Article Outline Example

For research papers, an outline may help you keep track of large amounts of information. For creative writing, an outline may help organize the various plot threads and help keep track of character traits. Many people find that organizing an oral report or presentation in outline form helps them speak more effectively in front of a crowd.


  1. Creating an outline is a good step to take while writing your paper. It allows you to brainstorm new ideas and make sure your paper will be organized, focused, and supported. Many writers find it easier to write from an outline instead of starting from a blank page.
  2. These are the kinds of articles that you normally see talking about a specific update of an event, or something totally new. News articles discuss current or recent news of either general interest (e.g. Daily newspapers) or of a specific topic (e.g. Business newspapers, science and technology news).

Format for the paper Edit yourpaper! Useful books


Scientific research articles provide a method forscientists to communicate with other scientists about the results of their research. Astandard format is used for these articles, in which the author presents the research inan orderly, logical manner. This doesn't necessarily reflect the order in which you did orthought about the work. This format is:

Title Authors Introduction Materials and Methods Results (with Tables and Figures) Discussion Acknowledgments Literature Cited


  1. Make your title specificenough to describethe contents of the paper, but not so technical that only specialists will understand. Thetitle should be appropriate for the intended audience.
  2. The title usually describes thesubject matterof the article: Effect of Smoking on Academic Performance'
  3. Sometimes a title thatsummarizes the resultsis more effective: Students Who Smoke Get Lower Grades'
Newspaper article outline


1. The person who did the work and wrote thepaper is generally listed as the first author of a research paper.

2. For published articles, other people who madesubstantial contributions to the work are also listed as authors. Ask your mentor'spermission before including his/her name as co-author.


1. An abstract, or summary, is published togetherwith a research article, giving the reader a 'preview' of what's to come. Suchabstracts may also be published separately in bibliographical sources, such as Biologic alAbstracts. They allow other scientists to quickly scan the large scientific literature,and decide which articles they want to read in depth. The abstract should be a little lesstechnical than the article itself; you don't want to dissuade your potent ial audiencefrom reading your paper.

2. Your abstract should be one paragraph, of100-250 words, which summarizes the purpose, methods, results and conclusions of thepaper.

3. It is not easy to include all this informationin just a few words. Start by writing a summary that includes whatever you think isimportant, and then gradually prune it down to size by removing unnecessary words, whilestill retaini ng the necessary concepts.

3. Don't use abbreviations or citations in theabstract. It should be able to stand alone without any footnotes.


What question did you ask in your experiment? Whyis it interesting? The introduction summarizes the relevant literature so that the readerwill understand why you were interested in the question you asked. One to fo ur paragraphsshould be enough. End with a sentence explaining the specific question you asked in thisexperiment.


1. How did you answer this question? There shouldbe enough information here to allow another scientist to repeat your experiment. Look atother papers that have been published in your field to get some idea of what is includedin this section.

2. If you had a complicated protocol, it mayhelpful to include a diagram, table or flowchart to explain the methods you used.

3. Do not put results in this section. You may,however, include preliminary results that were used to design the main experiment that youare reporting on. ('In a preliminary study, I observed the owls for one week, andfound that 73 % of their locomotor activity occurred during the night, and so I conductedall subsequent experiments between 11 pm and 6 am.')

4. Mention relevant ethical considerations. Ifyou used human subjects, did they consent to participate. If you used animals, whatmeasures did you take to minimize pain?


1. This is where you present the results you'vegotten. Use graphs and tables if appropriate, but also summarize your main findings in thetext. Do NOT discuss the results or speculate as to why something happened; t hat goes inth e Discussion.

2. You don't necessarily have to include all thedata you've gotten during the semester. This isn't a diary.

3. Use appropriate methods of showing data. Don'ttry to manipulate the data to make it look like you did more than you actually did.

'The drug cured 1/3 of the infected mice,another 1/3 were not affected, and the third mouse got away.'


1. If you present your data in a table or graph,include a title describing what's in the table ('Enzyme activity at varioustemperatures', not 'My results'.) For graphs, you should also label the xand y axes.

