Step-By-Step Guide to Writing an Annotated Outline

Before you start to write your research assignment, your teacher may ask you to write an annotated outline. This outline will help you organize the main ideas of your paper and make sure that your thesis is supported by the research. If you have an annotated outline, you can also save a lot of time when it comes to writing the paper itself. Check out this guide from Writers House team of experienced writers to create a good annotated outline for your paper.

The Key Elements

1. Start with an introduction. The first section of your outline should be titled “Introduction,” and it must include the following elements:

a hook that grabs attention and opens your paper;a quick preview of your main points;a thesis statement.

2. The main body of your paper should have section headings. You may make them more or less specific, the main thing is to make sure that they are directly related to your thesis statement because they must support it.

Your headings should reflect different aspects of the topic. For example, if you’re writing about climate change in California, your headings may focus on the following things: the geological profile of California, its climate systems, recent climate changes, the consequences of climate change for the local economy, and consequences of global warming for wildlife and biology.Make sure that your outline gets straight to the point. Don’t try to make more sections than you actually need because the outline must be concise. Usually, annotated outlines don’t exceed 2-2.5 pages with double spaces.

3. Write two or more supporting paragraph headings under every section. We recommend that you write at least two paragraph headings in each section.

4. Write topic sentences for all paragraphs. Every paragraph must begin with a topic sentence that explains what this paragraph will be about and reflects the arguments that you make in this paragraph. For example, when writing about the rise in sea level near California, you can start such a paragraph with a topic sentence that looks like this: “The rise in sea level near California is caused by global warming.”

5. Every paragraph must have at least two supporting examples so that your readers can understand why your points are valid. You should also explain how each paragraph connects back to the thesis statement. Support your points with paraphrases and direct quotes from your sources.

Provide data from surveys and opinions from reputable experts. In the outline, briefly explain the connection between the topic sentence and evidence from each paragraph.Include a closing sentence that will allow you to make a transition from to the next another. This way, your content will logically flow from one section to another.

6. Write a conclusion section. It must rephrase your thesis statement, wrap up the entire paper, summarizing its key points, and express some meaningful ideas that will reinforce the thesis and leave your readers with something to think about.

An Annotated Outline Without Citations

1. Read your research materials and determine the main sections of your paper. Keep in mind the structure of an annotated outline and highlight the main headings of your paper. Your goal is to break down each heading into at least two paragraph headings.

Note any details from your research that can be used as supporting evidence for your paragraphs. We recommend that you do it before writing the annotated outline itself to save time.

2. Develop your thesis statement before putting your research data into the outline. Make sure that your thesis is concise and clear. This statement is the basis for the entire annotated outline so make sure that it summarizes all the main points.

For instance, if you’re writing a paper about the impact of climate change on California, your thesis statement may look like this: “Global warming imposes a significant threat to California’s economy and can be a reason why the local wildlife and biology will face extinction in the next several decades.”The thesis statement will help you understand what section headings can back up your main claims, suggesting subtopics for your paragraphs.

3. Place your research data and thesis statement into the annotated outline. Once your thesis is ready and you have in place the necessary research data, you can finalize the structure of the outline. Here’s what the structure will look like:

INTRODUCTION

A hook that grabs attention;A brief summary of the main points;The thesis statement.

SECTION HEADING

The topic sentence of the paragraph;Evidence;Evidence;The summary of the paragraph;A closing sentence.The topic sentence of the paragraph;Evidence;Evidence;The summary of the paragraph;A closing sentence.

SECTION HEADING

The topic sentence of the paragraph;Evidence;Evidence;The summary of the paragraph;A closing sentence.The topic sentence of the paragraph;Evidence;Evidence;The summary of the paragraph;A closing sentence.

(Obviously, you can have more section headings with more than two paragraphs)

CONCLUSION

The rephrased thesis statement;The summary of the main points;The closing sentence.

An Annotated Outline with Citations

1. Read your research materials and determine the main sections of your annotated outline. Think about the structure of an annotated outline and highlight the main section headings. Break these section headings into at least two paragraph headings before writing the outline itself because this way, you will save a lot of time.

2. Choose the main references for each section. We recommend that you figure out what your references list will look like in advance. Select primary references that helped you formulate the main ideas of your paper. Highlight a couple of references  for each section of the paper.

You may use APA, MLA, or another citation format. Use references as supporting evidence for each section of your outline.You can include additional information for each reference. Just write short sentences that summarize the main ideas of your references and explain how they relate to your thesis statement.

3. Write the final draft of your thesis statement. Before including details from your research materials, read your thesis statement and make sure that it’s concise and clear. The thesis statement must serve as the basis for your annotated outline. Make sure that it summarizes the main ideas of your paper.

4. Include your references, research data, and the thesis statement in the annotated outline. Once your thesis statement and research notes are ready, you can complete the structure of the outline. It will look the same as described in the previous section of this guide.