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    Janelle Harris

    Janelle Harris

    20 January, 2021

    How to Write an Essay Outline?

    So, you were given another writing assignment. In the pursuit of trying to get rid of it as quickly as possible, you somehow explored the topic and found relevant details, thinking you’re ready to take another step. But you’re not there just yet - your ideas aren’t fully formed at this stage. The best way to organize thoughts and look at the collected information from a different perspective is to write an essay outline. Besides, an outline will ease the writing process because you’ll have a plan for your paper. You’ll choose the essential details you’ve found during research and decide how many paragraphs your paper will contain. Our article will help you get through the difficulties of writing an outline and make this process a breeze. So, read up our guide to get an excellent grade.
    How to Write an Essay Outline

    What is an Essay Outline?

    An outline is a short plan of an essay that helps identify valuable details, structure your text, and check whether your arguments are strong enough to back up your claim. If you write an outline, you’ll get a roadmap that will contain the points you’ll use in your text.

    Although professors don’t check outlines and don’t even ask students to write them, you have to dedicate a few minutes to create one. The thing is, even experienced writers create outlines prior to writing a whole piece. That’s because accurate oultining of all paper points helps them analyze strengths and weaknesses of their own ideas.

    Here are some more reasons to write an outline:

    • You can logically structure all the facts and details you’ve found by writing them down in columns.
    • You won’t miss any piece of information with bullet points containing all the facts and ideas at your disposal.
    • An outline will help you understand the topic better. You’ll check the information connected with the subject and thus identify the key point of your essay. As a result, you’ll impress your audience with an in-depth knowledge of the theme and easily reveal the background of the subject.
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    Preparing Your Outline

    What steps should you take before writing a college essay outline? First of all, it’s necessary to check the assignment requirements once again to make sure you understand what information your professor wants to read in your paper. Besides, we recommend you to take the following steps to prepare an excellent outline:

    Pick a topic

    A properly selected topic can help you succeed in writing your best paper and earn a top grade. However, many students fail to identify an excellent topic for their papers because they don’t dedicate enough time to picking a subject. A brainstorming session is a perfect choice if you don’t know which topic to choose. Check your assignment and your lecture notes to recall the subjects you’ve explored. Write down every idea that comes to your mind and choose the most interesting one.

    Also, one of the best ways to opt for a decent topic is to choose the one you’re passionate about. If you have a few excellent ideas, freewriting is your best bet. Write down your thoughts concerning every subject and check which topic is easier to describe or analyze. If you still have no clue which topic to choose because you know all of them well, focus on the strength of your arguments and the number of essential details you can provide. The more value you can bring, the better.

    Define the essay purpose and your audience

    To write a good outline for essay, you should identify the main objective of your paper along with the audience. If you’ve already studied these aspects, you can easily write an engaging paper and make the right impact on a reader. But if you haven’t, you’ll have to identify the key objective of your paper, find out who will read it, and pick the strongest arguments to present a valuable piece.

    Write a thesis statement

    A thesis statement is a brief explanation of your essay’s core idea. At this stage, you don’t need to name all the arguments of your paper or describe your opinion but define the subject you’re going to discuss in your text. A thesis statement consists of one or two sentences and is put at the end of an introductory paragraph.

    Outline Structure Types

    Now that you know the definition of an essay outline and how to prepare it, it’s time to learn outline structure types. Of course, you can choose how to organize an outline depending on your preferences. But you can also select a basic essay outline template presented below to connect the ideas in your text:

    Alphanumeric structure

    Alphanumeric is the most frequently used format. For this type of outline structuring, you’ll need to indicate the main ideas of your essay with roman numbers. Capital letters, Arab numbers, and lowercase letters will mark additional details. The outline of an essay organized using the alphanumeric format will look like this:

    1. Introduction.
    2. Main idea.
      1. Argument.
        1. Supporting detail.
        2. Supporting detail.
          1. Additional detail.
          2. Additional detail.
      2. Argument.
        1. Supporting detail.
        2. Supporting detail.
          1. Additional detail.
          2. Additional detail.

    Apply as many points as you need depending on the number of thoughts you want to discuss and details you have to provide.

    Decimal structure

    There’s no big difference between an alphanumeric and decimal structure, so you can apply both of them. However, if you choose the letter, you’ll identify points using numerals in your paper. Many writers use this structure because it’s easier to connect essay points logically for them. Here’s an example of a decimal essay outline format:

    1. Introduction.
    2. Main idea.
      1. Argument.
        1. Supporting detail.
        2. Supporting detail.
      2. Argument.
        1. Supporting detail.
        2. Supporting detail.

