How to Write an Essay Outline | Guidelines & 24 Examples

Feb 24, 2022

Feb 24, 2022 | Guide

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What is an Essay Outline?

Writing a good essay requires you to come up with a good outline.

An essay outline is more like a rough draft of the actual essay or the essay’s skeleton.

It is the plan of your academic paper or the main foundation block of any essay.

You might get stuck or run out of content to write halfway through your essay without a good outline.

In essence, an outline helps with the structure of your essay.

More importantly, it helps you flow information and the organization of your points as you write.

Therefore, it helps you to stay focused and not stray from your original ideas.

However, it should be flexible to accommodate new information.

With an outline, you will have a clear idea of how the paper will go and the transition of ideas.

As such, an outline is one of the best tools if you do not want to run out of ideas when writing. 

How to Write an Essay Outline?

How to Write an Essay Outline?

Writing an outline helps you pen down all the ideas you can use in writing the essay. This ensures that you have all the points handy when you sit down to write the essay. Here is how you can easily write an outline:

  • Pick a topic according to your interest.
  • Conduct preliminary research on the topic as much as possible.
  • Understand the target audience.
  • Determine the type of the essay.
  • Look at each piece of information that you have collected.
  • Group your ideas in different paragraphs.

Essay Outline Format

Another important step before starting to write your essay is to understand the outline or the structure of an outline.

It is essential for effective writing as it gives your writing a smooth flow and enables the reader to understand your point of view easily.

Whatever the essay type, be it a narrative, persuasive, descriptive, or expository essay, it is best to follow the common structure of a five-paragraph essay structure.

This will include an introductory paragraph that will introduce the topic in the form of a thesis statement and some argument or story.

Three-body paragraphs that will defend the thesis statement or argument with supporting material such as examples or statistics.

Lastly, the conclusion paragraph that concludes the whole argument by stating its significance and giving your opinions or suggestions.

Let us discuss these parts of a a generic outline in detail:

Introduction

Essay introduction | Essay Freelance Writers

Your introduction section will depend on the type of essay you are writing.

For instance, if you are writing an informative or persuasive essay you will provide your readers with some context through the background information about the topic.

This will be an overview of the topic which you will gradually narrow down to the thesis statement of your essay.

You will have to prove this thesis statement in the later paragraphs. Therefore, it should be based on some facts.

Thus your thesis statement will serve different purposes depending on your choice of essay type.

Body Paragraphs:

Body Paragraphs | Essay Freelance Writers

The body paragraph is the information-rich part of your writing.

These also provide content in different styles depending upon the type of essay you are writing.

For instance, in an informative or persuasive essay, your body paragraphs will include information or facts and logic to support your thesis statement or persuade your readers.

But in an argumentative essay, body paragraphs will defend your thesis or point of view.

In short, body paragraphs serve the purpose of proving the validity of your opinion with the support of the researched outside information.

In creative writing, the body paragraphs will gradually move the story from its initial phase to the last moment going through different phases like falling action, rising action, climax, and anticlimax or denouement.

It does not clearly relate these to the thesis, but the words and symbols make these narrative levels clear.

Conclusion:

Essay Conclusion | Essay Freelance Writers

The conclusion is very crucial to any writing as it wraps up the whole argument and puts an end that satisfies the whole discussion.

In a persuasive and expository essay, it is better to restate the thesis using different words and thus finalize its validity.

It proves you to be an apt writer as you explain the overall significance of your argument and validate the value of your side of the argument.

In creative writing, the information given in the body is explored.

In other words, you explain the significance of your written piece in your conclusion without directly stating it.

This can be done by explaining the effect of the ending on certain characters. Thus readers can infer the theme portrayed by the writer.

Quick Essay Outline Sample

Topic

Introduction

  1. Hook Statement/ thesis statement
  2. Background Information and Context;
  3. Thesis Statement/ hook statement

3. Body Paragraph 1/2/3

  1. Topic Sentence (Shift of idea from the previous paragraph )
  2. Claim (the argument put forward)
  3. Evidence (Information added from outside sources to support your point of view, i.e., claim)
  4. Explanation ( explaining evidence to defend the claim )
  5. Concluding Sentence ( wrapping up of Argument in Paragraph )

4. Conclusion

  1. Rephrasing Thesis Statement
  2. Restating Main Arguments (1,2,3)
  3. Overall Concluding Statement (giving Significance)

You can use this template for argumentative as well as a persuasive essay as a reference.

