Effective Technical Writing in the Information Age

Sample Outline


The sample outline that follows comes from the field of geology, and its first-level headings reflect a common approach writers take when organizing their original research into a senior thesis. As often happens, the writer’s first-level headings are somewhat generic, while the second- and third-level headings are more specialized to the subject matter of the essay. Note also the specificity of the title, of each section heading, and the relationships of the headings to each other. Such a detailed and professional outline helps the writer to keep organized during the writing process as well as gives the advisor an opportunity to give concrete feedback.

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Sample Outline

"The Petrographic Characteristics of the Elk Basin Sandstones and Their Correlation with Joint Spacing"

by John Lerner


I. Introduction
     A. Distribution of Joints about Folds
     B. Joint Spacing and Fracture Porosity in the Petroleum Industry
     C. Effect of Lithology on Joint Development
     D. Objective
          1. Perform Petrographic Analysis of Elk Basin Sandstones
          2. Establish Correlation between Joint Spacing and Petrography
II. Background Literature
     A. Definition of Fracture Spacing Ration
     B. Past Work on Fracture Spacing Ration in Sedimentary Rocks
          1. Fracture Spacing Ration in Various Geological Localities
          2. Fracture Spacing Ration as a Function of Rock Properties
     C. Possible objective of interpreting the record of the Eemain interglacial.
III. Geologic Setting of Big Horn Basin
     A. Stratigraphy of Big Horn Basin
     B. Structural Geology of Big Horn Basin
     C. Description of Elk Basin
IV. Experimental Technique
     A. Sampling of Fracture Spacing Ration
     B. Sampling and Preparation of Thin Sections
     C. Point Counting Technique
V. Results
     A. Formation versus Composition
     B. Formation versus Porosity
     C. Bed Thickness versus Porosity and Composition
VI. Discussion of Correlation between Point Counting Data and Fracture Spacing Ration
     A. Composition versus Fracture Spacing Ration
     B. Porosity versus Fracture Spacing Ration
VII. Conclusions
VIII. References