Wikipedia:WikiProject Outlines/Drafts/Outline

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This page is about hierarchical lists. For other uses, see WikiProject Outlines/Drafts/Outline (disambiguation).
"Outlining" redirects here. For the musical technique, see lining out.

An outline or hierarchical outline (and sometimes called an alphanumeric outline) is a type of list that presents subject matter as a hierarchy of topics or statements. Outlines may be in print or written by hand. The activity of creating outlines and the process by which outlines are constructed are called outlining.

Each entry in an outline is typically numbered to show its relative level and position in the hierarchy, and each level is usually indented to visually offset it from the other levels to make the outline easier to understand. Outline numbering may use letters and numbers. While numbering and indenting are optional, some system must be used to signify the outline's hierarchy, otherwise it is not an outline but a plain list. Here are some examples:

Each entry in an outline identifies a branch in the hierarchy (by being its title) or presents a unit of information, or both at the same time. Due to their hierarchical structure, outlines show relationships of the information they contain, and outlining is often used as a method of organizing ideas in the prewriting stage of the writing process. Outlines are usually easier to revise than drafts in paragraph format[1] especially when an outliner is used. Creating an outline of an existing work, called reverse outlining, is a useful revision tool for finding and fixing problems in a composition or publication.

As with writing, outlines may be about anything, and can be of any size. They are used to plan or summarize essays, term papers, scripts, fiction and non-fiction books, and encyclopedias. Outlines may also be used as a publishing format. Tables of contents and topical guides are often presented in the form of an outline, and a printed work may be composed entirely of an outline. An Outline of knowledge is a topical guide that encompasses the entire scope of the knowledge of humankind.

While information in outlines is generally broken down into sentences or terms, many outliners support paragraphs and even multi-paragraph entries, and can be used as personal organizers or knowledgebases to work on and store most types of printed information in large quantities, while retaining the benefits of outline processing and hierarchical structuring.

Purposes and applications of outlines[edit]

[describe Versatility of outlining]

Outlining as part of the writing process[edit]

Further information: [[:Writing process]]

Reverse outline[edit]

A reverse outline is an outline that is based on an existing work or publication. That is, it is made after a draft has been written or published. Wikipedia's Outline of knowledge is an example of a reverse outline.

[mention "Regular outline"]

Outlining as a method of notetaking[edit]

Further information: [[:Notetaking]]

Outlines as reference aids[edit]

[Course curriculum][edit]

Family tree outlines[edit]

Outlines as topical guides[edit]

Tables of contents[edit]

An outline can serve as the table of contents for a publication or written work.

Encyclopedia Britannica's Outline of Knowledge and Wikipedia's Outline of knowledge serve as tables of contents for those encyclopedias, respectively.

Subject outlines[edit]

A subject outline is an outline of a particular subject. For example, an "outline of geography" is a hierarchical presentation of the subject matter of the subject "geography".

Outlines of knowledge[edit]

An outline of knowledge is a subject outline for which the subject is knowledge itself. Its scope is all knowledge.

[Encyclopedia Britannica's OOK]

[Wikipedia's OOK]

[need some other examples of OOKs]

Outlines as knowledge bases[edit]

Outline formats[edit]

Subject matter formats[edit]

Rough outline[edit]

A rough outline, also called a "planning outline",

Topic outline[edit]

A topic outline is an outline comprised of topics. Each entry of a topic outline is the name of a subject, or if a subject has no name, a brief statement identifying the subject.

The Encyclopedia Britannica's Outline of Knowledge, which is presented in the Propaedia volume of that encyclopedia, is a topic outline. So is Wikipedia's Outline of knowledge.

A topic outline may be created as the first stage in writing a paper or work, ___________.

[course outlines]


Sentence outline[edit]

A sentence outline is an outline comprised of sentences. Sentence outlines are usually a composition tool for planning written works, including essays, reports, articles, books, school papers, and so on. Sentence outlines may include topic entries, which generally become section titles or headings, in addition to sentence entries which present the body of the work. Each sentence __________.


Outline numbering formats[edit]

Alphanumeric outline[edit]

Decimal outline[edit]

The tables of contents of Wikipedia articles are examples of decimal outlines.

Outline without numbering[edit]

Bulleted outline[edit]

Outline with headings[edit]


Main article: Outliner

History of outlines and outlining[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lunsford, Andrea A. The St. Martin's Handbook, Second Edition. see excerpt. Bedford/St. Martin's.

External links[edit]

Outline formatting
History of outlining
Outlines of knowledge
Reverse outlining