Importance of Essay Outline

  1. The main purpose of the outline is to plan the structure of the essay. It helps to focus on the most important parts of the essay and develop them in a proper sequence.
  2. An outline will also 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.
  3. Using an outline helps you organize your thoughts from beginning to end and makes sure you don’t leave any important parts out of the middle. These outlines do not have anything written, they just help you structure your ideas and thoughts logically so that you can build towards a meaningful and strong conclusion.

Examples of Essay Outlines / Types of Essay Outlines

Before you start writing an outline, it’s important to know the different types of outlines that you can use in writing. It is important to choose the one that is most appropriate for your research paper. These are:

1. Informative Essay Outline

An informative essay, also known as an expository essay, is a type of writing in which the writer researches a topic and presents a coherent set of ideas to the reader. The main objective of this type of essay is to inform readers by presenting them with new information.

An informative essay educates the reader about a topic. You’ll need to know a good deal about your subject and convey information in a clear, organized fashion.

Informative Essay Outline Format

This outline will guide students through their next informative essay.

I. Introduction

A. Hook

B. Background information (define key terms)

C. Thesis

II. Body Paragraph 1

A. Topic sentence

B. Evidence 1 (including citation)

C. Evidence 2 (including citation)

III. Body Paragraph 2

A. Topic sentence

B. Evidence 1 (including citation)

C. Evidence 2 (including citation)

IV. Body Paragraph 3

A. Topic sentence

B. Evidence 1 (including citation)

C. Evidence 2 (including citation)

IV.Conclusion (restate the thesis statement and summarize main ideas of the essay)

Use this informative outline to organize your ideas.

Blank Informative Essay Outline Template Sample

 

 

2. Narrative Essay Outline

A narrative essay tells a story. It can be an interesting story, a realistic story, or a scary story. The author writes it from his own point of view so the events are told through his eyes and actions. The purpose of a narrative essay is to tell the reader about events, interactions, and experiences that have happened to the author during the particular time frame. It always has a vivid plot.

A narrative essay uses all the story elements — a beginning, middle, and ending, as well as plot, characters, setting, and climax — bringing them together to complete the story. The focus of a narrative essay is the plot, which is told with enough detail to build to a climax.

Structure of a Personal Narrative Essay Outline

Topic

Introduction

  1. Hook Statement (Intrigue the reader)
  2. Set Up The Scene/ Context by giving background information.
  3. Thesis Statement

2. Body Paragraphs

Beginning Action → Rising Action → Falling Action (Paragraph 1→ 2 → 3)

  1. Use picaresque words
  2. Follow Linear Progression of events by displaying the passage of time
  3. Use transition words to ensure a smooth flow of the events

3. Conclusion

  1. Analyze and Reflect on the action.
  2. Explain the significance of the story’s theme!
  3. Relate the theme to the real world?

For Narrative Writing, all you need to do is keep the plot in motion and be very careful and particular in the intro and conclusion as not to lose the flow of the narrative!

Polishing Up!

Before you submit your essay, you need to polish it up and make it presentable. By following a few simple steps, you can make your essay a perfect piece.

The Break Rule:

After you finish writing your essay, take a break to refresh yourself.

Take a break for at least 24 hours and give time to refresh your brain.

Proofreading and editing should not be done right away, as writing is a mentally tiring task.

So you need to enjoy and refresh your brain to complete the last step of proofreading and editing the essay.

Proofreading and Editing:

When you take at least a 24 hours break, go for the grammar and spelling check and correct mistakes.

This includes punctuation, use of contractions as well as sentence structure. Then you can further improve your essay by improving the vocabulary and removing repetitive phrases.

The sentences you use should make logical sense and flow smoothly. The essay should be a coherent whole.

Use transition words to connect the different ideas and thoughts. Your essay should be simple, easy to read and understand.

Peer Editing:

Ask your peers to reread and edit the piece for you.

This will confirm that your paper is a well-written piece.

The more people read your essay, the more confident you will be about the quality of your work making it comprehensible.

This is the last step that completes your essay.

Use this narrative outline to organize your ideas.

Narrative Essay Outline

 

 

Compare and Contrast Essay Outline

A compare and contrast essay is a piece of writing that shows likeness and differences among characters, places, concepts, ideas, or other elements by analyzing them critically to find out and highlight the similarities and dissimilarities.

