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- How to write an essay outline | Guidelines & examples
How to Write an Essay Outline | Guidelines & Examples
Published on August 14, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.
An essay outline is a way of planning the structure of your essay before you start writing. It involves writing quick summary sentences or phrases for every point you will cover in each paragraph , giving you a picture of how your argument will unfold.
Table of contents
Organizing your material, presentation of the outline, examples of essay outlines, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about essay outlines.
At the stage where you’re writing an essay outline, your ideas are probably still not fully formed. You should know your topic and have already done some preliminary research to find relevant sources , but now you need to shape your ideas into a structured argument.
Look over any information, quotes and ideas you’ve noted down from your research and consider the central point you want to make in the essay—this will be the basis of your thesis statement . Once you have an idea of your overall argument, you can begin to organize your material in a way that serves that argument.
Try to arrange your material into categories related to different aspects of your argument. If you’re writing about a literary text, you might group your ideas into themes; in a history essay, it might be several key trends or turning points from the period you’re discussing.
Three main themes or subjects is a common structure for essays. Depending on the length of the essay, you could split the themes into three body paragraphs, or three longer sections with several paragraphs covering each theme.
As you create the outline, look critically at your categories and points: Are any of them irrelevant or redundant? Make sure every topic you cover is clearly related to your thesis statement.
Order of information
When you have your material organized into several categories, consider what order they should appear in.
Your essay will always begin and end with an introduction and conclusion , but the organization of the body is up to you.
Consider these questions to order your material:
- Is there an obvious starting point for your argument?
- Is there one subject that provides an easy transition into another?
- Do some points need to be set up by discussing other points first?
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Within each paragraph, you’ll discuss a single idea related to your overall topic or argument, using several points of evidence or analysis to do so.
In your outline, you present these points as a few short numbered sentences or phrases.They can be split into sub-points when more detail is needed.
The template below shows how you might structure an outline for a five-paragraph essay.
- Thesis statement
- First piece of evidence
- Second piece of evidence
- Importance of topic
- Strong closing statement
You can choose whether to write your outline in full sentences or short phrases. Be consistent in your choice; don’t randomly write some points as full sentences and others as short phrases.
Examples of outlines for different types of essays are presented below: an argumentative, expository, and literary analysis essay.
Argumentative essay outline
This outline is for a short argumentative essay evaluating the internet’s impact on education. It uses short phrases to summarize each point.
Its body is split into three paragraphs, each presenting arguments about a different aspect of the internet’s effects on education.
- Importance of the internet
- Concerns about internet use
- Thesis statement: Internet use a net positive
- Data exploring this effect
- Analysis indicating it is overstated
- Students’ reading levels over time
- Why this data is questionable
- Video media
- Interactive media
- Speed and simplicity of online research
- Questions about reliability (transitioning into next topic)
- Evidence indicating its ubiquity
- Claims that it discourages engagement with academic writing
- Evidence that Wikipedia warns students not to cite it
- Argument that it introduces students to citation
- Summary of key points
- Value of digital education for students
- Need for optimism to embrace advantages of the internet
Expository essay outline
This is the outline for an expository essay describing how the invention of the printing press affected life and politics in Europe.
The paragraphs are still summarized in short phrases here, but individual points are described with full sentences.
- Claim that the printing press marks the end of the Middle Ages.
- Provide background on the low levels of literacy before the printing press.
- Present the thesis statement: The invention of the printing press increased circulation of information in Europe, paving the way for the Reformation.
- Discuss the very high levels of illiteracy in medieval Europe.
- Describe how literacy and thus knowledge and education were mainly the domain of religious and political elites.
- Indicate how this discouraged political and religious change.
- Describe the invention of the printing press in 1440 by Johannes Gutenberg.
- Show the implications of the new technology for book production.
- Describe the rapid spread of the technology and the printing of the Gutenberg Bible.
- Link to the Reformation.
- Discuss the trend for translating the Bible into vernacular languages during the years following the printing press’s invention.
- Describe Luther’s own translation of the Bible during the Reformation.
- Sketch out the large-scale effects the Reformation would have on religion and politics.
- Summarize the history described.
- Stress the significance of the printing press to the events of this period.
Literary analysis essay outline
The literary analysis essay outlined below discusses the role of theater in Jane Austen’s novel Mansfield Park .
The body of the essay is divided into three different themes, each of which is explored through examples from the book.
- Describe the theatricality of Austen’s works
- Outline the role theater plays in Mansfield Park
- Introduce the research question : How does Austen use theater to express the characters’ morality in Mansfield Park ?
- Discuss Austen’s depiction of the performance at the end of the first volume
- Discuss how Sir Bertram reacts to the acting scheme
- Introduce Austen’s use of stage direction–like details during dialogue
- Explore how these are deployed to show the characters’ self-absorption
- Discuss Austen’s description of Maria and Julia’s relationship as polite but affectionless
- Compare Mrs. Norris’s self-conceit as charitable despite her idleness
- Summarize the three themes: The acting scheme, stage directions, and the performance of morals
- Answer the research question
- Indicate areas for further study
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You will sometimes be asked to hand in an essay outline before you start writing your essay . Your supervisor wants to see that you have a clear idea of your structure so that writing will go smoothly.
Even when you do not have to hand it in, writing an essay outline is an important part of the writing process . It’s a good idea to write one (as informally as you like) to clarify your structure for yourself whenever you are working on an essay.
If you have to hand in your essay outline , you may be given specific guidelines stating whether you have to use full sentences. If you’re not sure, ask your supervisor.
When writing an essay outline for yourself, the choice is yours. Some students find it helpful to write out their ideas in full sentences, while others prefer to summarize them in short phrases.
