February 22, 2019

How to Write an Essay Outline: An Easy Guide

write an essay outline
Before you find out how to write an essay outline, make sure you understand what an outline is. An essay outline is one of the basic tools of draft writing because it helps you organize a paper properly. When working on an essay draft, students try to find the best way to organize their ideas logically to make sure that the content reads easy. An essay outline summarizes the key arguments of your essay and gives the writer an idea of the best way to present his/her information. Typically, students have to submit a five-paragraph essay, so they should be familiar with the structure already when writing a rough draft.

Why Do Essay Outlines Matter?

Writing an essay in one sitting can be super challenging. Writing a first draft or an essay outline will help release the pressure. Outline writing has a number of advantages, including an opportunity to organize thoughts, come up with the best way to present information, and identify the weak points in your arguments. In other words, if you know how to write an essay outline and take some time to actually write it, you can avoid mistakes before even making them in your essay, which spares you hours and hours that could be wasted on revisions and editing.

If you have never written outlines before but want to improve your writing skills, you should fill the gap in your knowledge and start using this pre-writing tool ASAP. You might want to check out some essay outline example or read a detailed tutorial. Alternatively, we offer you a clear and simple guide to writing an essay outline that suitable for your writing assignments. These are the steps to follow when working on your outline:
Step 1.Come up with a good topic
The first step of essay writing is choosing a topic. To make a successful choice, carefully read the tutor’s requirements and guidelines and then start brainstorming some ideas. At this stage, you do not have to mull over each idea. Instead, put them all down on paper and then select the ones that you find the most interesting. Sometimes writers might get stuck between a couple ideas. In this case, free writing is really helpful. Give yourself 3-4 minutes for each idea and write down all thoughts that come to your mind. If you feel that some idea inspires you a lot, this is the perfect choice for your paper. Essays that writers are passionate about are easier not only to write but also to read.
Step 2.Establish the purpose of writing, target readers, and the central argument
After selecting a topic, you have to understand why you are going to write this essay and who is going to read it. It is impossible to write an influential essay if you do not understand the purpose and the target readers because you will not be able to come up with appropriate arguments. To help you make the right choice of the outline format, look at the requirements once again and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Which objectives is this paper expected to meet?
  • What are the keywords in the essay prompt?
  • Do the requirements ask me to inform, persuade, or educate the reader?
  • Who is going to read my essay? Will it be my professor, peers, scholarly audience, or the readers with the limited understanding of the topic?
  • Which arguments will my target audience find the most compelling?
  • Will my argument evoke any emotions? How can I counterbalance them with factual evidence?

Step 3.Create a thesis statement
Now that you are ready to start creating your draft paper, it is high time to create a thesis statement for your essay. It will be only one or two sentences long and it will present the purpose and the main idea of the paper. It should not simply list the facts or your opinion. Instead, a thesis statement identifies what you are arguing for (or maybe against) in the body of the paper. In your final draft, a thesis statement should be a clear, concise, and accurate statement of the topic.

The Structure of an Outline

You can either create a rough outline draft or write it right away. Think of an outline as of a skeleton of your paper. The structure of a paper is just as important as the information you include in it. Any essay should have the following components:

  • Introduction

This is the opening paragraph in which the author of the text announce the topic and the background of the essay. Apart from being informative, an introduction also should be interesting, so invest some efforts in the opening statement.

This is the bulk of the paper and it requires most of your attention. There are different structure types:
Thesis-driven structure, when the writer expresses his/her argument and then supports it.
Reverse structure, when the writer describes and analyzes the available facts and draws conclusions afterwards.
Each body paragraph has to discuss a topic in-depth and express a finished thought.

This is the last paragraph of an essay and it should summarize the main ideas that were discussed in the body of the paper. It should be a brief restatement of what the reader was expected to understand by reading the essay. It is also recommended to include a call for action.
Some more essay writing basics you should be familiar with include the knowledge of the structure. Usually, students are free to choose between alphanumeric and decimal formats.
For alphanumeric format, use numerals (Roman or Arabic) and capital or lowercase letters. This type is the most common.
For decimal format, use only numbers, starting with 1.0.

Essay Outline Structure

Essay Outline Sample

If you are not sure how to write an essay outline, you can use the following sample when working on your next essay:

I. Introduction

a) opening sentence
b) thesis statement

II. Body

a) The main idea #1

  1. Topic sentence
  2. Evidence
  3. Explanation of evidence

b) The main idea #2

  1. Topic sentence
  2. Evidence
  3. Explanation of evidence

c) The main idea #3

  1. Topic sentence
  2. Evidence
  3. Explanation of evidence

III. Conclusion

a) restatement of the thesis
b) call for action