Chapter 2: Prewriting

2.1 Outlines

Some writers swear by outlines; others loathe them. When assigned an outline in school, I would simply write the assignment, then extract the outline afterward. To this day, I’m an associative rather than a linear writer, whether I’m crafting an assignment description or revising a poem. If this also describes you, try the two techniques later in this chapter: Chapter 2.2: Mind Maps and Chapter 2.3: Freewriting.

If you find outlines helpful, or if you don’t know yet, you can try using one for your next assignment.

First, set aside a line for each of the things you already know you might need, like an introduction and a conclusion. If your instructor has told you to include a bibliography, add that, too.

Now think about what you’ll be putting in the body of your assignment. Decide on the number of paragraphs you’ll need and number each one. Then jot a quick note describing what each paragraph will be about.

Finally, leave room for three points for each paragraph and describe what each point will say. Each point should help explain the overall topic of the paragraph.

Don’t be afraid to stray from your outline if needed. Writing is a discovery process, and change is part of that process. If your outline doesn’t conform to your finished project, good! You learned something along the way.

Review Questions

  1. With a classmate, decide whether your writing process so far has been more linear (knowing exactly what you’re going to write before you start, writing in a straight line from A to Z) or associative (starting without much of a plan and figuring it out as you go along). Which style do you prefer? Why?
  2. Write an outline for an assignment on the topic of future challenges in immigration to Canada.


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Building Blocks of Academic Writing Copyright © 2020 by Carellin Brooks is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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