Preparing a Topic Outline

As you consider the purpose and scope of your composition, and assemble information and ideas, it is a good idea to spread keywords, phrases, and sentences over a sheet of paper or over the whole of a computer screen. No matter whatever you are writing, headings will help you to organize your work. So they should necessarily be included in your topic headline. Use your main points as headings, and note supporting details and examples below each heading. Then number the headings as you decide:

  • the purpose and scope of your composition,
  • how the subject is to be introduced?
  • what is the topic for each of the other paragraphs?
  • what information and ideas must be included in each paragraph?
  • are any tables or diagrams needed? If so, where should they be placed?
  • what can be left out?
  • what part needs most emphasis?
  • how can the paragraphs be arranged in an effective sequence?
  • how should the composition be concluded?
  • would sub-headings help the reader?


In scientific and technical writing appropriate headings must be used. These headings should be used in preparing a topic outline, to ensure that all paragraphs are relevant to the preceding heading as well as to the composition as a whole.

After collecting all the required information, if there is still time left then it is a good idea to put your topic outline on one side for a while. Some of your second thoughts may be better than your first thoughts, and you may save time in the end because – even when using a word processor – it is easier to revise a topic outline than to reorganize and rewrite a poorly organized first draft.