Compare and contrast essays bring out the differences and the similarities of these two elements in detail. A compare and contrast writing is based on an in-depth analysis of two or more objects and practical findings of them

In order to write a compare and contrast essay, you’ll need to gather evidence and present a well-reasoned argument on a debatable issue. You want to take two things and discuss both the similarities and the differences between them. For example, if you wanted to focus on contrasting two subjects you would not pick apples and oranges; rather, you might choose to compare and contrast two types of oranges or two types of apples to highlight subtle differences. For example, Red Delicious apples are sweet, while Granny Smiths are tart and acidic. Similarly, Braeburn apples are crisp and juicy, while Gala apples tend to be very soft.

Compare and Contrast Essay Outline format

Introduction

  1. Introduction to the broad topic
  2. Specific topic
  3. Thesis statement
  4. Body Paragraphs

Body paragraph #1—First aspect that’s similar or different

  1. Subject #1
  2. Detail #1
  3. Detail #2
  4. Subject #2
  5. Detail #1
  6. Detail #2

Body paragraph #2—Second aspect that’s similar or different

  1. Subject #1
  2. Detail #1
  3. Detail #2
  4. Subject #2
  5. Detail #1
  6. Detail #2

Body paragraph #3—Third aspect that’s similar or different

  1. Subject #1
  2. Detail #1
  3. Detail #2
  4. Subject #2
  5. Detail #1
  6. Detail #2

Conclusion

  1. Summary of main points—Restate thesis statement while synthesizing information from body paragraphs.
  2. Evaluate the similarities/differences and discuss any future implications (if applicable)
  3. Significance—what’s the point you’re making?

Use this compare and contrast outline to organize your ideas.

compare-and-contrast-essay-outline

Argumentative Essay Outline

An argumentative essay is a piece of writing where you present your point of view on a certain subject, supported by evidence and arguments.

To write an argumentative essay, you should use proper arguments and convincing language to persuade the readers that your point of view is more valid than other positions.

An argument is a reasoned opinion supported and explained by evidence. In an argumentative essay, you should focus on presenting and defending a claim rather than explaining the claim. An argumentative essay is usually written in the third person.

An argumentative essay presents both sides of an issue. However, it presents one side more positively or meticulously than the other one, so that readers could be swayed to the one the author intends. The purpose of this type of essay is to convince a reader rather than to inform.

Argumentative Essay Outline Format

Introductory Paragraph

– Attention getter

– Background information on the topic

– Thesis statement (argumentative thesis)

Body Paragraphs

– Topic sentence explaining the main idea of the paragraph

– Evidence to support your topic sentence and thesis statement (research)

– Analysis of how the evidence connects to your claim, and why it supports your argument (analysis and connection)

Conclusion Paragraph

– Restate your thesis statement (the argumentative claim) in different words.

– Summarize your key points.

– End with a clincher.

Use this argumentative outline to organize your ideas.

Free Argumentative Essay Outline

 

 

Persuasive Essay Outline

A persuasive essay is an essay used to convince a reader about a particularly good idea or focus, usually one that you believe in. Your persuasive essay could be based on anything about which you have an opinion.

This type of paper differs from others because you need to use your own personal opinion as a basis for making an argument. Your point of view matters and other people should be convinced that it is true.

To write a persuasive essay, you will need to know your audience and which arguments they will respond to. If you can, try to find out what your audience believes so that you can take their beliefs into consideration. Remember that not everyone will agree with your point of view and that some people may be against what you have to say. Writing a persuasive essay means trying to convince someone about something using reasons, facts, and other things that support your opinion.

Persuasive Essay Outline Format (5 paragraph essay)

1) Introduction paragraph:

Get the reader’s attention by using a “hook.” Pull your audience in!

Quote, Fact, something interesting to start an essay

Give some background information about the topic. Would you please explain what the topic is and why it is controversial or important to you?

Thesis or focus statement (MUST BE STATED in the LAST sentence of your introduction paragraph).

This is a sentence stating your opinion about the topic and will be proven in the rest of your essay with 3 strong reasons and support.

Example: I am in favor of ____________ because ____________, ______________, and ___________.

Example: I am against _____________because _____________, _____________, and ___________.

2) Body Paragraphs:

(1st body paragraph)

First argument or reason to support your position

A topic sentence explaining your first reason.

Example: My first reason for being against ___________ is __________________________.

Provide support/evidence to prove your first reason with facts, data, examples, etc.

(2nd body paragraph)

Second argument or reason to support your position.

