During the writing process, an outline provides the writer an organizational (and often visual) guide to how ideas should be presented in the paper to provide a strong, clear, and logical argument. Below are two types of outlines you can create: linear and graphic.
The outline below shows how you can divide your argument into a main claim, and then different subtopics based on the main claim. Once you have organized all of your subtopics, you can then organize your evidence for your claim.
Claim: The City should create more bike lanes
Topic 1: safety
Subtopic: reduces the number of cyclists on the sidewalk
Supporting data: i. dedicated bike lanes took 1700 bikes off the sidewalk, reducing cyclist pedestrian collisions
Subtopic: reduces car-cyclist collisions
Supporting data: i. 18% fewer car-cyclist collisions on Bloor St in 2017
Topic 2: net positive economic impact
Subtopic: cost: $150 000/km to build
Subtopic: increased cycling leads to more customers in local stores
Supporting data: i. vehicular visits down 5%, but bike visits
Supporting data: ii. cyclists spent significantly more in the shops than drivers
Topic 3: better traffic flow
Subtopic: increased cycling means less car congestion
Supporting data: i. 19% fewer cars on main routes with
Subtopic: cars don't have to slow down to accommodate cyclists
Supporting data: i. reduced trip times
Subtopic: adding bike lanes allows for smart re-engineering of the roads
Supporting data: i. left-turn pockets can be added
Supporting data: ii. creating bike-and-transit only streets dramatically reduces trip times
Graphic outlines are a more visual way to represent material for your paper. Rather than relying on terms like topic, subtopic, and supporting data to organize your information, you arrange ideas into different "levels" by using larger or smaller shapes. For example, the main claim might be a very large circle, the three topics would then be slightly smaller circles, and the subtopics, even smaller circles.
Arranging Your Arguments
As you are developing an outline for your particular argument, consider the following guidelines:
- Some arguments may rely on information presented in a previous section. In other words, you may need to prove A before you can explain B.
- It is common to put your strongest argument last.
- Sometimes it makes sense to present information chronologically.
- You may have to reorder your points several times during the writing process.