How to create a strong essay outline

An outline is a tool that you can use for organizing your ideas and structuring your essay in a proper manner. It should summarize your essay and help you organize your content in a logical order.

An outline can guide you throughout the writing process and remind you of what you should be writing about. Most commonly, an essay is written following a 5-paragraph structure, addressing the key points that you have laid out in the outline.

Below, you will find more about the proper structure of your essay outline and what these 5 paragraphs should include.

Why Do You Need It?

Sitting down to write an essay can be overwhelming. Writing an outline helps alleviate some of that frustration. Furthermore, it will help you organize thoughts, present ideas logically and with a natural flow, as well as clarify your thesis and conclusion.

Find out the basic essay information with this article: What is an Essay?

Overall, an outline will help you communicate your point in a clear and organized format. The structure of your essay will rely on the outline you compose.

Preparing Your Outline

Before you begin writing an outline for the essay, make sure you understand the assignment. Namely, what exactly is the instructor looking for? Our custom writing service recommends you to follow these simple steps:

How to Create a Strong Essay Outline

1. Develop a Topic

The first step in your outline is to identify your topic. Once you have a clear understanding of the instructor’s expectations, begin brainstorming topics that fit within the assignment. Make a list of ideas and pick the ones that are of your interest. If you are stuck between a few ideas, begin free writing.

Give yourself 5 minutes for each idea and just write everything that first comes to mind without editing or stopping. The idea that inspires you the most may just be the perfect essay topic for this assignment. In fact, essays are easier to write and read if the author is passionate about what he/she is writing.

Related Posts: Argumentative essay topics | Compare&Contrast essay topics

2. Identify the purpose, audience, and argument/ideas

Once you have developed a topic, you will need to define the purpose (or the reason) for writing this essay as well as who you are writing for. By having a clear understanding of the purpose, the audience, and the necessary arguments/ideas that need to be addressed, you will be better prepared to write an influential essay.

How to Create a Strong Essay Outline

Take a second to look back over the instructions for the assignment and ask yourself the following questions.

  • What are the objectives of the assignment?
  • Are there keywords that stand out in the instructions?
  • Are you being asked to persuade, entertain, enlighten, or educate your audience?
  • Who is your audience? Is it the teacher, the other students, or someone else?
  • What arguments or counter ideas might the audience have for your topic/idea?
  • What emotions might these ideas bring up and how can you counterbalance them with facts?

3. Develop a thesis statement

Now that you know your topic, purpose, audience and have developed your main arguments/ideas – it is time to write your thesis statement.

A thesis is only one to two sentences long and highlights the question your essay will be answering.

It does not state your opinion or list facts though, but rather identifies what you will be arguing for or against within the body of your essay. Keep in mind that thesis statements must be accurate, clear, and relevant to the topic.

Structuring Your Outline

Now that you have read the above information, the question is: how to write an essay outline?

First, decide on what structure to use. There are two main essay outline formats to choose from:  alphanumeric and decimal.

The alphanumeric format uses Roman numerals (I, II, III, IV, etc), capital letters (A, B, C, D, etc.), Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.), and lowercase letters (a, b, c, d, etc.).  This one is more common than the other.

On the contrary, the decimal format only uses numbers. It begins with 1.0. Subsections add a decimal. The most important points under 1.0 would be 1.1, 1.2, etc. The subsections beneath 1.1 would be 1.1.1, 1.1.2, 1.1.3, etc. For a visual example of an essay outline scroll to the bottom of this article.

For the visual examples of the stated outline formats, scroll down to the bottom of this article.

Apply sub-section structure. The more detailed content of your essay will be found within the sub-sections, while the main sections are your fundamental ideas and arguments.

Therefore, the sub-sections are the facts that support main sections. Think of the section title as the topic sentence for your paragraph and the sub-section as the tiny details that explain the idea of the topic.

Notably, your sub-sections need to flow naturally from one to another.

How to Create a Strong Essay Outline

Integrate paragraphs into your outline. Start fleshing out your section and subsection notes. Your introduction will need to include your topic and thesis statement. For a short essay, this only needs to be one paragraph long. Then, refer to your assignment instructions to clarify the length.

Next is the body part – a ‘skeleton’ on which the entire essay is based. This section will consist of several paragraphs, each playing a supportive role in the filling of your thesis. The final section of your outline is the conclusion. This is a summary of everything you have stated in your essay.

In this part, paraphrase your thesis statement and highlight the arguments made within the essay to support it. Remember that presenting new ideas and concepts in the concluding sentences is a big academic mistake.

Rather, your final words should only emphasize the points you’ve indicated earlier and focus on the already-highlighted ideas.

