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), APA style (psychology, education studies), and MLA style.
The Modern Language Association (MLA) outline is a writing style most commonly used by students and writers in the humanities fields such as English Language and Literature, Foreign language and literature, Cultural Studies and Literary Criticism. It provides written communication guidance on applying stylistic technicalities such as abbreviations and footnotes, page layouts and formatting, citing sources, and more. The 9th and most recent edition was published in April 2021 and can be found on various websites on the internet.
Purpose of MLA format
The main purpose of the MLA format is to provide a standard way of presenting academic papers in the humanities. This includes guidelines for formatting the paper, citing sources, and creating a works cited page. The MLA format helps to ensure that papers are consistent, clear, and easy to read, which makes it easier for readers to focus on the content of the paper rather than its presentation.
In addition to providing a consistent format for papers, the MLA format also helps to establish a sense of credibility and authority. By following the MLA guidelines, writers can show that they have taken the time to properly research and organize their ideas, and that they are familiar with the standards and conventions of academic writing. This can help to enhance the credibility and legitimacy of the writer’s ideas and arguments.
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. A good outline reflects perfectly the contents of the research paper that you have written (or you are going to write). Be concise and smart.
When using the MLA format, ensure the paper is 8.5×11 and the margins are one inch around the entire paper with only the running head within the margin. The first word of each sentence should be indented and begin half an inch from the left margin. Each line must be double-spaced with the font being 12-point. However, the font can also be 11-point or 11.5-point. The upper left corner should be secured with a stapler, paper clip or binder clip.
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.).
Below, please find some examples on how to write a full sentence outline, a decimal outline, and alphanumeric outline.
Full sentence outline example – The job search process
THESIS: The job search process is just as much work as having a job.
The job search process can be as time-consuming and stressful as having a full-time job.
Ensure you sign up with job websites such as Indeed, Monster and any other options suitable to your field/ industry.
LinkedIn is a great resource for job hunting as it is good for networking as well as finding vacant positions in various companies across several industries.
- Indeed offers job postings as well as help with resume writing.
Do a thorough research on companies of interest
Make a list of the companies you like and would want to work with
- Research each company, looking at annual reports, news articles, etc. in order to learn as much as you can about the company
When applying for jobs, make sure you tailor your resume to the job description provided
Identify key words in the job description and use them in your resume
Decimal outline example – How to use LinkedIn for networking and job hunting
THESIS: LinkedIn is a great resource for networking and job hunting.
- Register for a LinkedIn account
- 1.1. Sign up for an account
- 1.2. Enter the relevant information
- Complete your profile
- 2.1. Choose a good profile picture
- 2.1.1. Ensure the image is a headshot that is appropriate for professional purposes.
- 2.1.2. Ensure the background is plain and not distracting.
Alphanumeric outline example – How to write a thesis paper
THESIS: Writing a thesis paper can be very easy.
- Choose the topic of interest
- Review topic options
- Narrow down options
- Review the topics and choose the best option for your thesis.
- Further narrow down by assessing the topic you are most familiar and comfortable with
- Research the chosen topic
- Do google, library, etc. research
- Compile literature review
- Research your topic using a wide variety of sources
- a) Ensure to take detailed notes of each source
- b) Highlight the main points from the sources that best represents your argument
- Save your sources with the main points as they will be needed later
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT MLA OUTLINE
What is an MLA Outline?
The MLA outline is the method used to structure your research paper. A formal MLA outline is optional for the MLA research paper unless stated otherwise by the instructor. The MLA outline should contain two main components: the thesis statement and the ideas that support the thesis statement. The MLA outline is structured using a topic outline, which is when short phrases or words are used to describe the points, or a sentence outline, which is when whole sentences are used for the points. The preference for which to use is dependent on the guidelines from the instructor or whatever you deem best for you when writing the paper.
How do I write an MLA Outline?
To write an MLA outline, draft your thesis statement and place it at the beginning of the paper. The major points to support your thesis should be listed and labeled using Roman numerals. Following this, each major point to support the ideas or arguments should be labeled using capital letters. If needed, each supporting idea can be sub-divided and labeled using numbers then common letters. Continue with this until you have a fully developed paper.
How do I make an MLA Outline in Word?
The MLA outline can be set up in Microsoft Word using the tabs at the top of the screen. Start with a blank document and follow the below steps.
Make sure you are on the “Home” tab on the ribbon.
Click on the “no spacing” button then set the MLA style by making sure the font is 12-point Times New Roman and the lines are double-spaced.
Add your header, heading and thesis statement.
Click on the “Multi-level list” icon and choose “Define multi-level list”
Click “1” under the “Click level to modify” section on the left.
Go to “Number style for this level” and change it to the Roman numerals
Under the “Enter number for formatting” section, change the parentheses to a period.
Select “2” under the “Click level to modify” section.
Select capital letters for the “Number style for this level” section.
Go to the “Enter number for formatting” section, change the parentheses to a period.
Select “3” under the “Click level to modify” section.
Select numbers for the “Number style for this level” section.
Under the “Enter number for formatting” section, change the parentheses to a period.
Select “4” under the “Click level to modify” section.
Select the lowercase letters for the “Number style for this level” section.
Under the “Enter number for formatting” section, change both parentheses to a period.
