Chapter outlines are normally found in textbooks especially when the general subject is too broad that it requires the authors of the said textbook to divide it into subcategories or chapters. In some cases, they may be found in general biography, autobiography books or even step-by-step books. Just like any kind of outline, they act as a guide in allowing both the teachers and students to browse through the content with ease as chapter outlines break a specific chapter down into sub-chapters as well giving a very brief and detailed description of what that part is all about. You may also see essay outlines.
How to Write a Chapter Outline
Depending on the excerpt that you would want to write, it is always best to understand what kind of book you are trying to author. Here are at least 3 examples on how to write a chapter outline:
1. Skim the material.
Merriam-Webster defines skimming as reading, studying, or examining a manuscript superficially and rapidly searching mainly for the chief ideas or the main points of a plot. You may also see program outlines.
- Once you have found your main keywords, highlight them and make them bold. Most textbooks would make these key terms in bold so that it would be easier for the students to identify the main key points of the lesson.
- Avoid spending too much time on one section. If you do not really understand what you are currently reading, you can just highlight the points that make sense to you and just go back to it afterwards. You may also see speech outlines.
- Browse through the introduction and conclusion for every chapter. Just those parts alone help identify what the chapter is about and its importance to society.
2. Format your outline.
After obtaining the main points of the chapter and understanding the gist of it, it is finally time to create that outline. Textbook outlines would normally make use of numbers or letters. While the key terms are denoted with roman numerals, the sub points are indicated with letters. You may also see outline an essay.
- For instance, if you are writing about World War 2, you may want to begin by organizing the outline an diving it into main points.
- It may look something like this: Chronology (Chapter I), Background (Chapter II), Pre-war Events (Chapter III), Course of the War (Chapter IV), Aftermath (Chapter V). You may also see book outlines.
- After identifying the main points, begin immediately with its respective sub points. For example in Chronology (Chapter II), you can divide it into two parts: Europe & Asia.
- Be sure that the all identified points of the outline are based on the main key points of the chapter. You could also try using sub-headings as a main point depending on the gravity of that event.
3. Write the outline.
As you start writing your chapter outline, you may notice that your proposed outline may not be enough as additional components have to be included to make your excerpt more detailed and complete. But every good outline must start with an introduction of the said manuscript that is typically a paragraph long. You may also see course outlines.
- The most important thing to include in your introduction is the thesis statement which usually appears at the end of the introductory paragraph, offering a concise and clear summary of the main point or claim of the manuscript
- Make sure to rewrite and paraphrase the thesis statement in your own words, and insert it somewhere in the introduction. This introduction must provide a brief overview of the important key points in the chapter. You may also see report outlines.
- And since it is an introduction, it is expected that it should be at the beginning of the outline. Afterwards, you can start marking the other points with roman numerals and letters or numbers.
4. Annotate your outline.
The idea of an outline is to be short and brief. But there are times that when writing said outline, the author might tend to get sidetracked or confused with what type of content to add in that sub-chapter. It does not hurt to add a sentence or two in that outline to give the author an idea on the background of that sub-chapter. You may also see resume outlines
- You have to understand that an annotation is a comment or explanation and it is important to include an annotation for each of your sub points. It does not have to be long. Two to three short sentences ought to do it. Only add useful and relevant information when adding annotations that will not overwhelm you when going through the outline again.
- For example, you could do Course of the War (Chapter IV) – War breaks out in the Pacific (Chapter 4.5), by saying something like, “After the United States renounced its treaty in Japan in 1939 after its aviation gasoline ban, Japan then wasted no time in attacking Changsa, an important Chinese city.” You may also see rough outlines.
5. Be flexible.
The whole point of writing an outline in the first place is to note all the key points that the author would want to deliver to his audience in advance. But it does not necessarily mean that the ones in the outline are the only ones you will deliver. One needs to be flexible to allow more room for more points so that the manuscript can be made better and more detailed. Be open to change and if it the ones added does not suit the excerpt, you can always ignore them.You may also see thesis outlines
- If you have only made four key points, go ahead and add a 5th one, if you really think that detail is noteworthy enough to be included in the manuscript.
- Be sure that the added point really is deemed significant and important enough for it to become a key point in the first place. If that idea is only limited to a sub point, then leave it so.
- If one can add, one can also remove or replace. If you think that the added point does not correlate to the outline you have created, then by all means, remove it, or have it replaced to something better if you have the patience.You may also see tentative outlines.
6. Follow instructions.
If that outline is for personal use, then there really is no problem whatsoever. However, if that submission is intended for your instructor, best if you follow instructions to avoid getting deductions.
- Remember to provide what is asked. If your professor asks you or only three key points, then give him three.
- And always learn how to ask for clarifications. If there is a set of instructions that you do not quite comprehend, ask away. This is also one way to avoid misunderstanding between both parties. You may also see speech outlines.
Chapter Outline Example
Chapter I: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King. For biography books, the first part in creating the said chapter outline would always be about the person’s life. In breaking down the life of a person, it is best if you start at the very beginning of the person’s life.
Chapter 1.1: Childhood Days. Life begins at this very stage. Unless you so happen to be another curious case of Benjamin Button, best start writing and recording details about your memories as a kid. The thing with childhood memories is that you cannot exactly recall every single memory that has occurred in this part of your life (but it is possible if you have a chip in implanted in your cortex the moment when you were born). If you ever want a detailed memory of your childhood days, try asking your parents. They might be able to help you with that.
Chapter 1.2: Teenage Years. At this stage, you might be able to remember more than just eating, sleeping, drinking and going to school since your brain is already developed enough to recall more detailed memories. Your teenage years serve as a transition period from that of your childhood days moving to another stage in your life.
Chapter 1.3: Adult Life. Thirty plus years of your life has already passed and it is without a doubt that you may have had many noteworthy and memorable experiences along the journey of life. However, if there was one event in your life that made history or an event so commendable that you would wish to share it with the rest of the world, consider placing a sub-chapter within that sub-chapter and start talking about the event and how it occurred.
Chapter 1.4: “I Have A Dream”. Although there are many events in Dr. King’s life that transformed him into the man into who he is today, this is probably the most significant and most important moment in his life when he delivered that speech on August 28, 1963 to a massive group of civil rights marchers that were gathered around the Lincoln memorial in Washington, D.C.
Chapter 1.5: Life Before Death. Recorded in the final years of one’s life, this section would often serve as the best for last that recorded on how he lived before moving on to a better place up in the sky.
Chapter II: Achievements. For biographies, it does not only begin and end with the life of the individual. There are many instances wherein you can add important aspects of his life that were not mentioned in the first chapter, but can be well elaborated on the second; achievements, early works, you name it! You may also autobiography outlines.
We hope you found our article on how to write a chapter outline to be informative, and will guide you in writing you a chapter outline for your next project or literary work.