Essay Outline Examples

Now, it’s time to showcase the most common essay outline types. For you to get the right idea of what an outline actually is, we have transformed the content of the article you are currently reading into an outline.

Alphanumeric format essay outline sample:

How to Create a Strong Essay Outline

Decimal format essay outline sample:

How to Create a Strong Essay Outline

Drawing the Line

Now that you know how to use an essay outline, you are well on your way to writing clear, persuasive essays. This tool will help you improve your writing and earn a higher grade for your essay. Now it’s time for you to get started and make use of this tool.

In case you have any questions, you are free to skim through our essay writing guide where you can find helpful information on how to plan, structure and write different types of essays.

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How to Write a Perfect Essay Outline

How to Create a Strong 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.

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:

  1. What is an essay outline?
  2. How to write an essay outline
    1. Key parts of an essay
    2. Outline format
  3. Essay outline template
  4. How to make an outline: the process
  5. 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, 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.

When outlining your essay, keep them in mind so you wouldn’t miss any arguments, evidence, and examples while writing.

So, let’s do this!

How to Create a Strong Essay Outline

Key Parts of an Essay

Put them all into your essay 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.

How to Write an Essay Outline – Template and Examples

How to Create a Strong Essay Outline

To write an effective essay, you need to create a clear and well organized essay outline. Your outline will shape the entire content of your essay and will determine how successful your essay will be.

To make writing an essay outline easier give this article a thorough read.

1. How to Write an Essay Outline?

Is essay writing a demanding task for you? Are you one of those students who find essay a tedious,boring, or even daunting task?

Read our helpful guide and make your essay writing easier.

Before you start writing an essay, the first step is the outline writing. This is the most crucial step when it comes to essay writing. The more time you spend on creating an outline for your essay, the less you will spend on writing it.

Here is a simple guide to help you write your college essay, academic papers, research papers, term papers and case studies by creating an outline and organizing your ideas and information according to it.

2. Essay Outline Format

It is an easy way for you to write your thoughts in an organized manner. This 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.

Here is a detailed description of the different parts of an essay.

2.1 Introduction

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 dramatic tone to grab the readers' attention but the introduction should be connected to your thesis statement.

In order to attract the reader with the first few opening lines we use a tool called the hook sentence. It helps engage the reader and motivate them to read further. There are different types of hook sentences ranging from quotes, rhetorical questions to anecdotes and statistics and much more.

To learn more about them here is a detailed blog on hook examples.

2.2 Thesis Statement

A thesis statement is stated at the end of your introduction. That is the most important statement of your entire essay. It summarizes the purpose of the essay into one sentence.

The thesis statement tells the readers about the main theme of the essay and it must be strong and clear.

Thesis statement holds the entire crux of your essay. Check out the following blog to learn more about writing a thesis statement with examples.

2.3 Body Paragraphs

Your thesis statement should be explained in the body of the essay. Body paragraphs include all the important information about your essay.

If you are writing a persuasive essay, the content mentioned in your body paragraphs will persuade your audience. In the same way, if you are writing an argumentative essay, the body paragraphs of your essay will convince your audience towards your point of view.

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. They are essential to keep your reader interested and in the essay. Here is a complete guide to help you craft better topic sentences.

The topic sentence is followed by the supporting points and opinions, which are then justified with the help of strong evidence.

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2.4 Conclusion

Always end your discussion with a strong essay conclusion. Your conclusions should be influencing enough to give closure to your topic. The conclusion of the essay is as important as the introduction and body paragraphs are to making a coherent paper.

How to Write an Essay Outline

  1. 1

    Choose a standard alphanumeric structure for an easy outline structure. An alphanumeric outline is the most common, easily recognized outline type, and each subdivision is identified by Roman numerals, capitalized letters, Arabic numerals, and lowercase letters, in that order.[12]

    • Roman numerals (I, II, III, etc,) are used to mark each major heading or section. You will typically have three for an essay outline: one for your introduction, one for your body, and one for your conclusion. [13]
    • Capitalized letters (A,B,C, etc.) mark each primary point within a major section. [14]
    • Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, etc.) are used to flesh out primary points. [15]
    • Lowercase letters (a, b, c, etc.) are used if further detail is still required. [16]
  2. 2

    Choose a decimal outline structure to show how your ideas are related. A decimal outline is similar in structure to an alphanumeric outline, but it only uses a series of numbers to identify each subsection. Some people prefer this structure because it shows how each section contributes to the essay as a whole. [17]

    • A decimal outline begins with “1.0” and other sections will begin with different numbers (2, 3, 4, etc.). Therefore, the first section would read “1.0,” the second would read “2.0,” and the third would read “3.0.”
    • The number after the decimal point changes when new information is presented. For instance, under the “1.0” section, you would expect to see “1.1,” “1.2,” and so on.
    • Further subsections can be added by adding another decimal, followed by a number that corresponds to the new information. For instance, under the first “1.1” section, you might find “1.1.1,” “1.1.2,” and “1.1.3” labels.
  3. 3

    Determine whether to use full sentences or brief phrases in your outline. For most outline essays, full sentences will prove more useful because they allow you to provide more thorough information. [18]This is especially true if your outline must be handed in to an instructor.