A topic sentence explaining your second reason.

Example: Another reason I do not support _____________is _______________.

Provide support for your second reason with facts, data, examples, etc.

(3rd body paragraph)

Counter argument and third reason to support position.

State what the other side believes or may argue

Example: Some may argue _______________

Challenge their argument with your third reason and provide support.

Example: but I disagree because _____________.

Give support such as facts, data, examples, etc., explaining why your opinion is right, and the other side is not right.

Conclusion Paragraph:

Sum up your main points and 3 reasons.

Restate your thesis.

Example: I am strongly against ______________.

Final words: last comments or call to action. Encourage the reader to agree with you and take your side on the issue.

Use this persuasive outline to organize your ideas.

persuasive-essay-outline1

 

Expository Essay Outline

An expository essay is a piece of writing where the writer presents opinions, points of view, ideas, concepts, arguments on a particular topic. It is usually a formal piece of writing with an introduction, a discussion, and a conclusion.

Expository Essays are often written in response to a prompt that asks the writer to expose or explain a specific topic. Essay questions on tests are normally written to prompt an essay in this very style, and may look like the following:

Describe the causes of the American Civil War.

Explain what your favorite means of travel is and why.

An expository essay provides an explanation or information of something through the use of factual data. Facts can be further explained by using clear and concise ideas. Towards the end of the expository essay, the writer should be able to gradually build an argument out of the facts provided.

Expository Essay Structure Outline 

Introduction

  1. Begin with a hook. Tell a detailed story that pulls the reader in. The story should relate to the thesis statement of your essay in some way.
  2. Tie-in – This is a sentence (or a few complete sentences) that provides a link from your hook to the thesis of your essay.
  3. Thesis statement – This sentence is typically the last sentence of the introduction. It responds to the prompt and provides the main idea of the entire essay. The thesis statement should NOT include 3 supporting reasons. Sample thesis statement for the prompt “What is your favorite time of the year?”: “Without a doubt, Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite time of the year.”

Body Paragraph 1

  1. Begin with a topic sentence – The topic sentence provides the direction for the entire paragraph and should include one reason/example supporting your thesis statement. For example, with the prompt and thesis statement mentioned above, an appropriate topic sentence for body paragraph one might be “Undoubtedly, I eat better on Thanksgiving than any other time of the year.”
  2. Extension sentence – This sentence provides further clarification on the idea presented in the topic sentence. It allows you to start moving into the details you will develop in the paragraph.
  3. Details – Provide detailed examples that support the idea you presented in your topic sentence. Personal anecdotes provide excellent details.
  4. Closing sentence – This is the last sentence of the paragraph and should summarize the main idea or put a finishing thought to it.

Body Paragraph 2

  1. Transition – This should summarize the main idea from the previous paragraph and lead to the new idea for this paragraph. Note that this also serves as the topic sentence for this paragraph with a new supporting reason. Possible transition structures include:

Not only do I eat like a king on Thanksgiving, but I also get to spend precious moments with family members I rarely see.

Besides eating like a king on Thanksgiving, I also get to spend precious moments with family members I rarely see.

Eating well on Thanksgiving is only the beginning; I also get to spend precious moments with family members I rarely see.

While eating well on Thanksgiving is a pleasure, even more, important are the precious moments I get to spend with family members I rarely see.

  1. The rest of Body Paragraph 2 follows the same structure as Body Paragraph 1

Body Paragraph 3

  1. The most important supporting detail/reason should be reserved for this paragraph to end your essay with a bang. Ways to transition to this last idea include:

Above all else, Thanksgiving is a time I get to show my gratitude for everything I have.

Most significantly, Thanksgiving is a time I get to show my gratitude for everything I have.

  1. The rest of Body Paragraph 2 follows the same structure as Body Paragraph 1

Conclusion

  1. Restate/summarize your three supporting reasons/examples from each topic sentence. Example:

I savor every bite of the food I eat on Thanksgiving. Also, I appreciate the opportunity I have to spend quality time with my family and show gratitude for everything I have.

  1. Link back to your story in the hook and finish it up.
  2. Restate your thesis statement using different words.

Use this expository outline to organize your ideas.

expository-essay-outline

 

Reflective Essay Outline

A reflective essay is a piece of academic writing aiming to examine, observe, and describe the progress of the writer’s individual experience. When writing your essay, keep in mind, that you should focus on the deeper look at yourself, on your inner emotions rather than on the event itself.

