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How to Write an Essay Outline Like Writers Do

Have you tried writing a five-paragraph essay yourself? If you managed to choose the right topic, compile a list of references, and write the content, then we shake your brave hand. And if you encounter some difficulties, then you should think about preparing and creating an essay outline.

In this article, we will tell you how to write an outline for an essay, and what it is all about. And also we will give samples of the plan according to basic academic standards. No matter whether you are a political science essay writer, or economics writer, these tips will be useful.

What is an outline for essay?

What is a college essay outline for students? What should it look like, and why create it at all? An essay is not a dissertation or even a term paper. Despite the small size of the essay, a general plan is also needed for its successful implementation.

An outline is a clear and direct map of an essay. It demonstrates what every paragraph will include, what order the paragraphs will appear in, and how all points fit together overall.

what is an essay outline

An outline of an essay acts as a plan that helps to structure collected information, break the paper into separate stages, and keep track of important details. In fact, an essay outline is a kind of road map that a student writes for themselves and not for a report to a teacher. If you want to know how to structure an essay, you should know how to make an outline first.

An outline for an essay and content: what is the difference?

On the Internet, you can find articles whose authors assure that the outline and content are one and the same. This is not entirely true. Writing an essay outline is a preliminary stage of work. In it, the student outlines the main sections and focuses on literary sources. And in order to create content, they approve the exact structure, place the page numbers from which the chapters begin, and create it according to the rules of academic standards. The standards that dictate how to make and format a table of contents are much more rigid than for an outline.

Recommendations on how to make an outline for an essay

Since the content is formed on the basis of the initial essay outlines, we will touch on the nuances of its formation. After all, it is this part of the essay that the teacher will pay attention to in the first place and can draw a conclusion about the entire paper. By the way, you can use these recommendations no matter whether you need to write a narrative essay, an argumentative essay, or any other type of essay.

When to make an outline

Usually, an outline is not included in the essay, but you need it to structure the paper properly. Make it after you have chosen the topic and conducted research on it but before you start the academic writing process. If you have created an outline but are not sure whether it is correct, ask a teacher about it. In this way, you won’t have to rewrite the entire paper.
What does the structure of an outline look like?

What should an essay outline look like? It consists of the same sections that will later be included in the paper:

  • introduction;
  • body paragraphs;
  • conclusion;
  • list of references.

How to break an essay into paragraphs

Choosing a topic for an essay and collecting material is half the battle. But it is really difficult to highlight paragraphs correctly. The reason is that the essay is a small paper. You don’t have too much space for your thoughts, but you need to break the material into semantic segments. How do you make paragraphs in an essay if the main part is small? In this case, the text is not divided into sections. In the outline, they simply write “the main body.”

How to conceptually outline an essay

How to outline an essay in order to properly build the concept of its preparation? To do this, the student needs to highlight the main questions that they plan to cover in the essay. There are usually several such questions. Here they are displayed in points. With the help of questions, reveal the essence of the problem posed in the topic of the essay. The outline should be clearly structured and consistent so that the teacher immediately gets an idea of what will be discussed in the essay.

how to write an essay outline

How to write an essay outline in detail

First, you need to create a decimal outline structure.

1. Introduction (60-70 words). Reflect the idea of the future essay and the main thesis statement.
2. The main body (including several body paragraphs) is 200-250 words.
a. Thesis statement 1 (20-30 words)

a.i. Supporting evidence, examples (one or more)
a.ii. Small conclusion (generalization of what was written)
a.iii. Logical transition to a new thought

b. Thesis statement 2
b.i. Evidence, examples
b.ii. Small conclusion
b.iii. Logical transition to a new thought

3. Conclusion (60-70 words).

Now let’s consider the detailed outline and structure of the essay.

1. The introduction reveals the main idea and introduces the set of problems under consideration.

The introduction consists of three elements:

  • an explanation of the keywords of the topic or quotation;
  • general reasoning about the significance of the topic;
  • answer-thesis statement to the main question of the topic.

All these elements are sequentially arranged one after another.

2. The main body reveals the idea of the essay and related issues, presents a system of proofs for the propositions put forward.

