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Introduction

TOOLBOX

Welcome to the fourth module of this course: Organizing and Outlining. In the first three modules, we set the foundation for writing by addressing what we need to know about report writing before we begin writing. This included introducing a writing philosophy that keeps us from censoring ourselves too early and reviewing things like organizations and audiences, products, examination processes and the writing techniques that contribute to tone. In this module, we will begin employing the writing process we discussed in the last module.

Outlining:  Is It Really Necessary?

The main concepts of this module are to brainstorm (green-light phase) and create an outline (yellow-light phase).  You might be wondering:  Do I really need an outline? Most agree that writing anything is simpler with the help of an ordered list of topics. Consider a grocery list. Wouldn't it be easier if our grocery lists were grouped by putting all like foods together? If you make a dairy list, a produce list, a meat list, etc, by grouping items by food type, you have essentially created an outline. That way, when you are in the store, you can collect all the related items at one time, instead of walking back and forth around the store. How exhausting would that be? Just as we do not want to walk back and forth around the store, we do not want to bounce from topic to topic in our writing. This is how our outline helps.

Keep in mind that outlining is not just for term papers or major books.  Outlines can be used for a simple paragraph (for example, a problem with the bank’s ALLL), an individual section within the report (for example, credit risk) or the report itself.  Outlines will help you get your thoughts down and organized clearly. 

A Standard Outline Format Can Help

What some people dislike about creating outlines is that it is never as easy as writing a grocery list. The entire process can pose a dilemma:  If I cannot organize my thoughts (which is why I need an outline), how can I generate an outline (which is done by organizing thoughts!)?

Being able to answer that dilemma effectively might require as much philosophical fortitude as determining which came first - the chicken or the egg. So what we will do instead is attempt to debunk the dilemma. What if, instead of having to create an outline from scratch, you had a standard outline from which to work, that you simply filled in with the information you gather on examinations? When you do not have to figure out what goes in the outline, outlining becomes a much simpler and productive process.

In this module, we will provide such an outline and teach you how to fill it in. We believe this process not only works, but makes writing reports simpler. In the first lesson of this module, we will introduce the components of the outline. In the next module, we will discuss brainstorming techniques, which will help you generate content for your outline and your products. This is, as you may recall, the green-light phase. In the remaining modules, we will explore each of the components of the outline in depth, providing you with the tools you need to effectively complete the outline. In those modules, we'll be starting the yellow-light phase. If you would like a preview of each of the lessons in this module, click the Module Outline link below. A description of each lesson will display. Click the Module Outline link a second time to close the preview. Otherwise, click Next to begin.

Module Outline


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