How to Structure and Outline an Essay

Essay Structure and Outline

You must have found yourself in a situation where you were clueless about how to write a perfect essay in your academic life. There is no such thing as a perfect essay, you just need to improve certain aspects so that your new essay is better than the previous one. The common mistake people make while writing essays is writing the final draft directly; they do not go for writing the rough drafts or outlines. Writing essay outlines makes the process smooth as it helps you gather the content in one place. It will make it easier for you to write the essay when you have already prepared the essay structure and outline. If you also want your essay to be free of mistakes, here is a complete guide for you. This article will answer many of your questions and confusions regarding the essay outline; it will also explain the benefits of writing it.

What is the Essay Outline?

An essay outline is a structure that you will be following while writing your essay. These essay outlines are prepared before you start writing your essay. They assist you in unfolding your argument while writing. It generally involves incomplete sentences and phrases, so you just complete the sentences while writing the final draft.

How Does Outline Help You?

  1. If you write an outline for your essay, it saves you a lot of time, as you will only be completing the sentences while writing the final draft.
  2. It will organize all your thoughts so you will not be doing the actual thinking while writing the essay.
  3. You can write essay outlines for essays as short as 500 words or long as 10,000 words.
  4. It provides a flow to your arguments. It will also prevent you from going off the tangent or providing unnecessary arguments. In short, you will stick to your specific topic.
  5. In some cases, the outline will be a requirement as some instructors demand outlines before the actual submission.
  6. Essay outlines also help you with the feedback. It is better to analyze what you are going to write in your essay before writing it. As outlines are short sentence fragments or phrases, it would be easier to make changes in the essay outline. However, making changes in the actual essay would be challenging, as it will require major edits and reviews.

When Should I Write the Outline?

People usually have trouble deciding when to write an outline for their essay. First, you need to write the outline before diving into the actual writing process. Moreover, the answer to the actual question “when to write the outline?” is whenever you have enough knowledge about the topic. In some cases, people have to write on topics about which they have enough knowledge. In that case, the writer quickly decides how to tackle a given topic, so they design an outline. It is easier for them to decide on an outline as they know what points they will be including in their essay.

Sometimes you do not have enough information about the topic, but you have to write about it anyway. In such cases, you do the research on the topic, try to gather facts and figures about it, and then prepare the outline with the main points you decide to cover.

If after doing the research, you are still unable to write an outline; it will give you an idea that you need to do more research to write the actual essay. If you do not have enough data to make a good outline, then it will be even worse for the actual essay.

Hence, the best time to write your outline is after gathering enough explanations, facts, and figures about the topic so you can give an opinion about it.

Important Steps Not To Miss

There are a few important steps that people usually miss while writing the outlines. You should consider the following steps.

  1. Organizing your content is an important step. Separate all your main points and divide them into body paragraphs. The body paragraphs are usually three in number, so you need to organize all your content in such a way that they present three main ideas.
  2. Another important step is to give your ideas an order. Decide what you will be adding in your introduction like your starting discussion, the transitioning point in your essay, and what argument you will provide your audience to end the topic.

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How to Write an Outline?

If you follow the guide below, you will be able to write a proper outline for your essay that will help you in many ways.

First, here is the basic structure of an outline that essays usually follow. This basic outline is for expository, argumentative, research, or any kind of essay you will be writing. However, the outline varies a little depending upon the essay you are dealing with.

Essay Outline

This is the basic structure that you need to follow for your essay. Sometimes the question arises “What content should be included in the outline?’. If you are also looking for a detailed answer to this question, the following is the complete guide for you.

Introduction Outline

Introductions are the most important part of your essay, so they need to cover things in a manner that hooks your readers to the content. For the introduction outline, follow the steps mentioned below.