2. Don't use a table or graph justto be 'fancy'. If you can summarize the information in one sentence, then atable or graph is not necessary.


1. Highlight the most significant results, butdon't just repeat what you've written in the Results section. How do these results relateto the original question? Do the data support your hypothesis? Are your results consistentwith what other investigators have reported? If your results were unexpected, try toexplain why. Is there another way to interpret your results? What further research wouldbe necessary to answer the questions raised by your results? How do y our results fit intothe big picture?

2. End with a one-sentence summary of yourconclusion, emphasizing why it is relevant.


This section is optional. You can thank those whoeither helped with the experiments, or made other important contributions, such asdiscussing the protocol, commenting on the manuscript, or buying you pizza.


There are several possible ways to organize thissection. Here is one commonly used way:

1. In the text, cite the literature in theappropriate places:

Scarlet (1990) thought that the gene was presentonly in yeast, but it has since been identified in the platypus (Indigo and Mauve, 1994)and wombat (Magenta, et al., 1995).

2. In the References section list citations inalphabetical order.

Indigo, A. C., and Mauve, B. E. 1994. Queer placefor qwerty: gene isolation from the platypus. Science 275, 1213-1214.

Magenta, S. T., Sepia, X., and Turquoise, U.1995. Wombat genetics. In: Widiculous Wombats, Violet, Q., ed. New York: ColumbiaUniversity Press. p 123-145.

Scarlet, S.L. 1990. Isolation of qwerty gene fromS. cerevisae. Journal of Unusual Results 36, 26-31.


'In my writing, I average about ten pages a day. Unfortunately, they're all the same page.'
Michael Alley, The Craft of Scientific Writing

A major part of any writing assignment consistsof re-writing.

Write accurately

  1. Scientific writing must be accurate. Although writing instructors may tell you not to use the same word twice in a sentence, it's okay for scientific writing, which must be accurate. (A student who tried not to repeat the word 'hamster' produced this confusing sentence: 'When I put the hamster in a cage with the other animals, the little mammals began to play.')
  2. Make sure you say what you mean.
  3. Instead of: The rats were injected with the drug. (sounds like a syringe was filled with drug and ground-up rats and both were injected together)
    Write: I injected the drug into the rat.

  4. Be careful with commonly confused words:

Temperature has an effect on the reaction.
Temperature affects the reaction.

I used solutions in various concentrations. (The solutions were 5 mg/ml, 10 mg/ml, and 15 mg/ml)
I used solutions in varying concentrations. (The concentrations I used changed; sometimes they were 5 mg/ml, other times they were 15 mg/ml.)

Less food (can't count numbers of food)
Fewer animals (can count numbers of animals)

A large amount of food (can't count them)
A large number of animals (can count them)


The erythrocytes, which are in the blood, contain hemoglobin.
The erythrocytes that are in the blood contain hemoglobin. (Wrong. This sentence implies that there are erythrocytes elsewhere that don't contain hemoglobin.)

Write clearly

1. Write at a level that's appropriate for youraudience.

'Like a pigeon, something to admire as long as it isn't over your head.' Anonymous

2. Use the active voice. It's clearer andmore concise than the passive voice.

Instead of: An increased appetite was manifested by the rats and an increase in body weight was measured.
Write: The rats ate more and gained weight.

3. Use the first person.

Instead of: It is thought
Write: I think

Instead of: The samples were analyzed
Write: I analyzed the samples

4. Avoid dangling participles.

'After incubating at 30 degrees C, weexamined the petri plates.' (You must've been pretty warm in there.)

Sample Outline For An Article

Write succinctly

1. Use verbs instead of abstract nouns

Instead of: take into consideration
Write: consider

2. Use strong verbs instead of 'tobe'

Instead of: The enzyme was found to be the active agent in catalyzing...
Write: The enzyme catalyzed...

3. Use short words.

'I would never use a long word where a short one would answer the purpose. I know there are professors in this country who 'ligate' arteries. Other surgeons tie them, and it stops the bleeding just as well.'
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr .

