Every outline contains the main idea of a certain research paper or assignment. You will need to write an outline in two cases: (1) if you want to present work which has been already written, or (2) if you are starting work on a research paper and need to plan its contents and structure.
The outline is also helpful when you need to analyze your idea in general and to check if the thesis and arguments you use are coherent enough.
How to write an outline in MLA format – major tips
There are usually three formats for writing an outline: Chicago style (employed in Humanities), MLA style (literature studies, philology, linguistics) and APA style (psychology, education studies). Therefore, you should use the MLA format only when the topic of your paper is related to philology/literature studies (or close to it).
In order to write your outline, you should start with a thesis statement. It has to contain very brief text describing the topic, goals, methods, and logical conclusion of the research paper in question. We recommend writing no more than six or seven lines. Remember: the thesis statement is neither an abstract, nor an introduction.
Headings and subheadings
The structure of your paper should include all important ideas, which must be distributed and clarified equally. One idea cannot be more important than another one (particularly in the outline). The contents of the outline should be divided into several headings; in turn, they should be divided into subheadings, and so on. Try to prepare a coherent and strictly logical structure without contradictions or vague definitions. Be pragmatic: expose only information that you need to. Don’t give the reader too much or less than required. The good outline reflects perfectly the contents of the research paper that you have written (or you are going to write). Be concise and smart.
As with all papers in MLA format, your outline should be double-spaced, 12 pt. The title of the paper should be centered. The following line contains the thesis statement (write the thesis in capital letters, followed by a colon, and then set forth your thesis).
The headings are indicated with roman numbers (I, II, III); the subheadings are indicated with uppercase letters (A, B, C); all other subdivisions follow the model of Arabic numbers (1, 2, 3) and lowercase letters (a, b, c). Each of them is followed by a period (I.).
The following sample outline consists of full sentences. You can also use short phrases instead.
The literature of Renaissance and humanism
THESIS: The literature of Renaissance is based upon the principles of humanism and anthropocentrism. Humanism influences significantl
the literature of the Renaissance. Besides, anthropocentrism, as the second leading principle, opposes theocentrism and borrows ideas from
the Ancient worldview.
I. Humanism is the leading principle of all Renaissance works.
A. Humanism is presented in all writings that we refer to as Renaissance literature.
B. Humanism is the cornerstone of the way of thinking of the Renaissance man.
II. Anthropocentrism is the second leading principle of the Renaissance man.
A. Anthropocentrism replaces the traditional heliocentrism and theocentrism.
B. Anthropocentrism is continuation of the classical (Ancient) view of man’s dignity.