One may write a thesis outline for two different purposes, each of which is very distinct from the other. First, a thesis outline many serve as a guide for writing the thesis. Seocnd, a thesis outline may provide the reader with a synopsis of the thesis's content.
Thesis outlines that writers create to guide them through the writing process usually contain a great deal of information that would not be useful to the reader. The student who makes a thesis outline in the prewriting stages will probably benefit greatly from it, especially if it contains many details. However, even a simple thesis outline can be helpful.
The student who wishes to write a thesis outline as a guide for writing should at least make a list of the points the thesis intends to argue. One can write an outline this simple in a matter of minutes, and it will show the thesis's intended argumentative progression even when the writer is deep in the writing and cannot remember exactly where the overall argument goes. On the other hand, the student who takes the time to write a detailed thesis outline will benefit even more, although it may take several days or weeks to write a truly thorough outline. The detailed outline contains the large points that the thesis will make, the supporting arguments under each large point, and the pieces of evidence that each supporting argument uses. In a highly detailed outline, the student includes a bibliographical reference for each piece of evidence gleaned from research. Although it will require a fair amount of time to put these references into an outline, they will make the writing go much more quickly and smoothly.
Students may also create thesis outlines for their readers. This type of outline, which looks similar to an expanded table of contents, presents the reader with a brief overview of the thesis's argument. The outline should contain the title of each thesis chapter as well as the main ideas that each chapter contains.