Instead of:Write:

4. Use concise terms.

Instead of:Write:
prior to before
due to the fact thatbecause
in a considerable number of casesoften
the vast majority ofmost
during the time thatwhen
in close proximity tonear
it has long been known thatI'm too lazy to look up the reference

5. Use short sentences. A sentence made of morethan 40 words should probably be rewritten as two sentences.

'The conjunction 'and' commonly servesto indicate that the writer's mind still functions even when no signs of the phenomenonare noticeable.' Rudolf Virchow, 1928

Check your grammar, spelling and punctuation

1. Use a spellchecker, but be aware that theydon't catch all mistakes.

'When we consider the animal as ahole,...' Student's paper

2. Your spellchecker may not recognizescientific terms. For the correct spelling, try Biotech'sLife ScienceDictionary or one of the technical dictionaries on the reference shelf in the Biologyor Health Sciences libraries.

3. Don't, use, unnecessary, commas.

4. Proofread carefully to see if you anywords out.


Law Review Article Outline Example

Victoria E. McMillan, Writing Papers in theBiological Sciences, Bedford Books, Boston, 1997
The best. On sale for about $18 at Labyrinth Books, 112th Street. On reserve in BiologyLibrary

Jan A. Pechenik, A Short Guide to WritingAbout Biology, Boston: Little, Brown, 1987

Harrison W. Ambrose, III & Katharine PeckhamAmbrose, A Handbook of Biological Investigation, 4th edition, Hunter Textbooks Inc,Winston-Salem, 1987
Particularly useful if you need to use statistics to analyze your data. Copy on Referenceshelf in Biology Library.

Robert S. Day, How to Write and Publish aScientific Paper, 4th edition, Oryx Press, Phoenix, 1994.
Earlier editions also good. A bit more advanced, intended for those writing papers forpublication. Fun to read. Several copies available in Columbia libraries.

William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White, TheElements of Style, 3rd ed. Macmillan, New York, 1987.
Several copies available in Columbia libraries. Strunk's first edition isavailable on-line.

How To Write An Article Outline

A reader asked:

Hi, Bamidele. I can gladly say that you’ve been an inspiration in my life. I just started to explore online content writing and I’m experiencing some difficulties in forming a good outline for my articles. Do you have any tips and pointers that can help?

I’ll be sharing the format I use to outline my article below:

Step 1: Develop a Concrete Idea of What Your Article Will be About

Start by having a concrete idea of what your article will be about; I’m not talking about a “topic” here, but a concrete idea of what your article will be about; this will make it easy to form your outline.

For example “freelance writing” is a topic, while “I want to write an holistic article that will help people to quit their jobs to be a freelance writer” is a concrete idea.

You don’t need to have a title, or a headline, before developing your outline but you need to be clear about exactly what your article will be about.

Once you’ve decided on a concrete idea for your article, you can write it down or keep it in mind; what matters is that you have something that guides your outline, and eventually your article, so you don’t end up beating around the bush.

Step 2: Come Up With a Rough List of Points You’ll Write About

A complete article usually involves several points, subheadings, bullets, etc. that pass across your message.

Review Article Outline Example

In most cases, you’ll find that you don’t have all of these points available before you start writing but it is essential to have an ample number of them available; this way, you can easily avoid “writer’s block” when you start writing.

For example, if I were to go further with my example on “quitting your job to be a freelance writer” I might come up with a list of the following points:

Article Title: Quitting Your Job to be a Freelance Writer


The Evolution of Freelance Writing

Why Quit Your Job as a Freelance Writer

  • You want more time with your loved ones
  • You want to have fun and travel the world
  • You want to increase your income potential
  • You want to be your own boss and have freedom
  • You love writing and want to do it full time

Examples of Successful Freelance Writers Making a Full Living

5 Factors to Consider Before Quitting Your Job to Become a Freelance Writer

  • Do You Have Enough Savings to Help You Through the “Tough” Times?
  • Do You Have Any Experience Freelance Writing? Are You Already Making Money?
  • How Do You Plan to Stay Productive?
  • What’s Your Plan For Attracting Clients?
  • What Happens if Life Gets in the Way

Outline Of An Article


Step 3: If Possible, Include a Little Description With Your Points to Make it Easy to Write Them

Sometimes, you won’t be able to get to work on the article you outlined immediately; so, even if your head is buzzing with ideas at the moment of writing the outline, and you’re so excited that you feel you’ll burst if you don’t write, you might come to your outline tomorrow and have no idea why you wrote a particular point or what a particular point means.

