Exercise: Outlining a Report

"Outlining is a vital step in organizing a written project. Organization is the process of putting something together as an orderly, functional, and structured whole; outlining is the best means of achieving this orderly, functional, and structured whole."

* * *

Andrea works in the accounting department of a smaller financial firm. Normally, the accounting department does not undertake dramatic, flashy presentations.

Recently, however, Accounting had a severe disagreement with Marketing. Choi, the head of Accounting, believes that a high-impact presentation will help to make the accounting case. Because of tensions between the departments, however, Accounting cannot borrow Marketing’s expertise in presentations. Therefore, Choi has asked Andrea quickly to investigate multimedia presentations and to report her findings.

Using her existing computer knowledge as a guide, Andrea brainstorms to divide her work into manageable units. She arrives at the following list of subtopics:

Macintosh Windows Text Graphics Colour Interaction Sound Video Animation Definition Elements Hardware/Software

To make her outline, all she needs to do next is to organize the subtopics into a hierarchy of points:












*MAIN POINTS are the first level of the hierarchy. Among them, they cover all aspects of the topic that answer the "question" or purpose of the report.

*SUB-POINTS, the next level, are subtopics that can all be classified under one or another of the main points. The sub-points of one main point will often be varieties, alternatives, or components of the main point. The first and/or last sub-points should be the strongest or most interesting.

*SUPPORTING POINTS form all the lower levels of the hierarchy. At these levels, possible points tend to be specific and numerous. The supporting points chosen for a report should be the most important, interesting, or convincing points among the possibilities. They should also be classified and grouped in the same manner as the sub-points.


  1. a) Brainstorm the topic "Freedom of Expression on the Internet" for a list of possible subtopics.



    b) Organize your subtopics into a hierarchy of main points, sub-points, and supporting points (if any).

  3. a) Brainstorm a topic of your choice for a list of possible subtopics.

  b) Organize the list in a) into a hierarchy of points (outline).
*3. a) Write the thesis sentence for your team's project report.


b) What would be the main points in your outline? (See the handout.)


Brainstorm these main points to arrive at a list of sub-points and supporting points.

c) By organizing the points in b) into a hierarchy, write an outline for your final written assignment.

d) Now compare your outline with those of your team members. Combine all your outlines into a single outline. It should meet the requirements of the Project Report Assignment and should be created by the selection of the best points in all outlines (rather than the rejection of the "bad" points!).