How to Write an Essay Outline: 9 Easy Ways

When you write an essay, an outline will be your best ally. It will help you not to lose track of your thoughts. It serves as a framework of your ideas. Honestly, it is not easy to write an essay if you don’t have an outline. It is part of the prewriting process, and it is necessary before you start doing the rough draft. Aside from researching, it also requires brainstorming and planning. But if you don’t know how to start doing one, here are ways on how to write an essay outline.

Writing an Essay Outline

1. Determining the purpose of your essay is the first step in writing the essay outline. Based on the purpose, you can then narrow down the topic which you need to do a research in preparation for your thesis statement.

2. In formulating your thesis statement, it should illustrate the objective of your essay. It’s a way of giving an idea to the readers on what the essay is all about.

3. After narrowing down the topic, doing research, and formulating the thesis statement, you can now start your essay outline. Brainstorm for every idea which you think is important to your essay. And then organize them together.

4. Determine the points which you want to include in each paragraph of your essay. And under each point, create a corresponding subheading. It will prevent you from forgetting anything of significance to your essay.

5. Remember that an essay outline doesn’t have to be as lengthy as possible. A single page is even enough. It is like making a list of the ideas that you have organized, and it must consist of an introduction, body, and conclusion.

6. The introduction must include the thesis statement of the essay. The reason why you have selected that particular topic should also be stated. It should also contain at least three topic sentences that must be included in the body of the essay. 

7. If you are going to make a five paragraph essay, then three of these paragraphs are the main body. Your outline must then include the topic sentence for each paragraph which relates to the thesis statement, explanation and evidence in support to the topic sentence, as well as the significance of your example.

8. The summary of the said topic sentences should then be discussed in the conclusion, and how the topic sentences have supported the thesis statement.

9. The last section of your outline should be the citation. It is a list of resources that you have used in your essay.

Students who prefer making an outline before starting to work find the writing easier to do. An essay outline is a way of organizing your ideas for your essay to flow systematically. It gives you an overview of how each paragraph should go. As a result, you will get the essay more structured. But if you find it hard, just follow the given ways on how to write an essay outline.

Categories: Writing Tips   Tags: how to write an essay outline, writing an essay outline

How to Write an Outline for an Essay

In most every high school or college class, you’ll be asked to write an essay. But starting a paper can be difficult. You might not know what you want to argue, or you might not know how to support your argument. It becomes even more difficult if you write sentence by sentence, because you don’t know what direction your paper is going.

An outline is a great way for you to organize your thoughts before you start writing a paper. It keeps your essay fluid and focused, and helps you decide your main argument, your supporting evidence, and your analysis in a simple structure. Writing an outline will make your essay-writing process smoother and stress-free, and it will give you material to reference if you get writer’s block.

Follow the following structure on how to write an outline for an essay

I. Introduction

A. Lead-up
B. Thesis

II. Topic Sentence 1

A. Evidence
 B. Analysis
C. Evidence
D. Analysis

III. Topic Sentence 2

A. Evidence
B. Analysis
C. Evidence
D. Analysis

IV. Topic Sentence 3

A. Evidence
B. Analysis
C. Evidence
D. Analysis

V. Conclusion

Paragraphs 2-4 are considered "body paragraphs."

1. Assemble your evidence

Your paper will be much easier to write if you've been collecting evidence, such as quotes from primary sources, statistics, and critical commentary. After you've done your reading and research, collect the evidence that is most relevant to your main argument. Organize the evidence into three or four main points–more if it's a long paper! These three or four points will become your sub-points or body paragraphs: the arguments that support your thesis.

Tip: Put all your evidence on Post-it Notes. As you're arranging and rearranging the notes, it'll help you easily figure out what evidence belongs together and what doesn't.

2. Write your thesis

Hopefully, after you've done all your research and collected all your evidence, an argument will start to form. Maybe it is something you repeatedly noticed throughout the book you read, or maybe it's opinion you have after reading commentary on your topic. Either way, your paper needs to have an argument behind it, and a thesis is how you define your argument to the world.

If writing your essay is like building a house, your thesis is the foundation. It needs to be strong, and it needs to give enough substance to let you keep writing and developing off of it. A good thesis will be succinct, written in active voice, saying who is doing what, and use a strong verb.

3. Write your topic sentences

The topic sentences are the supporting claims of your thesis. Remember those three or four groups of evidence you have? The topic sentence is a way of summarizing the argument that evidence supports. They elaborate on a point you mention in your thesis, and draw on your evidence and analysis to create an argument. Like your thesis, your topic sentence should also be an argument and be a full sentence. You'll prove the topic sentence throughout the course of your paragraph.

4. Insert your evidence and analysis

The first part is easy: take the evidence you assembled, and put it in your outline. The next part is trickier, it's where you analyze and discuss the evidence. It may be tempting to just leave the evidence in as proof of your point, but this is your essay. If the reader doesn't hear your voice and commentary, they're not going to think it's your argument. How much analysis you want to include in your outline is up to you; you may want to write a few words about what you're planning on saying, or you may want to write out your commentary in full sentences.

5. Start thinking about your introduction and conclusion.

Because your introduction and conclusion are not really places for evidence, you don't have to include too much about them in your outline. It helps to start thinking about what sort of introduction you want to have, how you'll set up your paper and introduce your topic. You can also start thinking about how you want to end your paper, what kind of impression do you want to leave your reader?

Hopefully, after writing your outline, you'll feel your paper start to come together. There may be some frustrating points where you feel like you don't have enough evidence or your argument doesn't make sense, but remember that is all part of the writing process.

Micaela Deitch is a sophomore at Georgetown University. She works for OpenSesame, where she enjoys learning about education and eLearning.

Categories: Writing Tips   Tags: how to write an outline for an essay, how to write an essay outline, writing an outline for an essay, outline for an essay, writing an essay outline