  • You must write incomplete sentences and fragments, so you can complete them later in the final draft.
  • The introduction needs a hook that basically attracts your audience to your writing. This hook can be a question, a statement, a fact, or a quote.
  • The hook can be a complete sentence even in the outline.
  • After the hook, you should write a few points in the form of phrases to provide the background information. These few phrases or words should be your basic background knowledge about the topic.
  • The introduction involves a thesis statement which is the summarization of what you will be covering in your essay.
  • The thesis statement needs to be brief, but it should cover all the main points of the essay.
  • The purpose of the thesis statement is basically to tell your audience the sequence that you will be following further.
  • Include the whole thesis statement in the outline, there is no need to write it in fragments.
  • Writing the complete thesis statement will assist you in completing your remaining outline, most importantly the body paragraphs.
  • Finally, you need to make a smooth transition from your introduction to your first body paragraph.

Body Paragraph Outline

The outline for all the body paragraphs is the same, as all the body paragraphs follow the same format and structure. The tips for the body paragraphs’ outline are as follows.

  • You need to start your outline for the body paragraph with a topic sentence.
  • Write a complete topic sentence as it will explain what point you are going to cover.
  • Write a few words indicating your example.
  • Try to write two or three examples; the more the examples, the better the audience will understand your perspective.
  • Roughly add the link to the site you are using to extract the content to support your claims.
  • Later, you can use these links for citation.
  • Do not forget to add links to the outline, as you will find difficulty in finding them again.
  • In the end, write a few keywords that you have in mind for the conclusion.
  • A similar structure of outline is followed for all the body paragraphs.

Outline for Antithesis Paragraph

The antithesis paragraph itself is very short as compared to any other paragraph. As you will be including a few against the grain points, so you just need to write a few keywords to remember what you decide on writing in the antithesis paragraph. To provide further support to your claims, keep the link of websites you are using to extract information. This is an important step, as it will save you a lot of time later in the citation step.

Conclusion Outline

In conclusion, you must write a few phrases that restate your thesis statement’s idea in different ways. Now make the key points to summarize the whole discussion of your essay. You have the whole topic’s information embedded in your outline and the conclusion is the last step. Thus, for the conclusion, you will be summarizing the whole outline. The conclusions are meant to end the discussion so try to include points that bring your discussion to an end. Do not include points that provide room for further discussion. As the beginning of an essay is important, similarly the ending is also an essential part. It should be convincing enough to make your audience agree with your stance. For this, you need a concluding statement. Include this concluding statement in your outline so that you can’t exactly remember how to end your essay. This concluding statement requires your creativity to come into action, as you need to end the discussion and convince your readers.

Points to Remember

You need to remember the following points while writing an essay outline.

  1. Do not include complete sentences in the outline, as it is just a structure of the essay so leave some room for creativity.
  2. Just add the thoughts you fear you will lose easily.
  3. Your mind is filled with information about a topic like a storm, you need to capture the important points from this storm of information. If you do not do this, you will lose sight of it and probably be blank when it comes to writing the final draft.
  4. Outlines are very important because if you know about a topic does not mean that your audience knows about it too. Outlines help your audience in understanding everything, as it gives a logical flow to your arguments.

Different outlines for different essay types

Although the basic structure is the same for all kinds of essays, they may vary a little.

Persuasive Essays

Persuasive essays usually have more examples, facts, and figures, so they involve a detailed outline where you include the websites to keep track of your citations.

Narrative Essays

Narrative essays involve your personal experience or narration, so they do not strictly follow a general format of outline. Writing a few keywords would be enough for the outline of a narrative essay, too, so you cannot forget the points you need to include.

Expository Essays

Expository essays are mostly academic and involve a wide range of information, so follow an outline according to a variety of information.

Research Essays

In research essays, you analyze the research work done by other people by adding your stance to it. So, outlines for research essays are mostly a bulk of information on this certain topic. You gather lots of articles and websites to do the research.

Hence, before preparing your essay outline, make sure what kind of essay you are writing and then prepare your outline accordingly.

Summing Up

This article provided a detailed analysis of what an essay outline is to how to prepare it. Do not skip this step in your writings, as it will save you a lot of time and prevent you from going off track. Writing an essay outline is not a tough task; however, it can save you from further challenges you will face if you do not prepare one. If you have enough information about a topic, you are good to write an outline.