    For a detailed outline, you can write complete sentences. However, you can feel free to write short sentences just to identify the main points of your topic. The second option will do if you know the subject well and don’t need lengthy explanations.

    Structuring Your Outline

    The length of an outline for an essay depends on your professor’s requirements. In some cases, you’ll have to conduct an in-depth research and present an exhaustive analysis. But a typical essay usually consists of five paragraphs, so we’ll focus on this structure type. Most often, an outline contains three parts. They include an introduction, a body section with three paragraphs, and a conclusion. Use the following guide to structure your outline and present thoughts smoothly:

    1. Introduction

    An introduction is a short paragraph that discloses the main idea of your paper. This section persuades a reader of your paper’s worth and encourages them to read it further. Follow these tips to start your essay excellently:

    • The first sentence should contain a hook to intrigue a reader. You can ask a question, use a quote, stats, or joke to grab a reader’s attention. Remember: the method you’ll use in the first sentence should relate to the key idea of the piece.
    • The next sentence will explain what to expect from your paper. Name the main points of the essay and uncover the topic background to help a reader understand your claim.
    • The final sentence should contain a strong statement to evoke the desire to keep reading your arguments.

    2. Body text

    The body section is the most informative part of your essay because it includes your arguments, evidence, analysis results, and other details. Every paragraph should cover a different point and contain relevant facts. Here are a few tricks you can use to present the information in the body section correctly:

    • Start every paragraph with a topic sentence that contains information about the point you want to discuss in this section.
    • Back up your ideas with facts, statistics, case studies, citations, and other details. Use reliable sources to find relevant information, including archives, books, research publications, memoirs, biography books, etc.
    • Use counterarguments to strengthen your statement. You can include alternative points of the topic to show your knowledge of the field and prove that your claim is stronger. Use facts to support your opinion and make the audience agree with you.
    • Include transition sentences to connect different paragraphs and improve the text flow. A reader will thank you because it will be easier for them to read your essay and follow the logic chain. You can finish a paragraph with a brief explanation of how it’s connected with the next point or just describe which detail you’re going to discuss in the next section.

    3. Conclusion

    A conclusion is the final part of your essay. Remember that you don’t have to add any new details in this section. Just paraphrase a thesis statement and name all the key points of your essay. Thus, a reader will recall the main idea of the paper and decide whether they agree or disagree with you. You can finish this section with a phrase that explains the importance of the subject or the necessity to research the outlined issues in the future. You can also describe how the subject of your investigation influenced the field or society.

    Essay Outline Examples

    Although writing an outline is not a difficult task, many students still don’t know what format to choose and which details to present. The easiest way to organize your ideas correctly is to use our guide and check essay outline examples online. Look at the following templates to get an idea of proper plan structuring for your paper:

    Why listen to music while writing?

    1. Introduction.
      1. How music affects our emotions and brain?
      2. Music helps improve writing.
        1. Famous writers listen to music while writing.
    2. Body text.
      1. Music helps form your writing style.
        1. Parallel between music and text.
          1. How music helped Haruki Murakami shape his writing style
      2. Music inspires you.
        1. Favorite songs can inspire you if you feel stuck.
          1. How the right playlist helps boost creativity.
        2. Lyrics are the source of new ideas.
          1. Song phrases can be rewritten and used in your text.
      3. Music helps improve memory.
        1. Music helps you relax, reduce anxiety, and concentrate on a subject.
          1. The latest research proves that music helps process and memorize information.
    3. Conclusion.
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    Tips on writing an analytical essay.

    1. Introduction.
    2. Why should you learn to write analytical essays?
      1. You can develop your analytical and critical thinking skills.
      2. You will improve your academic performance.
    3. Body text.
      1. Analytical essay definition.
      2. Preparing the background.
        1. Choose a topic.
        2. Research a subject.
        3. Collect facts.
        4. Write an outline.
      3. Analytical essay writing tips.
        1. Writing an introduction.
        2. How to write the body text.
        3. Structuring the bottom line.
    4. Conclusion.


    If you know how to outline essay, you’ll cope with any academic assignment. You can choose any format type to list the main ideas of your paper and put your thoughts in order. You have to remember that all the details should stick to your thesis statement and back up your claim. So, keep our tips in mind to succeed in writing a perfect paper and improve your academic performance.


    Janelle Harris

    Written by:

    Janelle Harris

    Janelle Harris is a Colorado-based writer with over eleven years of academic writing experience. She graduated from Metropolitan State University of Denver with an MBA degree. Janelle is a passionate expert who believes that assignment instructions must always be impeccably followed.

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