If you take a look at the points in my example, you’ll probably find it difficult to understand what some of the points mean; I have a clear idea behind why I wrote those points, but you’re probably wondering “how does most of these points relate to quitting your job to be a freelance writer?”. I’m very sure I might start to feel that way if I come back to the outline a month later.

To avoid confusion, and to make it easy to flesh out my article, I prefer to explain my points a bit if I won’t be able to write the article immediately; this way, it’s easy to flesh out a full article no matter when I get back to the points.

In this case, the basic outline I prepared earlier will develop to be something like this:

Article Outline Sample

Article Title: Quitting Your Job to be a Freelance Writer


The Evolution of Freelance Writing

From becoming a side job people barely take serious decades ago, how did freelance writing evolve to be something people now take really serious today?

I should reference this February 2014 study that shows that 87% of students with first or second class degrees now see freelancing as a highly attractive and lucrative career option.

The aim of this section is to help people understand why others will consider quitting a job to focus full time on freelance writing.

Why Quit Your Job as a Freelance Writer

This section should explain why people might consider quitting a profitable full time job to be a freelance writer.

  • You want more time with your loved ones
  • You want to have fun and travel the world
  • You want to increase your income potential
  • You want to be their own boss and have freedom
  • You love writing and want to do it full time

(The above points are self explanatory, so no need to further describe them)

Examples of Successful Freelance Writers Making a Full Living

The aim of this section should be to feature several successful freelance writers making a full time living from their craft. (3? more?)

I might reference the following highly successful freelance writers: Carol Tice, Linda Formichelli, Tom Ewer.

5 Factors to Consider Before Quitting Your Job to Become a Freelance Writer

  • Do You Have Enough Savings to Help You Through the “Tough” Times? (contrary to what most people think, freelance writing won’t always be rosy; for beginners, it helps to save until you’re well balanced to be making a living)
  • Do You Have Any Experience Freelance Writing? Are You Already Making Money? (You can’t just quit a lucrative job and jump into freelance writing when you have absolutely no idea how it works. How much are you currently making as a freelance writing compared to your current job; is it an issue where having more time will yield more income for you?)
  • How Do You Plan to Stay Productive? (Without a boss and a team to keep us focused on work, it might not be as easy to stay productive; how do you plan to address this problem?)
  • What’s Your Plan For Attracting Clients? (How do you plan to ensure you’ll always have a constant supply of clients once you start freelance writing?)
  • What Happens if Life Gets in the Way? (An accident, illness, loss of a loved one, or any other thing can happen; if you’ve quit your job and your income is down, how do you plan to deal with this without any “entitlement” from your freelance writing “job”)


This ends with a conclusion for the article.

On its own, this fully developed outline is 468 words; you can see how easy it will be to flesh out an article from this?

Step 4: Review Your Points

Once you complete step 3, your outline is formed; at this stage, you want to ensure that your points are coherent, and that nothing is missing or excessive in your outline.

You’ll have to review your outline and do some “addition and subtraction” to ensure points are added and removed, before you proceed with writing your article.

Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Research

Can you see how easy I outlined a potential article on “quitting your job as a freelance writer”?

Writing this particular article you’re reading about how to write an outline (at 1,300+ words), including the outline example I prepared with it, took me about 40 minutes total minus editing time.

Truth be told, it won’t come this easy for you unless you’re an experienced writer. The idea for the outline and this article came easy to me because I’m very knowledgeable about the subject of freelance writing.

It’s not uncommon to find yourself staring at the blank screen when trying to write your outline, it happens to me too, and in this case you just have to keep researching what has been written on the subject to help form your own ideas.

Use Google, Wikipedia, Q&A sites, etc. to see what has been written, to get new ideas and to better develop ideas already forming in your mind.

Also, try looking for studies and research that back up the points in your article and include them in your outline.