The purpose of an outline in a thesis paper is to provide direction to the writer as well as the reader on what is contained where. It’s also a good way to check that you have covered all the aspects of your assignment. You can identify areas that need additional work and check that things are in a logical order—flowing from one section to the next. More importantly, it’s a requirement to be included with your completed thesis.
Most inexperienced students will jump straight into writing a thesis paper forgetting to plan and ensure each step has been covered. This can cause so much wasted time when you realize half way that you skipped a step.
The outline should be pencilled in from the beginning and built on as you begin to expound on your assignment. Use your outline as building blocks and complete it as you move from paragraph to paragraph, and section to section.
The outline is not the place to express your opinions or explain why you put that particular point where you did. Keep it brief. Maintain a list format with short sentences.
Your basic format for any academic writing is introduction, body and then a conclusion. Your outline should also illustrate the same format. Ensure that your main content also flows in a logical order so that smaller outline points can follow this pattern.
The best way to understand an outline is to picture section titles and subtitles. Your basic format sections can most likely define your main heading, but you must still define what you consider your subtitles. You cannot place the first line of every paragraph as subtitle. Rather break it down into ‘majors’ and ‘minors’. When you introduce a new idea or concept, you could define this as a ‘major’, but as you break the concept down, you would start listing the ‘minor’ information. To eliminate the clutter in your outline, only list the ‘major’ subheadings under your main titles.