Main body = Thesis + Argument(s). The thesis is the main idea of the essay, which must be argued to prove. The wording of the thesis depends on the topic of the essay.


  • In terms of volume, the main part should be larger than the introduction and conclusion taken together.
  • The thesis supported by an argument can be only one.
  • The optimal number of arguments is two.
  • Each thesis has its own argument!
  • A link is a transition from one thought to another. It is necessary to smoothly move from the thesis to the argumentation.

An argument:

  • Must be cited from literary sources.
  • Needs to be put in a separate paragraph.
  • Should be completed with a small conclusion.
  • Is enough by itself, but it is better that there are two arguments.
  • Is presented for each thesis!

3. The conclusion summarizes the results, contains the final summary and assessments.

Four ways to finish an essay:

  • Output. It is customary to end an essay with a conclusion from all of the previous information, but one cannot repeat those micro-conclusions that have already been made in the essay after the arguments.
  • Conclusion-call. Do not use pretentious slogans. Include such forms as “need,” “important,” and “let’s.”
  • Conclusion. An expression of hope helps to avoid duplication of thought, as well as ethical and logical errors. It is necessary to express hope for something positive.
  • A quote that makes sense and is appropriate. We recommend that you prepare quotes that match the major point of ​​the essay.

Essay outline format

What example of format is needed for the essay outline? If you are doing the planning for yourself, then you can use any font. But if you need to show it to the teacher or format the content, then you should take into account the requirements of standard guides, which apply to the entire text of the essay:

  1. the standard font is Times New Roman;
  2. font size is 12 or 14;
  3. spacing is 2.0;
  4. margins are 1 inch all around;
  5. margins and indents remain the same throughout the paper.

Do not forget that each university has its own requirements for the essay format. Therefore, study the methodological recommendations of the university.

Essay outline examples

How Samples Help Write an Essay

To write your essay plan and base a competent paper on it, look and use an essay outline template.

Outline for essay: template in engineering

A sample of an outline of an essay on the history of the development of electrical and thermal engineering:

  1. Introduction.
  2. The history of the formation and development of technical knowledge.
  3. The philosophy of the theoretical foundations of electrical and thermal engineering as a component part of the philosophy of natural and technical sciences.
  4. Prospects for the development of modern philosophy of technology.
  5. Conclusion.
  6. List of references and sources.

Essay outline examples in economics

A sample of an outline for an essay in economics on the topic of the methods of statistical analysis in economics:

  1. Introduction.
  2. Basic methods of statistical analysis.
  3. General concept of sample observation.
  4. General population and sample.
  5. Sampling errors.
  6. Conclusion.
  7. References.

Essay outline sample in law

An example of an essay outline in law on the topic of civilian control over law enforcement agencies:

  1. Introduction.
  2. The essence of civilian control over law enforcement agencies.
  3. The implementation of civilian control over law enforcement agencies.
  4. The problem of determining the definition of subjects of civilian control over law enforcement agencies.
  5. Increasing the effectiveness of civilian control over law enforcement agencies.
  6. Conclusion.
  7. List of literature used.

Essay Outline Writing FAQ

FAQ on essay outline writing

How do you write an outline?

– Define your topic.
– Decide what ideas you would like to include in academic writing.
– Arrange your points in a logical order so that every point is connected to your main point of view.
– Write transitions between each paragraph.

How to write an essay outline in high school?

When you write an outline, you should organize your thoughts and ideas around a topic. Write a topic at the top. Then make a list of all the arguments and points you want to include on the topic of your essay. In the end, list examples, facts, and statistics that can support these arguments and points.

How to write an outline for an argumentative essay?

In this type of essay, write the following outline:

  • Introduction. In it, you bring the reader to the topic of discussion.
  • Main body. You give arguments for and against some action or phenomenon, and you do not need to express your point of view.
  • Conclusion. Here you express your attitude to the topic and draw a conclusion.

Now you know how to create an essay outline. But what if the topic is difficult? Alternatively, what if there is no time to write a decent essay? Then you just need to contact essay writers and calmly leave your assignments to our writers. Your essay will be properly structured because our writers always make the right essay outlines before the writing process.

Photos by Jess Bailey and Rey Seven from Unsplash

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