Make It Look Harvard: Drafting an Outline in Harvard Format

When students depart on their educational journey through college or university, they are most likely to encounter unknown tasks and unfamiliar requirements that make their hands tremble and mind race. Formatting, referencing, analyzing, providing literature review, methodology and discussion, and so on – the list can be expanded as required. But most requirements were not invented to complicate students’ lives. To the contrary, referencing and formatting standards were created to facilitate scholarly work and to standardize it. Thus everyone reading a paper knows what is meant by names and numbers in parentheses and how to decode reference entries.

Harvard, also known as author and date format, is one of the most popular standards and after using it two or three times you will feel safe and confident in applying it. Outlining in Harvard style is no different from outlining in other styles. We will guide you step by step through main points and intricacies of the style, and then you can download a Harvard manual from the web and look up specific details that you need right on the go.


Solid Harvard format outline: step by step guide


Why Is Formatting and Referencing Important?

Formatting gives a paper organized and neat look, and it also prompts readers what to expect from this paper. Abstract, footnotes, subheadings, reference part – all this is conditioned by a chosen format, so the more carefully you will approach the task the better your paper will be perceived by readers.

Referencing is a separate point of attention. It means providing information about sources you used and indicating what exact ideas you borrowed and incorporated into your narration. If you fail to do so, you commit the worst academic crime – plagiarism. So to avoid blames of stealing ideas of others, credit every idea you use, whether in an outline or a ready paper and use a coherent citation standard across the paper. It will show that you take academic honesty seriously and are ready to be a part of the scholar community. This is where Harvard style comes in handy.

Outlining is another important point. It is a plan of your paper will all key points mentioned and referenced. Yes, you should begin referencing on this stage already and it will significantly facilitate your work.


7 Basic Steps to Take While Writing an Outline

  1. Highlight and put down all key information that you see in sources;
  2. Organize it as a bullet point list with expanded notes after main subheadings;
  3. Cite author and date after each borrowed idea;
  4. Capitalize the authors’ names;
  5. Underline or put in italics names of books/articles;
  6. Create a rough reference page;
  7. Stay coherent in punctuation (no strict rules here).

Basically, it all looks simple, but while writing outline students often skip referencing and then struggle to remember where the specific phrase or idea comes from. Apart from this complexity, you should not encounter any serious issue while using Harvard style to create a good outline, and, consequently, a good paper.


General Path to Follow

Now you may wonder how to structure your outline more precisely and what markers to use. It is also not that complicated. Subdivide your topic into points and give each point its sub-points. To differentiate between primary and secondary ideas use tabulation tool (indent). Flush left the lead point. Then make an indent and present sub-point(s). If you need to subdivide it, make a deeper indent. So the outline will look like a set of steps turned upside down. But this trick will help you to see what is important and what is supporting. Use various markers to differentiate between list levels:

  • Roman numerals (main ideas)
  • Arabic numerals (sub-points)
  • Letters (upper case, lower case – for further subdivision)
  • Letters in parenthesis.

Switch between these markers and indentation to keep the structure of your outline visible to you and readable to your prof (if he or she requests to see the outline).

No matter if you use Harvard or other standards, this basic rule of building an outline remains in place. Differentiate between levels and bring in more subdivisions if you need to add specific details and citations into main points. The more sub-points, the better the final paper will be.


Applications of Harvard Formatting Style

Harvard style is probably the most common formatting style because of its simplicity (it can contest with MLA only). Harvard formatting is used in Humanities and social science, but sometimes in business case studies as well. If you are assigned an outline with Harvard formatting, do not skip this task and do not treat it negligently.

Making a good outline will help you to:

  1. Map out the information you found in a clearly readable way;
  2. Find inner connections and analogies;
  3. See what evidence goes where;
  4. See if you have enough evidence or need to research more;
  5. See what logical gaps you need to fill with additional research;
  6. Create a visible structure of your future paper.

Application of Harvard style to outlining makes writing easier (because of the relative simplicity of style) and helps you keep your focus.

By applying this style you get:

  • Clear structure with logical subdivisions of issues and topics;
  • The ready hierarchical structure of ideas (you see what is important and what can be skipped if you go beyond upper word count limit);
  • A communication strategy that you can assess on the go and change without having to rewrite the whole paper;
  • Bullet point image of your future paper – you can decide if you like it or not (and if your audience will like it).

The outline is valuable in that it keeps you on the track of your thoughts and topics and does not let you stray away or forget something. While writing a paper it is very easy to get lost in explanations and lose the line of argument. An outline keeps you organized and brief, and by writing in bullet point format you can catch every idea that comes to your mind before it flies away. This is probably the highest benefit of outlining.

We hope that we have persuaded you in the necessity of outlining and gave you the basics of Harvard style to keep you confident and going. Read through your outline and decide, if you have included everything you wanted or something else needs to be included yet. Check your introduction, conclusion and references. If everything seems in place, you are equipped to write a final paper.


Finish Line

Now that we have covered all major points Harvard style and outline creation do not look that intimidating. Actually, outlining is a valuable skill and so you should never miss a chance to practice it. Before setting to work, double check instructions given by your professor and what he or she expects to find in your outline. Whether your instructor wants to see a full-fledged plan with lots of subdivisions and citations or just a brief sketch showing that you are on the right track – anyway, you are well prepared to do it.

But if you still need help and guidance, feel free to contact us and ask for assistance. Our paper writing service will create a proper outline, a whole paper and a reference page in Harvard format or in any other format you need. This is not a problem at all. We all learn by examples, so with our help and professionally crafted assignments you are bound to master the intricacies of this art – and get your good grades regularly.


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