How to Write an Essay Outline

Writing an essay is one of the most challenging things you can do as a student. Not only is it time-consuming but also challenging and demanding. Depending on the class and college, students can expect to write anywhere from five to twenty essays in a semester. That is why we need to have a good handle on how these assignments work — so that when we get them in an essay format, we know what we’re doing instead of panicking and making mistakes out of sheer confusion.

One of the crucial things you can do when writing a good essay is to ensure that you clearly understand the question and how you should answer it. Once you know this, you can use it to create an effective plan for your essay. By organizing your thoughts ahead of time, you’ll be able to create a cohesive piece of writing.

The first stage of planning your essay is a solid understanding of what the paper topic is asking you to do. Then, before you begin drafting your paper, outline each paragraph’s main idea and how it connects to the thesis statement. This structure will serve as a guide while you write.

However, if you follow certain steps while writing your essay outline, it will greatly help you in making your essay better. An overview can also help you keep track of what you’ve already registered, making it easier to avoid writer’s block and getting off track.

How to Make an Outline for an Essay: General Information

An essay outline is an important tool for students to use when writing essays. It can help you organize your thoughts and ensure that you deliver the correct information in your article. An essay outline will also be useful because it will allow you to write a better-finished product.

An essay outline will help ensure that what you are saying is meaningful, relevant, and readable by others. It means that it should be easy for readers to understand what point of view or argument you have taken on in your paper and why it’s important to take this position instead of something else.

Generally, when you take an essay topic, there will be keywords within the question — these are the words that tell you exactly what the essay is asking. For example: if an essay question asks what some of the most common causes of air pollution in your community are, then air pollution is a keyword. Keywords and phrases tell you exactly what the question is asking. They are critical to ensuring that your essay answers only the question it was written to answer — and nothing else!

Keyword of an Outline of an Essay

So, how do you incorporate these keywords into your plan? First, include them throughout your project so that it’s clear to see where everything fits concerning what you’re talking about. Secondly, map out each point using a written narrative (or, in this case, a list of sentences). It helps keep things clear and organized.

If there are multiple keywords in one sentence or paragraph, they may not all be related to each other in terms of meaning or importance; however, they are often used together when answering questions about those topics. 

As soon as you have a solid grasp of what your question is asking, use keywords and phrases from the question throughout your plan. It ensures that you are answering only what the question asks in your essay body.

When writing out your outline, make sure it has subpoints answering all five W’s: 

  • Who 
  • What 
  • Where 
  • When 
  • Why.

Include sub-points addressing the evidence and examples you’ll use to back up each point. That means you’ll start with a few general ideas and then narrow them down over time as you get more specific about each part of your topic. Sub-points should be related to the main point. They should also be clear, not general. Finally, you’ll want your sub-points to flow logically from one to another, so they make sense together. 

The next step of writing an outline is to determine the type of essay you must write, the reasons you must contain, and the length of the paper. 

It’s crucial to remember whether the essay’s goal is to entertain, persuade, or provide information. 

It’s time to formulate your thesis statement at this point. It needs to be something that immediately catches the reader’s interest and engages their emotions. Choose between using an alphanumeric or a decimal style for your essay outline. Typically, an essay outline employs an alphanumeric structure, but you can use either if you choose.

How to Outline an Essay?

Keeping a few structural peculiarities in mind while writing an outline would be best. 

Introduction: Statement of the Thesis Body 1st Paragraph: Create an argumentative sentence as your thesis statement. Give facts, figures, and proof to support your claim. Show how the information you have supplied connects to your thesis by referring back to it. 

Second Body Paragraph: Consider a second argument sentence that supports your premise. More information or proof should be provided to support this claim. Refer to your thesis statement once more to keep it. 

Third Body Paragraph: Construct a concluding argument sentence that supports your main point. Provide facts or proof to support your viewpoint. Refer to your thesis statement about this. 

And lastly, write the conclusion. List the key points of the argument. Restate your thesis statement in this sentence. Finally, create a call to action that instructs the reader what to do after finishing the essay.

How to Create an Outline for an Essay: Afterthoughts

Remember that writing an outline is a process, not something you do in one sitting. Therefore, it would be best always to refer back to it when working on your essay to ensure that all the points are covered and organized correctly.


How do you write an essay outline?

Indicate the beginning of each paragraph of your essay, mark it as follows: I. is the opening line of the introduction, II. is the opening line of the first paragraph of the body, III. is the opening line of the second paragraph of the body, and so on.

What are the three basic parts of an essay outline?

Main Idea: everything in your essay should be based on your main topic or thesis statement. 

Supporting points: In a five-paragraph essay, you will need three supporting points, whereas a longer argumentative essay may require three to five points with supporting evidence. 

Conclusion: concluding your essay with a concise summary emphasizing the point you wanted your readers to take away from your writing or offering some ideas for future research or exploration in your topic area

How long should an essay outline be?

Your outline shouldn’t be longer than a few pages for a typical research paper, 15-20 pages long. While creating your outline, it would be helpful to create a rough list of references additionally.

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