You should try to follow your outline as you write your essay . However, if your ideas change or it becomes clear that your structure could be better, it’s okay to depart from your essay outline . Just make sure you know why you’re doing so.
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Caulfield, J. (2023, July 23). How to Write an Essay Outline | Guidelines & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved August 30, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/academic-essay/essay-outline/
Is this article helpful?
Other students also liked, how to create a structured research paper outline | example, a step-by-step guide to the writing process, how to write an argumentative essay | examples & tips.
Do the letters (A, B, C, etc.) in the outlines above, especially of the body, have a one-to-one correspondance with a paragraph each within the essay?
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
In the examples here, the letters are used to show parts within a single paragraph, with Roman numerals (I, II, etc.) used to show paragraphs. For a longer essay, you could certainly use Roman numerals for sections and letters for paragraphs—whatever suits your argument and structure best.
How can I use footnote and document my essay writing Without bibliography?
You should always check with your teacher or university whether you're required to use a specific citation style in your essay. If you're allowed to choose your own style, Chicago notes and bibliography style is one you could use where citations appear in footnotes and the bibliography is optional. You can find more information about this style here .
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Organizing your thoughts before writing an essay is always a good idea. One of the best ways to do this is to plan your essay with an outline. A strong essay outline helps you to solidify your main idea(s) and supporting details, plan your paragraphs, and build the framework for coherent sentences.What is an outline, exactly?An outline is a clear,…
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Organizing your thoughts before writing an essay is always a good idea. One of the best ways to do this is to plan your essay with an outline . A strong essay outline helps you to solidify your main idea(s) and supporting details, plan your paragraphs, and build the framework for coherent sentences.
Definition of an Essay Outline
What is an outline, exactly?
An outline is a clear, organized plan for an essay.
You can think of an outline as the blueprint for an essay. It helps you visualize and plan your essay before the creation process starts.
When you write an outline for an essay, start with the basic framework and gradually fill in the details . Once the details are complete, you can connect the sentences and make sure the essay flows nicely.
Format of an Essay Outline
Any essay can be divided into three parts: introduction, body, and conclusion . In a typical five-paragraph essay, the body is split into three paragraphs. The result is this basic outline:
- Introduce the essay's main idea(s) .
- State the thesis .
- Introduce the supporting idea .
- Provide supporting details .
- Connect the supporting details to the main idea.
- Return to the thesis .
- Sum up the supporting ideas .
- Explore the implications and questions raised by the thesis.
You can build most five-paragraph essays using this basic outline. The exact structure of the body and its supporting details depend on the type of essay.
The following examples apply this basic outline template to a specific type of essay.
The examples provide detailed essay outlines; t o finish the essays, you would tweak the sentences so they connect and flow logically.
Persuasive Essay Outline
The goal of a persuasive essay is to convince the audience of the writer's opinion. Every supporting detail attempts to bring the audience over to the writer's side. The supporting details can include emotional appeals, logic, examples, evidence, etc.
This persuasive essay outline discusses the advantages of working in food service. Notice how the details fit into the basic framework laid out in the previous section.
- Introduce the main idea . Over a hundred million people in the U.S. work in the food service industry. That number is steadily growing.
- State the thesis . Experience in the service industry can benefit people on any career path.
- Introduce the supporting idea . Working in food service requires multiple people to work quickly as a team. They build strong skills in communication and conflict resolution.
- Provide supporting details . Lots of careers (construction, software development, healthcare, etc.) require teamwork and collaboration.
- Connect the supporting details to the main idea . The fast-paced collaboration required in food service helps prepare people for the teamwork required in other careers.
- Introduce the supporting idea . Some restaurant and fast food chains assist employees in finding new careers.
- Provide supporting details . Some of these large chains assist employees with college tuition and federal student loan debt. Some also help employees to move into management and other roles in the company.
- Connect the supporting details to the main idea . In cases like these, working in food service can provide a springboard to the next career step.
Use a line of reasoning , or logic, to connect your ideas!
- Introduce the supporting idea . Service work is physically and emotionally taxing. Experiencing this kind of work can teach people to be patient and respectful with others.
- Provide supporting details . Someone who has never worked in the service industry may grow frustrated at any inconvenience in a restaurant and take it out on the workers. Someone who has shared the workers' experience is more likely to be patient and respectful.
- Connect the supporting details to the main idea . Skills in empathy and patience are valuable in any career. Working in food service helps people gain these skills.
- Return to the thesis and sum up the supporting ideas . Working in the food service industry gives people interpersonal skills such as collaboration in high-pressure scenarios, effective communication, conflict resolution, and empathy. In some cases, it can also help people practically by assisting with higher education. All of these give people an advantage in other career paths.
- Explore the implications and questions raised by the thesis . If everyone spent at least a short time working in food service, the American workplace would be full of people with these valuable interpersonal skills.
When writing a persuasive essay, consider the three classical appeals: logos, pathos, and ethos. Respectively, these are the appeals to logic, emotions, and credentials. Part of persuasion is knowing your audience, and you can use rhetorical styles like these to reach that audience. By the way, rhetoric is any spoken or written device designed to persuade!
Argumentative Essay Outline
An argumentative essay is similar to a persuasive essay, but it takes a more measured approach. It relies on factual evidence and logic rather than emotional appeals.
An important supporting idea for an argumentative essay is an acknowledgment and rebuttal of an opposing argument. This means presenting a valid opposing argument and then explaining why the writer's argument is stronger.
This argumentative essay outline discusses the nutritional value of home-grown foods versus store-bought foods.
- Introduce the main idea . Fruits and vegetables are important for a healthy lifestyle. People in the U.S. have become more interested in growing their own fruits and vegetables.