  4. 4

    Use parallel structures for outline sections. For example, if one section of your outline begins with a verb that uses the present tense, then the next section should also begin with a verb that uses present tense. [19]

How to Write an Outline in MLA and APA: Guide with Examples

Outlining is a form of organization which is used among authors of all writing styles.

The common organizational method allows writers to list all of their research and ideas in one place before the writing process starts.

Understanding the general college essay outline can go a long way in getting your thoughts structured, as well as positive feedback from your professor. Take a look at this guide to learn how to write an outline.

Table of Contents

An essay outline is one of the main planning methods when it comes to writing academic papers, scholarly articles, informative guides, novels, and encyclopedias.

The everyday paper outline contains the headings: Introduction, Body, and Conclusion. Every source is organized by relevance to strengthen the writing process.

There are various formats when it comes to outlining, but the main formats required for a college essay outline is MLA and APA.

Regardless of whether you’re writing an MLA or APA outline, the organizational process remains the same with some minor differences. The main difference being APA uses abstracts, as it requires one or two sentences per line. APA is used for humanities, as MLA is used more for social studies. Other than that, the simple outline remains the same for any kind of academic paper structure.

How to Write an Outline?

The most common college essay is 5 paragraphs. Thus, an easy way to remember the general format of a writing plan is to think of it as planning a 5-paragraph essay outline where students would write an Introduction, Thesis, Body, and Conclusion.

Then, fit a total of 5 paragraphs within the basic structure. The same practice can be done with planning, except rather than paragraphs, it’s notes.

The exact same method would apply to an argumentative essay outline and any other kind of paper structure throughout and beyond college.

The Key-Elements to Outlining

  • Research & Notes:

Write an Effective Essay Outline w/ Samples

An essay outline will help you organize your main ideas and determine the order in which you are going to write about them. Writing an outline is a very effective way to think through how you will organize and present the information in your essay.

Competitive Swimming, an Ideal Sport for Kids

  • State your point of view and/or present your persuasive argument.
  • Thesis: Competitive swimming is a great alternative to other youth sports.
  • Introduce your primary persuasive argument and provide supporting details.
  • Topic Sentence:  Competitive swimming provides the same benefits as other sports.
  • Introduce a secondary argument and provide supporting details.
  • Topic Sentence:  Competitive swimming provides some unique additional benefits.
  • Conclude the essay with a summary of the thesis and persuasive arguments.

Concluding Sentence:  There are many reasons why competitive swimming is a great alternative to other youth sports, including…

How Losing a Swim Meet Made Me a Better Swimmer

Introduction

Introduce the subject of your narrative essay using a thesis statement and a plan of development (POD).

Thesis: The first time I participated in a competitive swim meet, I finished in last place. With more focused training and coaching, I was able to finish 2nd in the State Championship meet.

Plan of development:  I was very disappointed in my results from the first meet, so I improved my training and fitness. This helped me swim better and faster, which helped me to greatly improve my results.

Body Paragraph 1

Set the scene and provide supporting details.

Topic Sentence:  I was embarrassed at finishing last in my first competitive swim meet, so I began working on ways to improve my performance.

  • Detail Sentence 1:  I spent extra time with my coach and the team captains learning how to improve my technique.
  • Detail Sentence 2:  I started running and lifting weights to increase my overall fitness level.
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Body Paragraph 2

Provide additional supporting details, descriptions, and experiences.

Topic Sentence:  Over time, my results began to improve and I was able to qualify for the state championship meet.

  • Detail Sentence 1:  My technique and fitness level made me faster and able to swim longer distances.
  • Detail Sentence 2:  I steadily got better, and I began winning or placing in the top 3 at most of my meets.
  • Detail Sentence 3:  My results improved to the point that I was able to qualify for the state championship meet.

Body Paragraph 3

Provide additional supporting details, descriptions, and experiences.

Topic Sentence:  With my new confidence, techniques, and fitness level, I was able to finish 2nd at the state championship meet.

  • Detail Sentence 1:  I was able to swim well against a higher level of competition due to my training and technique.
  • Detail Sentence 2:  I was no longer embarrassed about my last-place finish, and was able to use it as motivation!