A reflective essay always has the goal to introduce the reader to some interesting moments from the writer’s life and fix attention on feelings about a certain issue. The point is that it should convey a meaning; it should be a kind of instructive story.

The format of a reflective essay greatly differs from the argumentative or research paper. A reflective essay is more of a well-structured story or a diary entry that’s rife with insight and reflection. You might be required to arrange your essay using the APA style or the MLA format. The use of the first person pronoun ‘I’ is welcomed. Do not abuse this guideline! Though it is welcomed it is not necessary.

Reflective Essay Outline Format

Introduction

Hook—give a quick preview of the most exciting part of that story

Thesis Statement—without giving too much away, write how this experience influenced you.

Body Paragraph 1

Description of an influential person, place, or event

Body Paragraph 2

The effect of the person, place, or event had on you at the time

Body Paragraph 3

Lesson learned from reflecting on person, place, or event

Conclusion

Summary of the experience

Overall impact/lesson learned

Use this reflective outline to organize your ideas.

reflective-narrative-essay-outline

 

Cause and Effect Essay Outline

A cause and effect essay is a type of essay that explains why the event or the situation occurs (causes) and the results of its happening (effects). A curriculum usually includes this type of exercise to test your ability to understand the logic of certain events or actions. If you can see the logic behind cause and effect in the world around you, you will have a better understanding of the way the world works.

A cause-and-effect essay helps readers understand why something happened or is happening or shows readers how a situation is going to unfold. In other words, it answers questions such as “Why?” (the reason for something) and “What happens next?” (the consequences). Cause-and-effect essays examine causes, describe effects, or do both.

When writing a cause and effect essay, you should be sure that you have researched the specific causes and are confident that you’re demonstrating why they lead to particular results. In other words, make sure that your ideas are logically related and arranged in the most effective manner.

It is important to note that this type of essay needs to be fairly objective as its aim is not to persuade readers to think in a certain way but to provide information on objective facts. In other words, your point should be supported with facts and pieces of evidence, not with your thoughts on the subject.

Sample cause and effect essay format

1. Introduction

  1. Attention grabber
  2. Basic information about the topic
  3. Thesis statement (indicate what the essay will be about: causes, effects, or both)

2. Body paragraph I

  1. Topic sentence (indicates causes, effects, or both)
  2. Cause 1/effect 1 (detailed explanation with examples)

3. Body paragraph II

  1. Topic sentence (indicates causes, effects, or both)
  2. Cause 2/effect 2 (detailed explanation with examples)

4. Body paragraph III

  1. Topic sentence (indicates causes, effects, or both)
  2. Cause 3/effect 3 (detailed explanation with examples)

5. Conclusion

  1. Restating the thesis statement
  2. Reminding the reader of the main points
  3. Concluding sentence

This essay template outline will help you structure your essay and create a good flow and link between the causes.

cause-and-effect-essay-outline

 

 Research Essay Outline

A research essay is a form of writing that requires the writer to investigate a topic, gather, generate and evaluate evidence. The evidence can e researched and gathered from library books, journals, youtube, and web pages. The writer then writes about the topic by introducing their findings in an organized way, including thoughts and ideas based on the information they gathered during their investigation.

A research essay outline journey reports facts, data, and other information on a specific topic. It’s called a research essay because you research your subject before writing your essay. Unlike an expository essay, which only requires you to examine and report the facts you find, a research essay requires you to form an opinion about a subject, then support that opinion with information from both primary and secondary sources.

A research paper is different from a research proposal (also known as a prospectus), although the writing process is similar. Research papers are intended to demonstrate a student’s academic knowledge of a subject. A proposal is a persuasive piece meant to convince its audience of the value of a research project. Think of the proposal as the pitch and the paper as the finished product.

Research papers are similar to academic essays, but they are usually longer and more detailed assignments, designed to assess not only your writing skills but also your skills in scholarly research.

Research Essay Outline Format

1. Introduction:

a. Hook statement

b. Background/context

c. Thesis statement

2. Body Paragraph:

a. First Argument (topic sentence)

i. Research/evidence to support the argument

ii. Analysis of evidence

b. Second Argument (topic sentence)

i. Research/evidence to support the argument

ii. Analysis of evidence

c. Third Argument (topic sentence)

i. Research/evidence to support the argument

ii. Analysis of evidence

3. Conclusion: 

a. Restate thesis statement

b. Summarize main arguments and their evidence

Use this research outline to organize your ideas.