- State the thesis . Home-grown fruits and vegetables are healthier than store-bought fruits and vegetables.
- Introduce the supporting idea . The nutrient density of foods is highest at peak freshness.
- Provide supporting details . Produce shipped from farms and stored in supermarkets is harvested before its peak freshness so it doesn't spoil as quickly. Home-grown produce can continue ripening until it's ready to be eaten.
- Connect the supporting details to the main idea . Since it can easily be harvested at peak freshness, home-grown produce can be more nutrient-dense than store-bought produce.
Remember, start with your best supporting idea or piece of evidence!
- Introduce the supporting idea . People are more likely to eat produce they grew themselves.
- Provide supporting details . A study at Saint Louis University showed that children who learn to grow their own fruits and vegetables are more likely to eat a healthy diet than other children.
- Connect the supporting details to the main idea . Home-grown produce is a healthier option because it encourages people to eat more produce.
- Introduce the supporting idea . Store-bought produce is also nutritious.
- Provide supporting details . Growing food requires a large commitment of time, space, water, and other resources. When this commitment isn't possible, store-bought vegetables are the best option. This is why it's important to have good produce available in stores.
- Connect the supporting details to the main idea . Because of the relative advantages, if home-grown produce is an option, it is a more nutritious solution than store-bought produce.
- Return to the thesis and sum up the supporting ideas . Home-grown produce can be fresher and more nutritionally dense than store-bought produce. It also encourages a healthier diet overall.
- Explore the implications and questions raised by the thesis . Home gardening isn't an option for everyone, but advances in indoor and container gardening can make home-grown fruits and vegetables available to more people.
Compare and Contrast Essay Outline
A compare and contrast essay discusses the similarities and differences between two given topics. Its supporting ideas can consist of summaries of each topic and key similarities or differences between the topics.
Compare and contrast essays can be organized using the block method , where the two topics are discussed separately, one after the other, or the point-by-point method , where the two topics are compared at a single point in each supporting paragraph.
This essay discusses the differences between the piano and the organ using the point-by-point method.
- Introduce topics: At a glance, the piano and the organ look like the same instrument. They have the same type of keyboard, and they're usually in a wooden casing. However, the piano is able to play some musical pieces that the organ cannot, and vice versa.
- Thesis statement : Even though they look similar, the piano and the organ are very different instruments.
- Introduce the supporting idea: One key difference between the piano and the organ is their sound production. Both are in the keyboard instrument family, but they produce different types of sound.
- Supporting details of Topic 1: Striking a piano key causes a felt hammer to swing onto a group of metal strings.
- Supporting details of Topic 2: Striking an organ key allows air to flow through the wood or metal pipes connected to the machine.
- Connect the supporting details to the main idea : The piano uses its keyboard to behave like a percussion or string instrument, while the organ uses its keyboard to behave like a woodwind or brass instrument. This is why the piano and organ sound so distinct from one another.
When detailing your essay on an intricate topic, remember only to tell your audience what it needs to know.
- Introduce the supporting idea: Both the piano and organ require the player to work with foot pedals. These pedals, however, serve different functions.
- Supporting details of Topic 1: A piano's pedals affect the instrument's "action." The pedals may shift the hammers to one side to strike fewer strings or raise the felt dampers, so the strings freely ring out.
- Supporting details of Topic 2: An organ's pedals constitute an entire keyboard. The organ's primary pedalboard is a very large keyboard that controls the instrument's largest pipes.
- Connect the supporting details to the main idea : The pianist and organist must use their feet to operate the instrument, but they use different skill sets.
- Introduce the supporting idea: The piano and organ also differ in volume control.
- Supporting details of Topic 1: A pianist can control the instrument's volume by striking the keyboard lightly or intensely.
- Supporting details of Topic 2: An organ's volume can only be controlled by changing the amount of air that can pass through the pipes or by changing the number of pipes connected to the keyboard register.
- Connect the supporting details to the main idea: Because of their different methods of volume control, a piano cannot produce the organ's large "wall" of sound, and an organ cannot produce the piano's flowing dynamic changes.
Fun fact : "Volume" is the loudness of a speaker's output to a listener, while "gain" is the loudness of an instrument's input into a stereo, amplifier, or recording device.
- Return to the thesis and sum up the supporting ideas. Although the instruments look very similar, the piano and organ have significant mechanical differences, from the keys to the pedals. Because of these mechanical differences, a musician must approach each instrument differently.
- Explore the implications and questions raised by the thesis. This is one reason the two instruments can produce such different musical pieces. Both instruments are valuable contributions to world music.
Essay Outline - Key Takeaways
- Any essay can be divided into three parts: introduction, body, and conclusion . In a typical five-paragraph essay, the body is split into three paragraphs.
- The goal of a persuasive essay is to convince the audience of the writer's opinion .
- An argumentative essay is similar to a persuasive essay , but it takes a more measured approach.
- A compare and contrast essay discusses the similarities and differences between two given topics.
Frequently Asked Questions about Essay Outline
--> what is an essay outline, --> how do you write an outline for an essay.
When you write an outline for an essay, start with the basic framework (introduction, body, and conclusion) and gradually fill in the details . Once the details are complete, you can connect the sentences and make sure the essay flows nicely.
--> What is a 5 paragraph essay outline?
Any essay can be divided into three parts: introduction, body, and conclusion . In a typical five-paragraph essay, the body is split into three paragraphs.
--> How long should an essay outline be?
An essay outline should gradually add greater detail to a basic framework of introduction, body, and conclusion . The outline of a 5 paragraph essay can be divided into 5 parts: one outline section per essay paragraph.
--> What is an example of an essay outline?
