How to Write an Essay Outline

How to Write an Essay Outline

In order to deliver good essay papers, it is always advisable that you know how to write an essay outline. In fact, developing an outline should always be the first step to take while planning to write an essay assignment or term paper. With a good one, you will be able to easily organize your points or ideas in the best way that suits the essay. Read on for proper guidelines and procedures on how to write an essay outline with ease.

An essay outline is a framework or blueprint showing the main points that you intend to share in the essay paper. A well written one will enable you to easily know what to discuss in every section of the paper. In other words, it acts as a point of reference so you do not lose track of the context and format for the essay.

With a good outline for an essay paper, you will find writing quite easy and enjoyable. Knowing how to write an essay outline will enable you to also create good outlines for other academic papers. Besides, it can also enhance your writing skills for better performance.

Guidelines on how to write an essay outline

An essay outline should guide you in every stage of writing all the sections of the paper, from the introduction, body paragraphs to conclusion. In fact, an outline is a true reflection of the final essay. There are various things that you should always consider when writing an essay outline in order to deliver a good one.

By the time of writing an outline, you must have done all the research and acquired points or ideas to discuss in the paper. You must show in the outline that you have carefully studied and understood the tropic of the essay. The following are more tips on how to write an essay outline.

Determine the type of essay

There are various kinds of essay papers that you may be asked to write. The most common types include argumentative, analytical, expository and persuasive. Each of the types of essays is meant to serve a specific purpose, which dictates the writing approach. By knowing the kind of essay paper to write, you will be able to get clues on how to organize the various elements of the paper in the outline.

Refine your thesis

A thesis is the main claim in an essay paper, usually written in the introductory paragraph. It is the argument that you are required to explain in the body paragraphs. A good thesis should be precise and specific to one aspect or claim about the topic. Before developing the outline, you should make sure that the thesis is clearly defined as it will appear in the essay.

Organize your points

When writing an essay outline, you are expected to provide some of the main points for the introduction, body paragraphs and conclusion. Therefore, carefully analyze the points obtained from your research in order to determine the main ones that can be used in building a strong discussion.

In organizing the points, try to clearly distinguish them for easy reference. For example, identify the main ideas for every section of the essay. Always pick the ideas the strongest ideas. Besides, you should also identify the examples or evidence that will be used in illustrating your key points. Find a couple of examples, about two or three for every main point.

You should also consider the points that will be mentioned in the final paragraph. They too need to be highlighted in the outline. Remember the conclusion is to wrap up the paper, without introducing new information which is not discussed in the introduction and body paragraphs.

Avoid settling on points that you barely understand since those might give you a hard time when writing the paper. The same applies to examples or evidences. Besides, you should also carefully check the sources of your information to ensure that they are reliable and can be traced. Even if an idea looks ideal for the essay but lacks an authentic source, it is advisable that you drop it.

The points and evidence identified for the essay should be properly inclined to the topic and thesis to ensure proper flow of ideas.

Steps on How to Write an Essay Outline

With proper knowledge on the approach to take in the discussion, you can now create a blueprint to highlight the main points. The steps below will direct you on how to write an essay outline.


Start writing the outline by stating the title, as it will appear in the final paper. A good title should be brief, clear and relevant to the points or arguments that you intend to discuss in the paper.


In order to avoid confusion when writing your essay, always divide the outline into sub-sections. Under the introduction part, you are required to list the main points to be used in the paragraph. An essay paper introduction should start with a hook then proceed to give a little background information about the subject. The thesis and plan for the paper come last in the introduction.

The outline should clearly list the points for the hook and background information. However, you can also just write a short statement highlighting the two aspects. On the part of the thesis, you should write it in full, just as it will be stated in the essay.

Body paragraphs

In the outline, you are also required to indicate the key points for developing your arguments in the paper. In order to enhance clarity, create sub-headings to highlight the main points for the paragraphs. When writing the points, always bear in mind that each represents a different paragraph.

Under every point, list the particular examples or evidence that will be given. Besides, you can also write a short statement showing how every paragraph will be discussed and connected to the next. However, this is optional.


Despite the type of essay that you will be writing, there are three main aspects that should be highlighted in the conclusion. Therefore, you have to also indicate them in the outline. On the last part of the outline, clearly show how you will restate the thesis, mention the main points of the paper and give an opinion.

Re-write the thesis statement using other words or phrases, so that it does not look you have copied and pasted the one in the introduction. You should also list the main points used in building the arguments in the body paragraphs. Lastly, you can write a short statement that will be used to summarize the whole discussion and suggest a course or action.

The last statement can be one that describes the importance of your argument, interprets the implications of the thesis, and proposes solutions to problems among other issues.

Examples of Essay Outlines

Reading samples of well written essay outlines is also another way through which you can easily find out how to write an essay outline. The following are some that you can read for motivation on how to go about creating essay paper outlines.

Example 1

Sample Essay Paper Outline

Title: The Federalist Papers’ Influence on the Ratification of the Constitution

Thesis: The Federalist Papers’ influenced the ratification of the Constitution by making some of their most important arguments, including the importance of being in a Union by having a Constitution, answering to the objections made by Anti-federalists about separation of powers, and defending opposing arguments made against the characteristics of the executive and judicial branch as provided in the Constitution.

  1. Introduction
  2. Describe what the Federalist Papers are and when they started…. Continue reading the sample on this link.

Example 2

Sample Outline

Paragraph 1 (Introduction)

  1. Leading Sentence: ‘’It took me eighteen years to realize what an extraordinary influence my mother had been on my life.’’
  2. Summary of Main Points: I not only came to love the excitement of learning simply for the sake of knowing something new, but I also came to understand the idea of giving back to the community in exchange for a new sense of life, love and spirit.’’

Paragraph 2 (First Supporting Point)

  1. Transition Sentence: ‘’My mother’s enthusiasm for learning is most apparent in travel’’
  2. Supporting Point: ‘’Her mother’s enthusiasm for learning’’
  • Evidence: ‘’Learning through travel by using the example of a trip to Greece… Read the rest of the sample outline here.

Example 3

Sample Outline for an Essay about College Application Process

  1. Choose Desired Colleges
  2. Visit and evaluate college campuses
  3. Visit and evaluate college websites
  • Look for interesting classes
  • Note important statistics
  1. Prepare Application
  2. Write personal statement
  3. Choose an interesting topic
  4. Describe an influential person in your life
  • Favorite high school teacher
  • Grandparent

Describe a challenging life event… Click on this link to read the whole sample outline.

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