What is an outline?

As you study any book (in this case the Bible), you would sometimes need to do an outline. An outline is a concise skeletal representation of the material in the book, chapter, or passage that you are studying. It’s a general plan of the book (or passage) which shows the order of the various topics, the relative importance of each of them, and the relationship between the various parts. It’s utility lies mainly in the fact that it helps you organize information logically and in a very easy to understand manner–taking less space and making the work less crowded. For example,  you could write the outline of a small book on a single page. That gives you an overview of the entire work just on one page.

How to do an outline

The order an outline: You can arrange the different parts of your outline as follows: 1) Chronological Arrangement 2) Spatial Arrangement, 3) From the General to the Specific.
The general to specific arrangement is the most common order that is used in outlines. You start with the main idea, then you break it into subtopics.

Thesis Statement or Summarizing Sentence: All outlines should start with a thesis statement or summarizing sentence. This thesis sentence presents the central idea of the book or passage. It must specific and brief.

Types of Outlines: There are two main types of outlines: 1) The topic outline and 2) The sentence outline. In the topic outline, you write the  headings in single words or brief phrases. In the sentence outline, all the headings are written in complete sentences.

Principles for writing outlines.

1) The main topics are the central ideas: If you are outlining a book, the main topics would probably be the chapter themes (a summary of the main theme of that chapter). If you are outlining a chapter, it would probably be the the theme of each paragraph in that chapter. Make them brief, clear, and easy to remember. You number them using Roman numerals I, II, III, IV, etc.

2) The subtopics are the points that explain the main topic. In a book outline, these would be the paragraph themes. They are numbered using capital letters A, B, C, D etc.

3) Subpoints are points that explain the subtopic. In a book outline, these may be themes of groups of verses that represent a complete thought or unit of a though. The are numbered using Arabic numerals 1, 2, 3…

4) Capture the logical flow of the author: Your outline must capture the logical flow of the author. To do that, the subdivisions (chapters, paragraphs etc) should do one or all of the following:

Define, explain, clarify, or list further details to support the main point of the preceding larger subdivision.
Serve as examples or illustrations of the larger subdivision.

5) Each subdivision must have at least two points: If there is a I, there must be a II, if there is an A, there must be a B. It’s okay to have an I, II, III etc or A, B, C… but you can’t simply have I or A alone.

 

A sample Outline

Thesis Statement: Write the thesis statement or theme of the entire book or passage.

I. Main topic 1

A. Subtopic

1. Subpoint

(a) subpoint

(b) subpoint

(1) subpoint

(2) subpoint

(a) subpoint

i) subpoint

ii) subpoint

2. Subpoint

3. Subpoint

B. Subtopic

C. Subtopic

II. Main Topic 2

A. Subtopic

1. Subpoint

a) subpoint

(1) Subpoint

(a) Subpoint

i) Subpoint

a) subpoint

(1) subpoint

(2) subpoint

2. Subpoint

B. Subtopic

III. Main Topic 3