Sample Research Essay Outline

 

 

Literary Analysis Essay Outline

A literary analysis essay is an argumentative analysis that carefully examines a piece of literature by looking at the characters of the story, theme, tone, setting as well as the plot and other literary devices used to narrate the story. It encourages a reader to think about how and why a novel, poem, or play was written. It is meant to be an analysis of a key element in the literature thus you should refrain from writing a paper that explains every single point of the plot of the story. An argument can be raised by looking at certain characters or deciding to write about conflicts in the story.

Although a quick synopsis of the essay is needed within the argument of a literary analysis, the objective is not to write a report about a book or story. Instead, a literary analysis discusses a writer’s interpretation of a text through careful examination of the author’s choices within the text: word choice, main themes, motifs/symbols, character development, structure, imagery, etc. A literary analysis is not merely a summary or review; rather it discusses opinion and reasoning to prove an original thesis.

Literary Analysis Essay Outline Format

Introduction

Introduce the Title of the Piece and the Author’s Name.

Give sufficient background on the piece, but don’t give too much detail so that you spoil the surprise for the reader.

Give your thesis statement (what your paper will explain or argue and the main points)

Body Paragraphs

Topic Sentence: begins with a topic sentence that supports your thesis statement.

Points: list three key points that support your topic sentence.

Evidence: include textual evidence (quotes from your reading) that supports each point. ~~~Explain why this is evidence and how it supports your point~~~.

Closing Sentence: wrap up your paragraph by referring back to your topic sentence. ~~~This is where you go beyond just repeating what your evidence says and makes a connection for the reader about how this evidence is important to the broader argument of your paper.~~~

Body Paragraph 2, 3, etc. (repeat as needed)

Conclusion

Restate your thesis statement. Do not simply copy it word for word, but put it in different wording. Now is where you show what you learned from writing this paper.

List all of the main points from your body paragraphs and briefly describe/explain how each point

Use this literary analysis essay outline to organize your ideas.

Outline Structure for Literary Analysis Essay

 

 

Blank Informative Essay Template Outline

Blank Informative Essay Outline Template Sample

 

 

Blank Sentence Outline for Literary Analysis Essay

Blank Sentence Outline for Literary Analysis Essay

 

 

Essay Paper Outline Template

Essay Paper Outline Template

 

 

Five Paragraph Essay Outline

Free Five Paragraph Essay Outline

 

 

Printable Essay Plan Outline

Free Printable Essay Plan Outline

 

 

Business School Essay Exam Outline

Business School Essay Exam Outline

 

 

Basic Proper Essay Outline

Basic Proper Essay Outline Format

 

Topical Outlines Essay Format

Topical Outlines Essay Format

 

 

Short Essay Outline Template

Short Essay Outline Template

 

 

Group Explanatory Essay Outline Format

Group Explanatory Essay Outline Format

 

Standard Detailed Essay Outline

Standard Detailed Essay Outline

 

Sample College Research Paper Outline

Sample College Research Paper Outline Download

 

Final Thought

An outline is widely used in literature or writing. It helps the writer to organize their ideas and arguments. Outlining is an organized way of writing. It helps the writer to become more efficient and also easy to perform again.

While there are plenty of options for students who need to write an outline, it can be a bit confusing when trying to decide which one you should use. Thankfully, there are many free outlines available to choose from, and the templates above showcase some of the best that we have found.

Need Some Help with Writing your Essay Outline?

Need Some Help Writing with your Essay Outline?

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Frequently Asked Questions

When do I need to write an essay outline?

You will sometimes be asked to hand in an outline before you start writing your essay. Your supervisor wants to see that you have a clear idea of your structure so that writing will go smoothly.

Even when you do not have to hand it in, writing an outline is an essential part of the writing process. It’s a good idea to write one (as informally as you like) to clarify your structure for yourself whenever you are working on an essay.

Should I use full sentences in my essay outline?

If you have to hand in your outline, you may be given specific guidelines stating whether you have to use complete sentences. If you’re not sure, ask your supervisor.

When writing an outline for yourself, the choice is yours. Some students find it helpful to write out their ideas in full sentences, while others prefer to summarize them in short numbered sentences.

 Do I have to stick to my essay outline as I write?

You should try to follow your outline as you write your essay. However, if your ideas change or it becomes clear that your structure could be better, it’s okay to depart from your outline. Just make sure you know why you’re doing so.