How to Write an Instructional Outline

Preparing to Write a Set of Instructions or a Process Analysis Essay

baseball glove
(Charles Mann/Getty Images)

Before writing a set of instructions or a process-analysis essay, you may find it helpful to draft a simple instructional outline. Here we'll look at the basic parts of an instructional outline and then examine a sample, "Breaking in a New Baseball Glove."

Basic Information in an Instructional Outline

For most topics, you'll need to provide the following information in your instructional outline.

  1. Skill to be taught: Clearly identify your topic.
  1. Materials and/or equipment needed: List all the materials (with proper sizes and measurements, if appropriate) and any tools that are needed to complete the task.
  2. Warnings: Explain under what conditions the task should be carried out if it is to be done safely and successfully.
  3. Steps: List the steps according to the order in which they are to be carried out. In your outline, jot down a key phrase to represent each step. Later, when you draft a paragraph or essay, you can expand and explain each of these steps.
  4. Tests: Tell your readers how they will be able to know if they have carried out the task successfully.

A Sample Instructional Outline: Breaking In a New Baseball Glove

  • Skill to be taught: Breaking in a new baseball glove
  • Materials and/or equipment needed: a baseball glove; 2 clean rags; 4 ounces of neatsfoot oil, mink oil, or shaving cream; a baseball or softball (depending on your game); 3 feet of heavy string
  • Warnings: Be sure to work outside or in the garage: this process can be messy. Also, don't count on using the glove for about a week.

Steps:

  1. Using a clean rag, gently apply a thin layer of oil or shaving cream to the external parts of the glove. Don't overdo it: too much oil will damage the leather.
  2. Let your glove dry overnight.
  1. The next day, pound the baseball or softball several times into the palm of the glove.
  2. Wedge the ball into the palm of the glove.
  3. Wrap the string around the glove with the ball inside and tie it tightly.
  4. Let the glove sit for at least three or four days.
  5. Wipe the glove with a clean rag and then head out to the ball field.


The pocket should be snug, and the glove should be flexible (but not floppy).

See how this instructional outline was developed into a short essay, "How to Break In a New Baseball Glove."