This is the basic outline of a 5 paragraph essay:
- Introduction (state the thesis)
- Body 1 (supporting idea)
- Body 2 (supporting idea)
- Body 3 (supporting idea)
- Conclusion (sum up ideas and return to the thesis)
Final Essay Outline Quiz
Essay outline quiz - teste dein wissen.
What is an essay outline?
An outline is a clear, organized plan for an essay.
What are the three main sections of any essay?
The three main sections of any essay are the introduction, body, and conclusion .
The body of a 5 paragraph essay is usually split into ___ paragraphs.
Which part of an essay should state the thesis ?
Which part of an essay should provide supporting details ?
Which part of an essay should summarize the supporting ideas ?
True or false:
A persuasive essay focuses on factual evidence and logic instead of emotional appeals.
True or false:
An argumentative essay focuses on factual evidence and logic instead of emotional appeals.
The body of a/an _____ essay should include an acknowledgment and rebuttal of an opposing argument.
The block method and point-by-point method refer to the organization of _____ essays.
Compare and Contrast
An essay outline using the _____ method discusses two topics separately, one after the other.
An essay outline using the _____ method compares two topics at a single point in each supporting paragraph.
It's any spoken or written device designed to persuade.
This is where you explore the implications of your thesis.
Supporting ideas contain no summary.
What comes before the conclusion?
The third (or final) body paragraph.
How should you connect your ideas?
When outlining a persuasive essay, you probably don't need to think too much about your audience. Think about what would persuade you!
This is when you counter an argument.
Logos, ethos, and pathos are rhetorical styles or modes.
Every body paragraph has a main idea.
False. They have supporting ideas.
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How to Write a Perfect Essay Outline
You can’t write an essay without outlining. Fine, you can do that if a low grade is okay for you to get. But those willing to craft a paper that’s worth A+ will need to create an essay outline and organize their research in one place before writing. So in this article we will look at outline examples and top tips to improve your essay.
This guide is here to help you:
- understand what is a paper outline,
- learn how to write an essay outline,
- get outline examples and templates to use when crafting yours.
So, let’s a research essay outline journey begin!
Table of Contents:
- What is an essay outline?
- Key parts of an essay
- Outline format
- Persuasive essay outline example
- Narrative essay outline example
- Expository essay outline example
- Research essay outline example
- What to do before outlining
- Choose an essay outline structure
- Organize your outline
- It’s a wrap!
What is an Essay Outline?
As you’ve already guessed it, an essay outline is a short plan of your research paper. Here you write down the main idea of your essay and structurize all arguments into paragraphs to make sure you won’t miss anything while writing.
Sure enough, you can write an essay without outlining it. But it will be challenging to do. Outlining is an essential part of the writing process, and all authors do it for their works to impress readers.
Here’s why you need an essay outline :
- It will help you organize thoughts: when you research the data for your essay, you get tons of information that’s hard to remember.
- You’ll understand the information flow and will be able to structurize it accordingly.
- It will help you not to miss anything while writing your essay because you’ll have a ready manuscript of your paper.
That said, an outline will help you write academic works better and faster. And while our writers are always here to help to write my essay , it can’t hurt to learn how to write an outline for an essay by your own, right?
How to Write an Essay Outline
While college essay types are many, the common structure for most of them is five-paragraph. Each essay needs Introduction , Body (paragraphs with arguments), and Conclusion; so, a general format of your essay outline will include all these components.
Outlining your essay, keep write my term paper in mind so you wouldn’t miss any arguments, evidence, and examples while writing.
So, let’s do this!
Key Parts of an Essay
Put them all into your writing outline:
- Introduction. Here you’ll mention the topic of your essay and its thesis. As you know, essays can’t live without a thesis; so, a thesis statement in your outline will help you support it in each paragraph of your essay body.
- Body paragraphs. There will be a minimum three paragraphs in your essay’s body, so make sure to include each one in the outline. For each paragraph, write down a topic sentence with an argument relating to your thesis and mention all the support: data, facts, examples, and other evidence you’ll use to prove the topic sentence of this paragraph.
- Conclusion. Wrap up your essay here. Restate your thesis and summarize the goal of your paper.
In general, your essay template will look like this:
Essay Outline: General
a) Introduce a topic b) State a thesis
II. Body. Paragraph-1
a) Write a topic sentence (the argument for your thesis) b) Support this argument: data, facts, examples c) Explain how they relate to your thesis
III. Body. Paragraph-2
a) Write a topic sentence (another argument for your thesis) b) Support this argument: data, facts, examples c) Explain how they relate to your thesis
IV. Body. Paragraph-3
a) Write a topic sentence (another argument for your thesis, or a counterargument) b) Support this argument, or explain why the counterargument doesn’t work: data, facts, examples c) Explain how they relate to your thesis
a) Summarize all main points b) Restate your thesis c) Add a call to action: what you want readers to do after reading your essay
As a rule, students use the linear style when formatting their writing outline. It means they rank arguments in order of their importance – from major to minor ones.
Remember: your research essay outline doesn’t have to include the complete sentences. It’s only an outline, so feel free to format arguments and evidence the way it seems most comfortable and understandable for you. Just make sure it’s visually clear and allows you to see if some sections are repetitive or redundant. It will help to avoid duplications in your essay maker .
Another point to consider:
While you are familiar with a given essay topic, it doesn’t mean your readers are. So format your outline accordingly: assume that some people know nothing about it when preparing arguments and arranging them in a logical order.
Essay Outline Template
Templates can help you get a better idea of essay outlining. It’s a great way to organize thoughts and determine the order in which you’ll represent them to readers. So, make a list of the sections in your paper and fill in the corresponding example, depending on your essay type.
