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How to Write Academic Papers: Preferred Outline Style Essay

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Updated: Aug 23rd, 2022

Most academic papers require acquainting the audience with the content of the writing. It can be done through the introduction, however, a quicker and more efficient way to accomplish this is through an outline. An outline is a summary of the content, organized in a hierarchical list (Effective tips on how to write an essay outline, n.d.). By looking at an outline, a reader can get an idea about the essence of the paper, its length, structure, and main topics. Ideally, it should contain enough information so that the reader can decide whether they need to read the entire paper or a particular section.

There are several types of outline styles depending on the complexity of the paper. The Alphanumeric outline is the most popular style used due to its simplicity. They are used for essays, which delve into the detailed analysis of the subject matter or can be summarised by several points without several subdivisions. An important part of the Alphanumeric outline is the strict hierarchy of characters, which indicates the status of the section within the context of the paper – Roman numerals, capitalized letters, Arabic numerals, and lowercase letters (Types of outlines and samples, n.d.). This structure allows in-depth exploration of any topic, with multiple branches of explanatory paragraphs.

However, the Alphanumeric outline is limited in terms of hierarchy levels. With only four levels, such outlines are not fitting for long papers, with substantial research concerning many specifics of the subject matter. This can be resolved with a decimal outline, which is not bound by a certain hierarchy. Instead, the decimal outline denotes subsections based on their relation to the larger section (Types of outlines and samples, n.d.). It uses only numbers with decimal notation. For instance, 1.3.2 means the second subheading of the third subsection of the first section. In theory, the division can continue into any decimal value as long as there is enough material to back the outline.

Another characteristic of both the Alphanumerical and decimal outlines is the format of the subheadings. These outlines follow the bullet point-like format, which contains the information about the topic. However, some assignments require acquainting the reader with the main ideas of the sections. It can be accomplished with the full sentence outline. It differs from the other styles in that its subheadings are sentences containing the main idea of the section (Four main components for effective outlines, n.d.). The lower level of the section, the longer the sentence will be because of the number of details necessary to explain the main point of the section.

The full sentence outline is the preferred style of outline composition. First, it allows conveying the main ideas of the paper hierarchically. Second, it can be useful when planning the paper because the writer has all the necessary information laid out in the outline. Third, it is not limited by the bullet point format of other outlines. Instead, it functions as a hierarchical abstract. Overall, the reader can get the main essence of the paper by reading a full-sentence outline, while the other types can only introduce the subject. Another benefit of the full-sentence outline is that it cannot be divided into too many layers like the decimal outline, thus preserving text density.

References

Effective tips on how to write an essay outline. (n.d.). Web.

Four main components for effective outlines. (n.d.). Web.

Types of outlines and samples. (n.d.). Web.

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