Graphic Outlines

Many instructors require outlines for their research essay assignments, and as discussed in a recent blog post here, alpha-numeric outlines can pose challenges for some of us who are visual learners. Visual learners think in pictures, and it’s easier for us to create an outline of our essay in a graphic format than in an alpha-numeric outline.

 What is a graphic outline?

A graphic outline is simply a spatially organized “chart” or graphic representation of our essay. For an argument essay, a simple list graphic outline might look like this:

Title

*Introduction 

Issue
Background Information
Definition of terms
Claim: Thesis Statement (the thesis statement may appear anywhere within the argument)

*Body Paragraphs Reasons and Evidence

Reason 1
Evidence  (to add more points of evidence, use the Add Note button)

Reason  2
Evidence 

Reason  3
Evidence 

*Emotional Appeals 

Need or Value 1

Need or Value 2

Need or Value 3

*Opposing Viewpoints

Opposing viewpoint 1
Acknowledgement, accommodation, or refutation

Opposing viewpoint 2
Acknowledgement, accommodation, or refutation

*Conclusion 

Restatement of claim
Final appeal to needs or values
Urge readers to take action

In this example, the outline components – the intro, body paragraphs, emotional appeals, opposing viewpoints, and conclusion – have an asterisk to identify them as different sections. You can also put a border around each section to visually identify paragraphs or sections.

Below, the same outline uses color to identify each section. I like to use colored markers so the breaks in subtopics or sections stand out:

 Title

Introduction

Issue Background Information Definition of terms
Claim Thesis Statement (the thesis statement may appear anywhere within the argument)

Body Paragraphs Reasons and Evidence

Reason 1 Evidence  (to add more points of evidence, use the Add Note button)

Reason  2 Evidence 

Reason  3 Evidence 

Emotional Appeals

Need or Value 1

Need or Value 2

Need or Value 3

Opposing Viewpoints

Opposing viewpoint 1 Acknowledgement, accommodation, or refutation

Opposing viewpoint 2 Acknowledgement, accommodation, or refutation

Conclusion

Restatement of claim
Final appeal to needs or values
Urge readers to take action


———————————————————————

In the next example of a graphic organizer for a five paragraph expository essay, the essay topic is placed in the center of the graphic; paragraph subtopics are placed in the ovals, with 3 supporting sentence boxes branching off from their respective paragraph:

77734401

You could easily change the graphic organizer above to a persuasive essay by placing the reasons or main ideas in the ovals and the supporting evidence in the squares.

Below is a type of graphic organizer called an idea map or cluster. The center oval includes the topic or in this case, the problem, and the secondary branches or clusters off the main oval are the supporting reasons for the problem; the smallest ovals or clusters are solutions to each “sub” problem:

BRAINSTORMING_WITH_GRAPHIC_ORGANIZERS_04


If you find alpha-numeric outlines confusing, try filling in a graphic organizer first. For those who are visual learners, it sometimes helps to lay out your topic graphically first so you get a vision of your paper. Sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand words.

More help with graphic outlines can be found at Bedford St. Martin’s website.

 

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