Activity 22: Write an Outline for a Paper

Unless your instructor has given you a set order in which to organize your paper, create an outline. Read your assignment, and then list everything that you are required to write about in your paper. If you have not been given specific requirements, then list those items on which you took notes. Then, place the items into a logical order with large topics making up major sections and smaller topics underneath.

For example, if your assignment is to describe your experience at a venue with art on display, and analyze a work of art, here is a sample outline:

Sample Outline 1

  • Introduction
  • Experience at the museum, site with public art, or website
  • Artwork
    • Basic information
    • Interpretation
      • The formal elements and principles of design supporting the interpretation
    • Repeat #2 for each interpretation
  • Conclusion

Your instructor may ask you to write about multiple works of art. If so, simply repeat the "Artwork" section of the outline for each work of art.

Alternatively, maybe you have to write an exhibition review that asks you to describe an exhibition, a work that stands out, and how you interpret the curator's intent (remember Activity 20). Here is what an outline for that kind of paper could look like:

Sample Outline 2

  • Introduction
  • The curator’s argument
  • The space
  • One work that stands out
    • Basic information
    • Why this work stands out
    • The visual elements of art
    • The principles of design
  • Your evaluation of the curator’s argument and the exhibition
  • Conclusion

Another possibility might be that you have to write about your experience at a virtual or in-person venue with art on display and complete a compare and contrast analysis of two works. For part of the essay, you’ll need to go back and forth between your two works. Here is a sample outline:

Sample Outline 3

  • Introduction
  • Experience at the museum, site with public art, or website
  • Basic information
    • Artwork 1
    • Artwork 2
  • Subject Matter
    • Artwork 1
    • Artwork 2
  • The formal elements
    • Artwork 1
    • Artwork 2
  • The principles of design
    • Artwork 1
    • Artwork 2
  • Content
    • Artwork 1
    • Artwork 2
  • Conclusion

Credit for introductory instructions: Art Matters' Museum Guide by Pam Gordon, 2021