Presentation outline

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Every well-prepared paper or presentation needs to be well organized and have adequately developed ideas. One way to make sure the presentation meets these guidelines is to develop a preparation outline. Well-organized presentations begin with outlines for two reasons.

    1. First, outlines make sure the speaker is thinking logically.
    2. Second, the outline makes your ideas clear to the listener.


You already have your rough draft/outline for the presentation. Now it’s time to put that information into a formal full-sentence outline. Please avoid the common mistake of turning in a paper or essay that is not in outline form. To develop a proper outline, please follow the guidelines below:

  1. Outlines must conform to standard principles of organization.
    1. Separation: Main points (and their sub-points) should be distinct and not overlap.
    2. Symmetry [balance]: Main points should have roughly the same amount of information. If they don’t, you may need to (1) drop a point, (2) expand a point, or (3) reorganize the information.
    3. Arrangement: A long list of points indicates abstraction; look for larger categories. Similarly, you cannot have just one subordinate point; that is, every “A” needs a “B,” every “1” needs a “2”, and so forth.
    4. Subordination: Sub points should be (1) directly relevant to the main point and 2) be of a lower level of abstraction.

2. The outline must be in full sentences in alphanumeric (This document is an example of that format.)

3. All the information you are going to say must be in your outline for several reasons.

  1. You may not remember it all.
  2. Someone may ask you for information you didn’t say.
  3. If equipment breaks down and your information is on power point slides, you won’t be able to share it

4. There are many resources for outlining that include basic principles and examples.

    1. Purdue OWL: Developing an Outline
    2. Harvard University: Outlining
    3. Walden University: Outlining a Paper

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