Persuasive Essay Outline Example
To create an outline for such an essay, consider the following example:
Taken from: TeacherVision.com
Narrative Essay Outline Example
For narrative essays, outlines like this one will work well:
Expository Essay Outline Example
What about this example for your essay outline?
Research Essay Outline Example
Taken from: Austincc.edu
How to Make an Outline: the Process
As a rule, the only detail bothering those asking how to make an outline for an essay is the process itself. Students understand that an essay outline needs to specify all the main points and arguments of their future paper, but they still find it challenging to create.
More than that, professors may ask you to submit an essay outline for their review. That’s why the skills of planning your papers will come in handy anyway. To learn the secrets of effective outline writing, you’ll need to know what to do before outlining, what essay outline structure to choose for your work, and how to organize your outline so it would be as informative as possible.
Here’s how to outline an essay:
What to Do Before Outlining
First and foremost, read your writing assignment carefully. Make sure you understand what essay type you need to write, how many arguments to use (except as noted), and how long your essay needs to be.
Answer the question , “What’s the purpose of your essay?” Do you want to inform readers, persuade, or just entertain them? Depending on the goal, you’ll know what thesis to consider, what writing techniques to use, and how to visualize research in your paper.
Identify the audience. Yes, it’s a teacher who reads and evaluates your work; but whom do you want to read your essay ? Do you write for classmates? Strangers? What do they know about your topic? Would they agree with your thesis? How might they react to your information?
Depending on that, you’ll understand what arguments might work for your essay. It will also help you decide on resources to use for research and evidence to choose for your arguments. Consider credible sources such as Google Scholar or Oxford Academic to find references for your essay; take notes of them to use in your outline.
State your thesis so you could see what topic sentences to outline for your essay. A thesis needs to be arguable and provide enough details to hook readers so they would get them emotionally involved in your writing.
Once a thesis is ready, start structuring your essay outline.
Choose an Essay Outline Structure
From the above templates and examples, you’ve got a general idea of the basic structure for your essay outline. We used a standard alphanumeric structure there, but you can also use a decimal one for your outline to show how your ideas are related. Just compare:
An alphanumeric outline is the most common one, but you are welcome to use a decimal outline structure if it seems clearer and more comfortable for you. Also, feel free to use complete sentences or just brief phrases for each section of your essay outline.
However, if you need to submit it to a professor for a review, use sentences. It will help him understand the arguments and evidence you are going to use in your essay.
Organize Your Outline
Now it’s time to fill in each section of your essay outline. For those lazy to read, here goes a short video:
For all others, start with outlining your introduction . Write a sentence about your topic and introduce your thesis. You can also mention an essay hook here – a sentence you’ll use to make the audience interested in reading your work.
Outline your essay body : write down a topic sentence for each paragraph, provide supporting evidence you’ll use when writing, and mention how they’ll relate to the topic and your thesis. The more details you outline, the easier it will be to organize all the thoughts while writing.
Also, you can write a transition sentence for each paragraph so it would be faster to structure and band all arguments.
Finally, outline your essay conclusion . Restate your thesis and write a concluding statement, aka a sentence addressing the importance of your thesis and proposing solutions to the problem you addressed in the essay.
It’s a Wrap!
Essays are many, and you need to write all of them in school and college. Persuasive, expository, narrative – their basic structure is the same but with tiny differences identifying their specifications and your knowledge of academic writing. Understanding those differences and outlining your writings accordingly is your chance to craft perfect works that get high grades.
An essay outline is what you need to organize the information and not miss anything while writing. When you know how to write an essay outline, you create papers better and faster. You keep in mind all essay components. You develop critical thinking. And you become a better writer.
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21 thoughts on “ how to write a perfect essay outline ”.
No doubt, the essay outline is one of the most important things. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you very much
Please help me answer this question. What is the thesis statement in this sentence.”the characters I do not appreciate about my teachers”
What if you do research on a lot of things but you have all the same facts about them? Like I am doing an essay on 23 constellations. Do I write down the name of every constellation in the outline and add the facts underneath each of the 23? Or do I just write “Constellation” and add each fact that I will have written for each individual constellation? Example: I. Introduction A. Thesis Statement B. Next explanatory paragraph C. Extra paragraph II. Constellation A. Name 1. Translation 2. Pronunciation 3. Background story B. Description C. Rank in size D. The astronomer who introduced it E. Location F. Significant stars or star clusters
Do I need to do the second part for all 23 constellations (only adding the name of each constellation beforehand.) I feel like that would be a waste of time since I would mostly just be copying and pasting but I am getting graded on the outline so if anybody could help me that would be rad. I know my question is pretty hard to understand but I did my best. Thank you!
Thanks for your question, AJ!
As far as you write an essay outline for yourself (to make the process of essay writing easier), feel free to organize it accordingly. If you are going to describe all 23 constellations in detail (like you introduced in your comment), feel free to add each to your essay outline. If you are going to write about all 23 in general, with no details to each, there will be no need to add all those A, B, C, D, F… for every constellation to your essay outline.
I hope you’ve got the point 🙂
Thank you i think this will help me a lot
Helped me get through my essay correctly and lot faster!
I read your blog and got interesting facts about this topic, thank you!
This contained everything one needs to know when making an outline.
I find this really helpful Thanks 😊
Which of these outlines whould be the best for and SAT essay?
As far as the SAT essay is argumentative now and it asks you to analyze another essay (feel free to check our guide on SAT essays for more information), I think that the outline of a research essay could be the best option.
Thank you so much.I found this helpful.
Thank you for your helpful thought about how we can outline our essays.
thanks for sharing, with outlne everything will be easy to organize writing idea.