Select the “Set for all levels button” and change the “Bullet/Number position for the first level” to “0”.
Ensure that the other two levels/ sections are set at “0.25”.
Select “OK” for that window and then the second window.
Start typing your paper and hit the “tab” button to go to the next level. All your indents should be set correctly.
If you need to go back one level, select “Shift” + “Tab”.
How do I write an MLA Thesis Outline?
When writing a thesis outline in MLA, follow these steps.
Craft your thesis statement and place it at the beginning of the paper.
Your major points of the thesis should be listed and labeled using Roman numerals.
Points that support the ideas or arguments should be labeled using capital letters.
If further points are needed, each supporting idea can be sub-divided and labeled using numbers then common letters until you have a fully developed paper.
How do I cite a website in MLA format?
To cite a website in MLA format, you will need to include the following elements:
- The author’s last name, followed by their first name (if available)
- The title of the website
- The publisher or sponsor of the website (if available)
- The date the website was published or updated (if available)
- The URL of the website
Here is an example of how to cite a website in MLA format:
Smith, John. “How to Write an Outline in MLA Format.” Writing Tips, 10 Dec. 2022, www.beestudent.com
If you are unable to find some of the information needed to properly cite a website, you can simply omit it from your citation. For example, if you are unable to find the author’s name, you can just leave it out and start with the title of the website.
How to format an MLA works cited page?
To format an MLA works cited page, follow these guidelines:
a) Start the page on a new page at the end of your paper.
b) Title the page “Works Cited” and center it at the top of the page. Do not bold, italicize, or underline the title.
c) Alphabetize the list of sources by the first word in each citation (usually the author’s last name, or the title if there is no author).
d) Double-space the entire list of sources.
e) Indent the second and subsequent lines of each citation half an inch from the left margin. This is known as a hanging indent.
f) Include all necessary information for each source, including the author’s name, the title of the source, the publisher, the publication date, and the URL or page number (if applicable).
Here is an example of what an MLA works cited page might look like:
Boyle, Emily. “The Benefits of Regular Exercise.” Health Tips, 20 Mar. 2021, www.healthtips.com/exercise-benefits.
Smith, John. “How to Write an Outline in MLA Format.” Writing Tips, 10 Dec. 2022, www.writingtips.com/mla-outline.
Wilson, Samantha. “The Importance of Eating a Balanced Diet.” Nutrition Matters, 5 Apr. 2021, pp. 12-15.
Remember to always double-check your citations against the latest MLA guidelines to ensure that they are correct and complete.
How do I parenthetically cite an online source in MLA format?
To parenthetically cite an online source in MLA format, you will need to include the following elements:
- The author’s last name, followed by their first name (if available)
- The title of the source
- The date the source was published or updated (if available)
- The URL of the source
Here is an example of how to parenthetically cite an online source in MLA format:
According to John Smith, “regular exercise can have numerous health benefits” (Smith).
Or, if the author’s name is not available:
“Regular exercise can have numerous health benefits” (Smith).
In both examples, the author’s last name and the title of the source are included in the in-text citation, and the full citation is included on the works cited page. The date and URL are not included in the in-text citation, but they may be included in the full citation on the works cited page.
How to differentiate between MLA and APA referencing?
MLA and APA are two different styles of referencing and formatting papers. Here are some key differences between the two styles:
In MLA format, the author’s last name and the page number are included in in-text citations, while in APA format, the author’s last name and the year of publication are included in in-text citations.
In MLA format, the title of the paper is centered and not bolded, italicized, or underlined, while in APA format, the title of the paper is left-aligned and placed in a running head at the top of every page.
In MLA format, the works cited page is alphabetized by the first word in each citation, while in APA format, the references page is alphabetized by the author’s last name.
In MLA format, the title of the works cited page is “Works Cited,” while in APA format, the title of the references page is “References.”
In MLA format, the titles of sources are not italicized or underlined, while in APA format, the titles of books and journals are italicized, and the titles of articles and chapters are placed in quotation marks.
By understanding these differences, you can choose the appropriate style for your paper and properly format and cite your sources. It’s always a good idea to check with your instructor or editor to confirm which style you should use for your specific assignment.
Do I need to include a title for my outline in MLA format?
It is not necessary to include a title for your outline in MLA format, but you may choose to do so if you think it will help to organize and clarify your ideas.
Can I use bullet points or other symbols in my outline in MLA format?
Yes, you can use bullet points or other symbols to help organize your ideas in an outline in MLA format. However, it is important to use these symbols consistently and to indent each level of the outline to show its hierarchy and relationship to the other levels.
How do I indent each level of my outline in MLA format?
To indent each level of your outline in MLA format, use the tab key on your keyboard. This will create a visual hierarchy that makes it easy for readers to see the relationship between the different levels of your outline.
Can I use colors or other formatting options in my outline in MLA format?
While you can use colors or other formatting options to help organize your outline in MLA format, it is important to use these formatting options consistently and to avoid using colors that are difficult to read or that may be distracting to your readers.
Can I use abbreviations or acronyms in my outline in MLA format?
Yes, you can use abbreviations or acronyms in your outline in MLA format. However, it is important to define any abbreviations or acronyms that are not commonly known to your readers.
If you need help with writing an outline in MLA format, feel free to order below.