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MLA Writing Guide: Outline

This research guide provides a brief introduction to MLA.


MLA style does not have a specific outline format. You should use the standard formatting (Times New Roman, 12 point, double-spaced) and include your information in the upper left corner and the title centered, as shown in the example on the Home tab above. You can find information on outlining in your MLA Handbook, 7th ed., section 1.8.

Consult your professor’s instructions to find out more details about what your outline should include. For instance, your professor may require you to write your outline in full sentences or that you include your working thesis statement. See the link below for some sample outline formats. 

Sample Outlines from Purdue OWL


  • The MLA Handbook recommends alphanumeric outline format. The alphanumeric format begins with roman numerals for your main points, then use capital letters, then numbers, etc. For example: 

  • If you have further sub-points than what is shown above, the formatting could go like this:

1. Sub-point 1

a. Supporting point

(1) Supporting point

(a) Supporting point

  • You should have at least two points for each level of the outline. This means that if you have roman numeral I., you should also have a roman numeral II., a letter A. should have a letter B., a number 1. should have a number 2., etc. 
  • Check your professor's instructions to find out if you must write your outline in full sentences or not. Full sentences means that each point of your outline would be a full sentence that could be included in your final paper.
  • Your professor may require you to include your thesis statement. In a paper the thesis statement is a sentence that encompasses the main argument/topic that you are addressing within your paper. If your professor has not specified where to place the thesis statement, you could list it at the top of the page before your outline starts, or place it in the Introduction section where it will go in the paper. You may want to label the thesis statement.
  • If your professor requires a certain number of sources to be submitted with your outline, format this list of sources like a standard Works Cited page that would appear at the end of your paper. Include in-text citations where needed in the outline.