Thanks for sharing , I found this helpful. With the outline I learned how to organize writing idea.
I think these examples of essays outlines are good for students start to pay attention to because it will make essays easier. Your articles contain prompts and tips in writing essays and other kinds of papers, thanks!
That was a great outline that students should follow :))
how can I provide an outline to an argumentative essay (academic )for Tefl master (teaching English as a foreign language)?
First of all I would like to say that it’s a terrific blog! I had a quick question which I’d like to ask if you do not mind.
I was curious to know how you center yourself and clear your mind before writing. I have had a tough time clearing my mind in getting my thoughts out there.
I truly do enjoy writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are generally lost simply just trying to figure out how to begin. Any recommendations or tips? Thanks!
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Essay Writing Guide
Last updated on: Jun 10, 2023
A Complete Essay Outline - Guidelines and Format
By: Nova A.
13 min read
Reviewed By: Melisa C.
Published on: Jan 15, 2019
To write an effective essay, you need to create a clear and well-organized essay outline. An essay outline will shape the essay’s entire content and determine how successful the essay will be.
In this blog post, we'll be going over the basics of essay outlines and provide a template for you to follow. We will also include a few examples so that you can get an idea about how these outlines look when they are put into practice.
Essay writing is not easy, but it becomes much easier with time, practice, and a detailed essay writing guide. Once you have developed your outline, everything else will come together more smoothly.
The key to success in any area is preparation - take the time now to develop a solid outline and then write your essays!
So, let’s get started!
On this Page
What is an Essay Outline?
An essay outline is your essay plan and a roadmap to essay writing. It is the structure of an essay you are about to write. It includes all the main points you have to discuss in each section along with the thesis statement.
Like every house has a map before it is constructed, the same is the importance of an essay outline. You can write an essay without crafting an outline, but you may miss essential information, and it is more time-consuming.
Once the outline is created, there is no chance of missing any important information. Also, it will help you to:
- Organize your thoughts and ideas.
- Understand the information flow.
- Never miss any crucial information or reference.
- Finish your work faster.
These are the reasons if someone asks you why an essay outline is needed. Now there are some points that must be kept in mind before proceeding to craft an essay outline.
Easily Outline Your Essays In Seconds!
Prewriting Process of Essay Outline
Your teacher may ask you to submit your essay outline before your essay. Therefore, you must know the preliminary guidelines that are necessary before writing an essay outline.
Here are the guidelines:
- You must go through your assignments’ guidelines carefully.
- Understand the purpose of your assignment.
- Know your audience.
- Mark the important point while researching your topic data.
- Select the structure of your essay outline; whether you are going to use a decimal point bullet or a simple one.
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How to Write an Essay Outline in 4 Steps
Creating an essay outline is a crucial step in crafting a well-structured and organized piece of writing. Follow these four simple steps to create an effective outline:
Step 1: Understand the Topic
To begin, thoroughly grasp the essence of your essay topic.
Break it down into its key components and identify the main ideas you want to convey. This step ensures you have a clear direction and focus for your essay.
Step 2: Brainstorm and Gather Ideas
Let your creativity flow and brainstorm ideas related to your topic.
Jot down key pieces of information, arguments, and supporting evidence that will strengthen your essay's overall message. Consider different perspectives and potential counterarguments to make your essay well-rounded.
Step 3: Organize Your Thoughts
Now it's time to give structure to your ideas.
Arrange your main points in a logical order, starting with an attention-grabbing introduction, followed by body paragraphs that present your arguments.
Finally, tie everything together with a compelling conclusion. Remember to use transitional phrases to create smooth transitions between sections.
Step 4: Add Depth with Subpoints
To add depth and clarity to your essay, incorporate subpoints under each main point.
These subpoints provide more specific details, evidence, or examples that support your main ideas. They help to further strengthen your arguments and make your essay more convincing.
By following these four steps - you'll be well on your way to creating a clear and compelling essay outline.
Essay Outline Format
It is an easy way for you to write your thoughts in an organized manner. It may seem unnecessary and unimportant, but it is not.
It is one of the most crucial steps for essay writing as it shapes your entire essay and aids the writing process.
An essay outline consists of three main parts:
The introduction body of your essay should be attention-grabbing. It should be written in such a manner that it attracts the reader’s interest. It should also provide background information about the topic for the readers.
You can use a dramatic tone to grab readers’ attention, but it should connect the audience to your thesis statement.
Here are some points without which your introduction paragraph is incomplete.
To attract the reader with the first few opening lines, we use a hook statement. It helps engage the reader and motivates them to read further. There are different types of hook sentences ranging from quotes, rhetorical questions to anecdotes and statistics, and much more.
Are you struggling to come up with an interesting hook? View these hook examples to get inspired!
A thesis statement is stated at the end of your introduction. It is the most important statement of your entire essay. It summarizes the purpose of the essay in one sentence.
The thesis statement tells the readers about the main theme of the essay, and it must be strong and clear. It holds the entire crux of your essay.
Need help creating a strong thesis statement? Check out this guide on thesis statements and learn to write a statement that perfectly captures your main argument!
2. Body Paragraphs
The body paragraphs of an essay are where all the details and evidence come into play. This is where you dive deep into the argument, providing explanations and supporting your ideas with solid evidence.
If you're writing a persuasive essay, these paragraphs will be the powerhouse that convinces your readers. Similarly, in an argumentative essay, your body paragraphs will work their magic to sway your audience to your side.
Each paragraph should have a topic sentence and no more than one idea. A topic sentence is the crux of the contents of your paragraph. It is essential to keep your reader interested in the essay.
The topic sentence is followed by the supporting points and opinions, which are then justified with strong evidence.
