There are several types of outline:
  • Topic Outline – a quick overview of topics in note form and sources to be included in a paper. It is quick to create and can be easily changed / revised as part of the researching / planning stage
  • Sentence Outline – the thesis, topic sentences and sub-arguments of each supporting paragraph are fully written out. This is like a preliminary draft of the paper
  • Alphanumeric Outline – This style of outline is used to specify the structure of a paper in detail. It uses alphanumeric characters to specify points at different “levels” of the paper, i.e., capital Roman numerals (I, II, III, IV, etc.) order paragraphs within a paper, capital letters (A, B, C, D, etc.) order sub-points within paragraphs, and Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.) order supporting evidence and explanations for sub-points; e.g., II.A.2 = first body paragraph, first supporting point, second piece of evidence
  • Decimal Outline – This has the same level of detail as an alphanumeric outline, but uses decimal numbers instead, e.g., 2.1.2 = first body paragraph, first supporting point, second piece of evidence. This style of outline is common for outlining reports and engineering papers, where sections and subsections may need to be numbered

Click here to view some examples of these outline types.

Whichever type of outline you choose to create for your paper, it should be a brief overview of topics and possible sources to be included in a paper. It should be in a flexible format so that it can easily be easily changed / revised as part of the researching / planning stage.
Study the example research paper outline below. Notice that it:
  • is a numbered list (so I know how many paragraphs I will write and can easily move sections around)
  • shows the purpose / function of each paragraph (e.g., context, definition, problem, cause/effect, problem/solution, objection/refutation, recommendation)
  • suggests the supporting points and details in each paragraph (in note form only)
  • contains in-text citations of the sources I will use as support
  • is quite short (300-400 words and symbols)
  1. Introduction – context = both ↗ plagiarism + ↗ inequality in higher education
  2. Definition & Refutation – plagiarism = “innocent” misuse of attribution/citation (can be taught) vs. “cheating” intention to deceive / take credit for another’s work (Pecorari 2008) but ≠ illegal b/c not “stealing” / infraction of author’s property rights / copyright law b/c of “fair use” in HE context (Herrington 2010)
  3. Context / Causes – “ghost writing” ↗ b/c of marketization / neoliberalization of HE: i. “credentialism” → students take instrumental approach ← pressured for high grades ← high fees; ii. universities req. income from wealthy + intntl students → < able and motivated students + easy online availability of cheat sites and ghostwriting services; iii. lecturers too busy to spot/deal with plagiarism (Lines 2016)
  4. Problem/Effect 1 = socio-political b/c i. plagiarism → reproduction of (economic) privilege vs. the “meritocratic” purpose/good of HE, e.g., Lines (2016) on ↑ $$ for ghost-written work → only affordable by wealthy fee-paying students vs. < cultural/educational capital of < SES students (Lau & Yuen 2014) and ii. → “Machiavellian” ethics in later economic activity (Grantiz and Loewy 2007)
  5. Problem/Effect 2 = interpersonal b/c plagiarism = misappropriation of (deserved) recognition (Herrington 2010) BUT ≠ rights to “intellectual property” which leads to commodification / alienation b/c intellectual labour = “common undertaking” (Scanlon 2014)
  6. Problem/Effect 3 – interpersonal b/c plagiarism damages: i. credibility / trustworthiness / ethos of the plagiarizer as collaborator b/c recognition important in e.g., creative “distributed invention” (Alexander and Williams 2015, ii. damage “fair” reputation of the credential providing institution (Scanlon 2014; Ford 2015).
  7. Problem/Effect 4 – personal b/c plagiarism = “stultification” = deferring to the mind of another not emancipating self from intellectual “masters” as an equal (Rancière 1991; Dorling 2015)
  8. Recommendation – change instructor / university statements on “academic integrity” to reflect egalitarian (rather than liberal/capitalist) ethics & principles of intellectual production & circulation
  9. Conclusion – summarize: i. how educational inequality can → plagiarism; ii. how plagiarism can → social inequality; iii. egalitarian arguments for academic integrity
  • This course requires you to write a topic outline like the one above, with paragraph labels, in note form, and with in-text citations of the sources you will use in each paragraph
  • Your own outline should fit the research brief you have been given and the type of response you want to write (e.g., you may want to have more paragraphs focused on causal factors or on refuting counterarguments rather than on ethical consequences)
  • Many Bilkent instructors prefer essay outlines in note form only. This is to avoid plagiarism issues during in-class drafting


“How to Outline a Term Paper.” n.d. WikiHow. Accessed November 14, 2017. https://www.wikihow.com/Outline-a-Term-Paper.

“Literature Reviews: An Overview for Graduate Students.” n.d. Accessed November 6, 2017. https://www.lib.ncsu.edu/tutorials/litreview/.

“Purdue OWL: Developing an Outline.” n.d. Accessed November 14, 2017. https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/544/03/.