How to Create a Term Paper Outline in a Few Hours

You’ve written a great thesis for your term paper and have done plenty of research. You know the topic inside and out, but you can’t seem to get started. All of your thoughts and ideas seem to be tripping over themselves in your mind, and you begin to panic as you see the second hand on your clock inch passed yet another hour. What you need is a plan of action. This is where a well-constructed outline comes in handy. Here’s a fast and simple way to create a term paper outline in just a few hours:

Write your thesis statement.

Assuming you’ve done a fair amount of research and have written notes throughout, you should have a fair idea of what it is you want to write about. Your first thesis will be draft, and, therefore, doesn’t need to be perfect. It will be a starting point from which you can begin to envision how your argument will unfurl before the reader.

Brainstorm your content.

This is one of the most important steps to developing a great outline and ensuing term paper. It’s a practice in critical thinking, one that encourages you to find hidden insights about a topic. From your research, gather information such as quotes, responses, data, theories, and anything else that gets you to think about an opinion or argument in your topic.

Group related items.

Grouping related ideas after you’ve brainstormed will help you identify your strongest arguments. It’s not a matter of choosing the group that has the most content, but of choosing the idea that is more developed. For a standard 5-paragraph term paper, you should find at least three main topic arguments with ample relevant content to include in your outline and paper.

Divide topic areas using labels.

A basic but effective outline used in college-level courses everywhere is the alphanumeric outline or topical outline. In this type of outline the main idea, topic sentence, or argument take on roman numerals. Each independent idea or piece of evidence takes on a capital letter under the main point it supports. Each subsidiary idea in support of this evidence goes underneath and so forth and takes on an Arabic numeral.


  • I. Topic Sentence/Argument
  • A. Supporting idea or evidence

    B. Supporting idea or evidence

    1. Subsidiary idea to support or further evidence in B

    2. Subsidiary idea to support or further evidence in B

  • II. Topic Sentence/Argument

Remember that creating term paper outline will help you to organize your thoughts and to find the most logical order to presenting your argument. Think of an outline as a road map to enhance your understanding of the topic and make the process of writing your term paper much easier.