Outline (list)

An outline is the division of a whole into several structural parts or areas that are largely self-contained, but can not be removed from the whole, as a unit without making this incomplete.

Structure of texts

An outline can make the text clearer and make it easier to find information on certain aspects quickly. The text is thus divided into individual sections sense, there is a clear presentation of information in paragraphs in the foreground, for example, in a speech, lecture or in academic essays. A book can be divided approximately into chapters.

In scientific texts, an outline is very common. The often deeply indented Thesis, theses and dissertations must comply with strict formal requirements. Good subdivisions are characterized by logic of equality or subordination of all parts, through the precision of heading formulations and by uniform heading style.

The structure of scientific papers to illustrate the logic of the argument. Historical antecedents of the current process model were in the Middle Ages, the scholastic method and before the ancient dialectic. The current process model follows the scheme

  • Context of discovery,
  • Context of justification,
  • Commercial motive.

In a contemporary expression of this scheme corresponds to the following process model:

  • Introduction ( occasion )
  • Situation Analysis
  • Objectives
  • Methodology and work program
  • Synthesis / analysis
  • Assessment
  • Summary, outlook

Among other things, the text outline is concerned, the typography.


In business and management is in Germany the division of a text part of the word processing according to DIN 5008th The writing and design rules for word processing form the basis for writing professional-looking documents. The text outline and section numbering in Germany often also in accordance with DIN 1421 ( " Structure and numbering in texts " ), internationally according to ISO 2145 ( " Documentation; Numbering of divisions and subdivisions in written documents" ).

Decimal Classification

The decimal division is common in almost all fields of study. The following guidelines apply:

  • It uses Arabic numerals.
  • Each main section is numbered consecutively from 1.
  • Each section can have any number of sub-sections, but at least two.
  • Each subsection can turn into further sub- sections, but at least two, divided, etc.
  • The numbers of the individual layers are separated by a dot.
  • Behind the most recent breakdown point is no point, so even if there is only an outline number ( DIN 5008 ).


Alphanumeric Outline

The once widely used alphanumeric outline is today almost exclusively in legal texts, even in exams, house and Thesis common, but usually not mandatory.


Advantages and disadvantages of both systems structure

Proponents of the alphanumeric structure they deem clearer than numerical. Proponents of numerical breakdown see the exact opposite: So be eg when specifying " " in the title clear and faster detectable, in which chapter outline you just located, than in a specification as merely " (1 ) ". The advantage of the alphanumeric structure is that with very detailed texts of the course outline for the scope specified in the title remains the same. In a numerical breakdown of the scope increases slightly with each level. For a headline the 7th level, the structure is specified in the numerical breakdown for example " ( heading text ) ", while simple in the alphanumeric outline " α ) ( heading text ) " is. The latter disadvantage of the numerical breakdown is the reason why the alphanumeric outline is still very common in legal works. These often have a very detailed.

Frequently occurring errors Outline

The structure, ie the division of a text into over - and subordinate thoughts, is not an end in itself. It serves the orientation of the reader and must be consistent. Of the many and not infrequently encountered outline errors may be mentioned the following:

  • Point at the end of the outline digits when using the decimal division ( for example, " 2.1. " Instead of correctly "2.1" )
  • Mixture of decimal and alphanumeric principle
  • Illogical numbering: For example, the sequence 1, 2, 2.1, 3 is illogical. As a subdivision to point 2 must be at least 2.1 and 2.2 appear.
  • Headings without substantive statement: chapter headings with empty phrases like introduction, body, conclusion, digression and so contrary to the spirit of headlines to announce the contents of each chapter.
  • Completeness implicative Headlines: This is common in the use of the definite article ( the, that, that) the case. Who writes, for example, a chapter on "The possibilities and the limits of self-scanning " actually would edit all the possibilities and all boundaries.
  • Incorrect Headings: For example, a "Summary" is actually a short version of the already treated include; in it may show up any new aspects. In contrast, must be a " view " actually show new, expected developments, but already treated not repeat.

It is advisable not to mix in the headings verbal style and nominal style, serves as a negative example: " 3.2.1 What are the benefits associated with self-scanning " ( verbal style) and " 3.2.2 disadvantages of self-scanning " ( nominal style ).