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How to write an essay outline

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How to write an essay outline

An essay outline is a short plan of your essay, where you structure it and organize the main points into paragraphs so it would be easier for you to write an essay.

You can’t write any paper well without first outlining it. An outline should briefly summarize the intended content of your essay and organize it in a sensible, coherent manner. Since an outline is a critical component of both the essay and research paper writing process, it is important that you follow this guide to the end. I will also provide an essay outline template at the end of the article.

What is an essay outline

An essay outline helps 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.

An essay outline allows you to list all your ideas and later sort them. During sorting, you decide which points carry more weight and should come first and those that should go last. When writing an account of events, an outline allows you to capture the correct chronology of occurrences to create a flow in your essay.

How to do an outline for an essay?

Before you sit down to write an essay outline, you need to have a set of items in place. Below is a step by step guide of what to follow.

  • Read and understand the essay guide. Make sure that you fully understand what the instructor is asking you to do before you begin your outline. 
  • Ask for clarification if anything seems vague or confusing. Doing so ensures you get the right points for your assignment and ascertains that you remain on the topic. 
  • Develop a topic. Once you have understood what your lecturer requires from you in the assignment, choose the right topic for your work. 
  • Highlight all the ideas that come to mind and assess them. Cluster any related topics. Choose the most appropriate cluster, and using a short sentence, come up with the title for your essay.
  • Identify your purpose. The purpose is the reason why you settled on whatever topic you chose. Ask yourself questions such as, why did I choose that topic? What do I want to achieve?
  • Identify your audience. The audience is the group of people you want to read your essay. Identify the needs and expectations of your audience by considering what they do and do not know about your topic. 

Basic Structure of an Essay Outline.

The structure is a description of how you will organize the outline. It depends on the type of article you are writing. It could be persuasive, narrative, or a descriptive essay. However, there is a standard outline that serves most written content.

Below is a standard structure of an essay outline.

  • Begin your essay with an introduction.
  • Body. The body is a combination of several paragraphs. Each paragraph comprises the main topic and the supporting arguments.
  • A conclusion. It’s the last paragraph or section of the essay and outline.

A general Essay Outline Template

There is no defined essay outline template that you can plug and use on your word document. Even if such an option is there, I would advise against such unless you trust the source. Most free essay outline templates available for free download online might pose security risks. Instead, take your time and learn how to outline an essay by following the example below:

How to outline an essay – Free template

I. Introduction

a) Topic Introduction
b) State a thesis

Body Paragraphs

II. Paragraph-1

a) Opening Sentence
b) Supporting arguments, data, and statistics
c) Provide an explanation how they relate with your essay thesis

III. Paragraph-2

a) Opening Sentence
b) Supporting arguments, data, and statistics
c) Provide an explanation how they relate with your essay thesis


a) Opening Sentence
b) Supporting arguments, data, and statistics
c) Provide an explanation how they relate with your essay thesis

V. Conclusion

a) make a summary of all points discussed in your essay
b) Restate your thesis
c) Guide the use to the next step

How to make an outline for an essay

Before you can embark on the process of the actual writing, knowing how to outline an essay is very critical. Now having read through all of the above content on how to make an outline for an essay, you can now begin writing while observing the following process.

  • Write an introduction in the first part of your outline. This section should include an attention-getting opening and general information about your title. Of course, mention the topic of your essay and its thesis statement in your outline. It’s this statement that you intend to support in each paragraph of your article. 
  • The body of an essay has a minimum of three paragraphs. Identify the points in your outline. Write down a topic sentence with an argument relating to your thesis and mention all the support: data, facts, examples, and other evidence you’ll use to prove the topic sentence of each paragraph. 
  • Provide your conclusion information in the last section of your essay outline. Wrap up your essay here. Restate your thesis and summarize the goal of your paper.

As a rule, students use the linear style when formatting their essay outlines. It means they rank arguments in order of their importance, from major to minor ones. Writing an essay outline is critical in organizing your essay. Do not ignore this part at any cost.

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