When it comes to wrapping up your essay, never underestimate the power of a strong conclusion. Just like the introduction and body paragraphs, the conclusion plays a vital role in providing a sense of closure to your topic.
To craft an impactful conclusion, it's crucial to summarize the key points discussed in the introduction and body paragraphs. You want to remind your readers of the important information you shared earlier. But keep it concise and to the point. Short, powerful sentences will leave a lasting impression.
Remember, your conclusion shouldn't drag on. Instead, restate your thesis statement and the supporting points you mentioned earlier. And here's a pro tip: go the extra mile and suggest a course of action. It leaves your readers with something to ponder or reflect on.
5 Paragraph Essay Outline Structure
An outline is an essential part of the writing as it helps the writer stay focused. A typical 5 paragraph essay outline example is shown here. This includes:
- State the topic
- Thesis statement
- A conclusion that ties to the thesis
- Summary of the essay
- Restate the thesis statement
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Essay Outline Template
The outline of the essay is the skeleton that you will fill out with the content. Both outline and relevant content are important for a good essay. The content you will add to flesh out the outline should be credible, relevant, and interesting.
The outline structure for the essay is not complex or difficult. No matter which type of essay you write, you either use an alphanumeric structure or a decimal structure for the outline.
Below is an outline sample that you can easily follow for your essay.
Essay Outline Sample
Essay Outline Examples
An essay outline template should follow when you start writing the essay. Every writer should learn how to write an outline for every type of essay and research paper.
Essay outline 4th grade
Essay outline 5th grade
Essay outline high school
Essay outline college
Given below are essay outline examples for different types of essay writing.
Argumentative Essay Outline
An argumentative essay is a type of essay that shows both sides of the topic that you are exploring. The argument that presents the basis of the essay should be created by providing evidence and supporting details.
Persuasive Essay Outline
A persuasive essay is similar to an argumentative essay. Your job is to provide facts and details to create the argument. In a persuasive essay, you convince your readers of your point of view.
Compare and Contrast Essay Outline
A compare and contrast essay explains the similarities and differences between two things. While comparing, you should focus on the differences between two seemingly similar objects. While contrasting, you should focus on the similarities between two different objects.
Narrative Essay Outline
A narrative essay is written to share a story. Normally, a narrative essay is written from a personal point of view in an essay. The basic purpose of the narrative essay is to describe something creatively.
Expository Essay Outline
An expository essay is a type of essay that explains, analyzes, and illustrates something for the readers. An expository essay should be unbiased and entirely based on facts. Be sure to use academic resources for your research and cite your sources.
Analytical Essay Outline
An analytical essay is written to analyze the topic from a critical point of view. An analytical essay breaks down the content into different parts and explains the topic bit by bit.
Rhetorical Analysis Essay Outline
A rhetorical essay is written to examine the writer or artist’s work and develop a great essay. It also includes the discussion.
Cause and Effect Essay Outline
A cause and effect essay describes why something happens and examines the consequences of an occurrence or phenomenon. It is also a type of expository essay.
Informative Essay Outline
An informative essay is written to inform the audience about different objects, concepts, people, issues, etc.
The main purpose is to respond to the question with a detailed explanation and inform the target audience about the topic.
Synthesis Essay Outline
A synthesis essay requires the writer to describe a certain unique viewpoint about the issue or topic. Create a claim about the topic and use different sources and information to prove it.
Literary Analysis Essay Outline
A literary analysis essay is written to analyze and examine a novel, book, play, or any other piece of literature. The writer analyzes the different devices such as the ideas, characters, plot, theme, tone, etc., to deliver his message.
Definition Essay Outline
A definition essay requires students to pick a particular concept, term, or idea and define it in their own words and according to their understanding.
Descriptive Essay Outline
A descriptive essay is a type of essay written to describe a person, place, object, or event. The writer must describe the topic so that the reader can visualize it using their five senses.
Evaluation Essay Outline
Problem Solution Essay Outline
In a problem-solution essay, you are given a problem as a topic and you have to suggest multiple solutions on it.
Scholarship Essay Outline
A scholarship essay is required at the time of admission when you are applying for a scholarship. Scholarship essays must be written in a way that should stand alone to help you get a scholarship.
Reflective Essay Outline
A reflective essay is written to express your own thoughts and point of view regarding a specific topic.
Getting started on your essay? Give this comprehensive essay writing guide a read to make sure you write an effective essay!
With this complete guide, now you understand how to create an outline for your essay successfully. However, if you still can’t write an effective essay, then the best option is to consult a professional academic writing service.
Essay writing is a dull and boring task for some people. So why not get some help instead of wasting your time and effort? 5StarEssays.com is here to help you. All your do my essay for me requests are managed by professional essay writers.
Place your order now, and our team of expert academic writers will help you.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the three types of outlines.
Here are the three types of essay outline;
- Working outline
- Speaking outline
- Full-sentence outline
All three types are different from each other and are used for different purposes.
What does a full-sentence outline look like?
A full sentence outline contains full sentences at each level of the essay’s outline. It is similar to an alphanumeric outline and it is a commonly used essay outline.
What is a traditional outline format?
A traditional essay outline begins with writing down all the important points in one place and listing them down and adding sub-topics to them. Besides, it will also include evidence and proof that you will use to back your arguments.
What is the benefit of using a traditional outline format and an informal outline format?
A traditional outline format helps the students in listing down all the important details in one palace while an informal outline will help you coming up with new ideas and highlighting important points
As a Digital Content Strategist, Nova Allison has eight years of experience in writing both technical and scientific content. With a focus on developing online content plans that engage audiences, Nova strives to write pieces that are not only informative but captivating as well.
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English Composition 1
Creating an outline for an essay.
