Ways & How

How to Write an Essay Outline

How to Write an Essay Outline

Knowing how to write an essay outline is an invaluable skill. It will get you through school and help you survive written tests. Good essays can be written without outlines, especially by writers who are experienced and used to writing off the cuff. However, using outlines makes the process easier, smoother, and better organized. Essay outlines provide the skeleton, the bare bones, on which you can build your writing. They provide structure so that the ideas and thoughts flow logically and build towards a strong conclusion. Without an outline, an essay runs the risk of going off in different directions, the ideas disorganized, and the thoughts all jumbled. This will detract from the effectiveness and power of your argument. Take the time to write an outline, and you can ensure that you end up with a well-written, polished, convincing essay. Read on for detailed tips.

  1. Choose a topic or idea that you want to get across. If a title or topic has been assigned to you, then choose the position or stand you want to take on the topic: whether you agree with it or not, and why.

    Alternatively, choose an approach: whether the essay will be chronological, narrative, instructive, etc. Whatever point or statement you decide on, write it down. This is your thesis statement, the point you want to make with your essay. Make it clear and concise, and be sure that it is interesting. You need to get your reader hooked into reading your essay. This is the secret to making your essay stick in the mind of the reader: make a good impression with the first paragraph.

  2. Write down three or four main arguments, phrases, or sentences that lead up to the logical conclusion and confirm your thesis. Use Roman numerals to label your main arguments (I, II, III, etc.).

  3. Under each argument, put another three or four statements to support it, labeled with uppercase letters of the English alphabet (A, B, C, etc.). To help you with this, conduct research and use the information, results from other studies, quotes, and other relevant data that will support your arguments. Be careful to note citations and give proper attributions where necessary. This will not only keep you safe from committing plagiarism, but it will also bolster your essay. You will essentially have experts and others backing you. If you want to write down further statements that support these sentences, label them with numbers (1, 2, 3, etc.), and after that, with lower case Roman numbers (i, ii, iii, etc.)

  4. Work out what transition sentences you will use to introduce each new paragraph. This will ensure a smooth flow of ideas so that paragraph topics do not jump from one to the next in a disjointed jumble.

  5. Write a sentence to sum up your last paragraph. This is the conclusion, so this last sentence should wrap up your argument and neatly conclude the essay. Make it convincing so that your reader understands and appreciates your argument or, in the best case scenario, is convinced of your thesis. Most people retain only the first and last points you make in an essay. So, while the intervening arguments must be sound and strong, the beginning and end must be attention-grabbing.

And that’s it. Writing an essay outline is simple, really. And when you write a good one, completing the essay is a breeze. All that’s left for you to do is to flesh out the “skeleton” of each paragraph with explanatory or connecting words so that the separate sentences become a cohesive whole. The transition statement at the beginning of each paragraph should serve to introduce it so that the new idea builds up on the previous one. Once you have covered the basics of how to write an essay outline, you will find that the essay practically writes itself.


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