School navigation

Law School Writing Center

Outlining and Drafting

An outline is not a “data dump.” Creating a document in which you can store interesting facts, figures, tables, charts, etc., is worthwhile, as you may decide to incorporate this information into your paper. However, this document is not an outline. Your outline should contain your thoughts and impressions as you conduct your research and get a better idea of the overall structure that your paper will take. You are beginning to synthesize your research when you consider how to group topics and in what order you will present topics in your paper. Ideally, your outline can be filled in to become the first draft of your paper!

While working on the first draft of your paper, do not worry about the common writing concerns you can find listed under the tab Revising, Editing, Proofreading (passive voice, ambiguous pronouns, dangling participles, etc.) These issues appear under the tab Revising, Editing, and Proofreading for a reason: deal with these concerns later! At the drafting stage, focus on getting your ideas on paper. These ideas do not need to be expressed elegantly or eloquently; they just need to be expressed! Worrying about writing style when you should be focused only on content will slow you down, lead to unnecessary self-censorship, and may distract you from putting on paper the full collection of concepts that you intend to address. After you have translated your ideas into words on the page, then you can begin thinking about revising, editing, and proofreading your writing project.