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How to Write an Essay Outline

Updated on April 1, 2013
Understanding how to write an essay outline should be the most difficult part in a surprisingly easy process for writing an essay.
Understanding how to write an essay outline should be the most difficult part in a surprisingly easy process for writing an essay. | Source

Writing an Outline For an Essay

Do you write an essay outline before every paper?

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Writing an Essay Outline

So, you have a topic and a thesis for your essay, but now you are stuck trying to figure out just how to write an essay outline to ensure you produce quality work. Essay outlines may seem like extra work, on top of all the research and brainstorming you have already put into writing an essay, but that time is well worth it. Although many may disagree with me, I like to think of my outline as my rough draft. It's far from pretty, but, it is the bones that make up the body of your essay. Without it, all would be a little less organized and turn into more of a lump of a mess, rather than an essay that readers can actually understand and appreciate.

Understanding how to write an essay outline may take a little time for some but, once you grasp what you are doing, you will find that it is a very easy process, as long as you know what you want to say in your essay. The very first step in the outlining process is to make sure that you have a solid thesis. This can be done through brainstorming, which will test what kinds of information you are able to provide to back up your thesis and if you have enough of that information to produce an essay that is worth writing an essay outline for.

How to Write an Outline

An essay outline is really simple and follows a basic layout that can be used for writing almost any type of essay out there. It does not have to be too detailed since it works as a map for you to follow as you create a more detailed draft for your essay. Writing an essay outline begins with writing a solid thesis, which goes at the top of the outline, and then is broken down into smaller paragraphs for support. You can follow the following layout and fill in the blanks for your own information to write an essay outline of your own:

1. Introduction

  • Thesis

2. Body Paragraph I

  • Topic Sentence
  1. Supporting Evidence
  2. Supporting Evidence
  3. Supporting Evidence

3. Body Paragraph II

  • Topic Sentence
  1. Supporting Evidence
  2. Supporting Evidence
  3. Supporting Evidence

4. Body Paragraph III

  • Topic Sentence
  1. Supporting Evidence
  2. Supporting Evidence
  3. Supporting Evidence

5. Conclusion

  • Reconfirmed Thesis

There are a few things to keep in mind when writing an essay outline. One important thing to remember is that at this point in your writing you do not have to worry about writing complete sentences, except for your thesis. I like to start my essay with my thesis at the top in bold or large print and then work my way down from there, writing out each topic sentence for the body paragraphs before going into the supporting evidence.

Another thing to keep in mind when writing an outline for an essay is that each bit of supporting evidence that is listed under each paragraph will be accompanied by a sentence or two adding additional support. Yes, that makes for a very long paragraph but without a sentence or two dividing each bit of supporting evidence, it will read as a list of facts that may need clarification for the reader. These do not need to be included when writing an essay outline, but they are important to remember when you write your next draft.

Furthermore, there is no end to the amount of body paragraphs to have within an essay or essay outline. The only limit you can have is the information you are able to provide or whatever limits are put on the assignment by your teacher or professor. Just make sure that each body paragraph has a topic sentence that directly supports your thesis, with each supporting evidence proving further proof for that topic sentence.

© 2013 Lisa


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      BJLBJL 3 years ago

      As a writer, outlines are complete waste of my time. That is not the way I write for newspapers and magazines. For my fiction short stories and the two novels, my writing flows without relying on an outline. When I have come across an Editor-in-chief who wants an outline for an article, I have to write it and then do the outline. In short, I cannot write an outline for something I have not written yet. There are many successful approaches to writing, for some of us, "outlines" are pure torture. Thank for publishing an outline format. It will be very helpful for those that can write to an outline.

    • LisaKoski profile image

      Lisa 4 years ago from WA

      Glad I can help! I think mental outlines work but not for every person or every paper. Thanks for stopping by :)

    • SunkistGirl profile image

      Ann Pingrey-Korthas 4 years ago from Utah, United States

      Does writing a "mental" outline count?! I like your article and with your permission I would like to use this as a teaching tool for my boys on their writing assignments. We cover all that you did in our lessons, but for some reason having the info come from "mom as teacher" just doesn't go over well. Thanks.

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 4 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      A good outline usually turns into a great essay with little effort.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 4 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      This is really helpful. Thanks so much for sharing. I'm going to use this information. Voted up!