Conclusion

Conclude the essay with a recap of the events described or a reflection on the lesson learned in the story.

Concluding Sentence:  I used my last-place finish in my first competitive swim meet as motivation to improve my performance.

Visiting the Hockey Hall of Fame

Introduction

Introduce the subject of your descriptive essay with a thesis statement covering the person, place, object, etc. you are writing about.

Thesis: The Hockey Hall of Fame is full of sights, sounds, and experiences that will delight hockey fans of all ages.

Body Paragraph 1

Set the scene and provide factual details.

Topic Sentence:  The Hockey Hall of Fame is located in Toronto, Canada and features exhibits from amateur and professional hockey.

  • Detail Sentence 1:  The Hall is located in downtown Toronto and is visited by 1 million people every year.
  • Detail Sentence 2:  You can see exhibits ranging from the early beginnings of the sport to the modern NHL and Olympics.

Body Paragraph 2

Provide additional sensory details, descriptions, and experiences.

Topic Sentence:  There are many types of exhibits and shows, including activities you can participate in.

  • Detail Sentence 1:  Player statues, plaques, and jerseys decorate the walls in every room of the Hall.
  • Detail Sentence 2: 

LibGuides: How to Write a Good Essay: What is an Essay?

An essay is a “short formal piece of writing..dealing with a single subject” (“Essay,” 2001). It is typically written to try to persuade the reader using selected research evidence (“Essay,” 1997). In general, an academic essay has three parts:

  1. An introduction that gives the reader an idea of what they are about to learn and presents an argument in the form of a thesis statemen
  2. body, or middle section, that provides evidence used to prove and persuade the reader to accept the writer's particular point of vie
  3. conclusion that summarizes the content and findings of the essay

Argumentative or Persuasive Essay

An argumentative or persuasive essay takes a strong position on a topic through the use of supporting evidence. It:

  • Requires thorough research and investigation of the topic 
  • Includes a clear, strong thesis statement that is debatable
  • Considers and refutes alternative arguments with cited evidence, statistics, and facts
  • Uses fair, objective language with a well-rounded understanding of the topic

Comparative Essays

A comparative essay requires comparison and/or contrast of at least two or more items. It:

  • Attempts to build new connections or note new similarities or differences about the topic(s)
  • Typically focuses on items of the same class, i.e. two political systems (i.e. democracy or communism) or two theories (i.e. behaviorism versus constructivism)

Expository Essays

The purpose of an expository essay is to describe or explain a specific topic. It:

  • Uses factual information
  • Is written from the third-person point of view
  • Does not require a strong, formal argument

Narrative Essays

A narrative essay tells a story or describes an event in order to illustrate a key point or idea. It:

  • Uses descriptive and sensory information to communicate to the reader
  • Are often subjective rather than objective
  • Usually written from the first-person or third-person point of view
  • May be entertaining or informative

How to Write a Structured Essay Outline | Homework Help Canada

Creating an outline for your essay is just as important as writing a strong thesis statement. It gives structure to your essay, helps with time management, and helps you to identify gaps in your argument. Join Cath Anne on Episode 47 as she walks you through the outline writing process.

Looking for study tips, help with essay writing, or advice on how to be a better student? Welcome to The Homework Help Show, a weekly show where we teach, assist, and offer valuable insights for student life.

From study hacks to writing tips, discussions about student mental health to step-by-step guides on academic writing and how to write a resume, we’ve got you covered.

Want your questions answered? Write them below or join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #askHHG

TRANSCRIPT:

Cath Anne: [00:00:00] Hi guys and welcome back to our channel. My name is Cath Anne and this is episode 47 of The Homework Help Show hosted by Homework Help Global. Here on the show we provide you with valuable content for your academic and student life. Let’s jump in.

Cath Anne: [00:00:22] A few weeks ago on Episode 43 we discussed the most important part of your essay which is the thesis statement. Today we are going to discuss something equally important: the essay outline. So you have written your thesis statement and you are ready to write your essay, right? Wrong.

Just because you’ve written your thesis statement does not mean you can just jump in to writing your essay. Here’s why. You haven’t written an essay outline. Writing an essay outline will help you to see the structure of your essay and of your main points and sub points clearly.

Outlining will also help you to check the logic and completeness of what you are going to say. It will reveal any gaps, any repetition, or illogical steps in the development of your essay. Writing an essay outline will also help you to manage your time more effectively.

And who can deal with more time to work on an essay? You can break down the outline into manageable sections and then allot a specific time to work on each section. Remember the introduction can be very time consuming.

Cath Anne:

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