Most analytical, interpretive, or persuasive essays tend to follow the same basic pattern. This page should help you formulate effective outlines for most of the essays that you will write.
1. Sentence to get the attention of your readers:
2. One-sentence thesis statement:
1. First main idea:
a. Supporting evidence for the first idea:
b. Supporting evidence for the first idea:
c. Supporting evidence for the first idea:
2. Second main idea:
a. Supporting evidence for second main idea:
b. Supporting evidence for second main idea:
c. Supporting evidence for second main idea:
3. Third main idea:
a. Supporting evidence for third main idea:
b. Supporting evidence for third main idea:
c. Supporting evidence for third main idea:
1. Restatement of your thesis:
2. Insightful sentence to end your essay:
Copyright Randy Rambo , 2019.
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Trying to devise a structure for your essay can be one of the most difficult parts of the writing process. Making a detailed outline before you begin writing is a good way to make sure your ideas come across in a clear and logical order. A good outline will also save you time in the revision process, reducing the possibility that your ideas will need to be rearranged once you've written them.
The First Steps
Before you can begin outlining, you need to have a sense of what you will argue in the essay. From your analysis and close readings of primary and/or secondary sources you should have notes, ideas, and possible quotes to cite as evidence. Let's say you are writing about the 1999 Republican Primary and you want to prove that each candidate's financial resources were the most important element in the race. At this point, your notes probably lack much coherent order. Most likely, your ideas are still in the order in which they occurred to you; your notes and possible quotes probably still adhere to the chronology of the sources you've examined. Your goal is to rearrange your ideas, notes, and quotes—the raw material of your essay—into an order that best supports your argument, not the arguments you've read in other people's works. To do this, you have to group your notes into categories and then arrange these categories in a logical order.
The first step is to look over each individual piece of information that you've written and assign it to a general category. Ask yourself, "If I were to file this in a database, what would I file it under?" If, using the example of the Republican Primary, you wrote down an observation about John McCain's views on health care, you might list it under the general category of "Health care policy." As you go through your notes, try to reuse categories whenever possible. Your goal is to reduce your notes to no more than a page of category listings.
Now examine your category headings. Do any seem repetitive? Do any go together? "McCain's expenditure on ads" and "Bush's expenditure on ads," while not exactly repetitive, could easily combine into a more general category like "Candidates' expenditures on ads." Also, keep an eye out for categories that no longer seem to relate to your argument. Individual pieces of information that at first seemed important can begin to appear irrelevant when grouped into a general category.
Now it's time to generalize again. Examine all your categories and look for common themes. Go through each category and ask yourself, "If I were to place this piece of information in a file cabinet, what would I label that cabinet?" Again, try to reuse labels as often as possible: "Health Care," "Foreign Policy," and "Immigration" can all be contained under "Policy Initiatives." Make these larger categories as general as possible so that there are no more than three or four for a 7-10 page paper.
With your notes grouped into generalized categories, the process of ordering them should be easier. To begin, look at your most general categories. With your thesis in mind, try to find a way that the labels might be arranged in a sentence or two that supports your argument. Let's say your thesis is that financial resources played the most important role in the 1999 Republican Primary. Your four most general categories are "Policy Initiatives," "Financial Resources," "Voters' Concerns," and "Voters' Loyalty." You might come up with the following sentence: ÒAlthough McCain's policy initiatives were closest to the voters' concerns, Bush's financial resources won the voters' loyalty.Ó This sentence should reveal the order of your most general categories. You will begin with an examination of McCain's and Bush's views on important issues and compare them to the voters' top concerns. Then you'll look at both candidates' financial resources and show how Bush could win voters' loyalty through effective use of his resources, despite his less popular policy ideas.
With your most general categories in order, you now must order the smaller categories. To do so, arrange each smaller category into a sentence or two that will support the more general sentence you've just devised. Under the category of "Financial Resources," for instance, you might have the smaller categories of "Ad Expenditure," "Campaign Contributions" and "Fundraising." A sentence that supports your general argument might read: "Bush's early emphasis on fundraising led to greater campaign contributions, allowing him to have a greater ad expenditure than McCain."
The final step of the outlining process is to repeat this procedure on the smallest level, with the original notes that you took for your essay. To order what probably was an unwieldy and disorganized set of information at the beginning of this process, you need now only think of a sentence or two to support your general argument. Under the category "Fundraising," for example, you might have quotes about each candidate's estimation of its importance, statistics about the amount of time each candidate spent fundraising, and an idea about how the importance of fundraising never can be overestimated. Sentences to support your general argument might read: "No candidate has ever raised too much money [your idea]. While both McCain and Bush acknowledged the importance of fundraising [your quotes], the numbers clearly point to Bush as the superior fundraiser [your statistics]." The arrangement of your ideas, quotes, and statistics now should come naturally.
Putting It All Together
With these sentences, you have essentially constructed an outline for your essay. The most general ideas, which you organized in your first sentence, constitute the essay's sections. They follow the order in which you placed them in your sentence. The order of the smaller categories within each larger category (determined by your secondary sentences) indicates the order of the paragraphs within each section. Finally, your last set of sentences about your specific notes should show the order of the sentences within each paragraph. An outline for the essay about the 1999 Republican Primary (showing only the sections worked out here) would look something like this:
I. POLICY INITIATIVES
II. VOTERS' CONCERNS
III. FINANCIAL RESOURCES
a. Original Idea
b. McCain Quote/Bush Quote
c. McCain Statistics/Bush Statistics
B. Campaign Contributions
C. Ad Expenditure
IV. VOTERS' LOYALTY
Copyright 2000, David Kornhaber, for the Writing Center at Harvard University
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