.
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