Essay Writing Guide

Essay Outline

Last updated on: Jun 10, 2023

A Complete Essay Outline - Guidelines and Format

By: Nova A.

13 min read

Reviewed By: Melisa C.

Published on: Jan 15, 2019

Essay Outline

To write an effective essay, you need to create a clear and well-organized essay outline. An essay outline will shape the essay’s entire content and determine how successful the essay will be.

In this blog post, we'll be going over the basics of essay outlines and provide a template for you to follow. We will also include a few examples so that you can get an idea about how these outlines look when they are put into practice.

Essay writing is not easy, but it becomes much easier with time, practice, and a detailed essay writing guide. Once you have developed your outline, everything else will come together more smoothly.

The key to success in any area is preparation - take the time now to develop a solid outline and then write your essays!

So, let’s get started!

Essay Outline

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What is an Essay Outline?

An essay outline is your essay plan and a roadmap to essay writing. It is the structure of an essay you are about to write. It includes all the main points you have to discuss in each section along with the thesis statement.

Like every house has a map before it is constructed, the same is the importance of an essay outline. You can write an essay without crafting an outline, but you may miss essential information, and it is more time-consuming.

Once the outline is created, there is no chance of missing any important information. Also, it will help you to:

  • Organize your thoughts and ideas.
  • Understand the information flow.
  • Never miss any crucial information or reference.
  • Finish your work faster.

These are the reasons if someone asks you why an essay outline is needed. Now there are some points that must be kept in mind before proceeding to craft an essay outline.

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Prewriting Process of Essay Outline

Your teacher may ask you to submit your essay outline before your essay. Therefore, you must know the preliminary guidelines that are necessary before writing an essay outline.

Here are the guidelines:

  • You must go through your assignments’ guidelines carefully.
  • Understand the purpose of your assignment.
  • Know your audience.
  • Mark the important point while researching your topic data.
  • Select the structure of your essay outline; whether you are going to use a decimal point bullet or a simple one.

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How to Write an Essay Outline in 4 Steps

Creating an essay outline is a crucial step in crafting a well-structured and organized piece of writing. Follow these four simple steps to create an effective outline:

Step 1: Understand the Topic

To begin, thoroughly grasp the essence of your essay topic. 

Break it down into its key components and identify the main ideas you want to convey. This step ensures you have a clear direction and focus for your essay.

Step 2: Brainstorm and Gather Ideas

Let your creativity flow and brainstorm ideas related to your topic. 

Jot down key pieces of information, arguments, and supporting evidence that will strengthen your essay's overall message. Consider different perspectives and potential counterarguments to make your essay well-rounded.

Step 3: Organize Your Thoughts

Now it's time to give structure to your ideas. 

Arrange your main points in a logical order, starting with an attention-grabbing introduction, followed by body paragraphs that present your arguments. 

Finally, tie everything together with a compelling conclusion. Remember to use transitional phrases to create smooth transitions between sections.

Step 4: Add Depth with Subpoints

To add depth and clarity to your essay, incorporate subpoints under each main point. 

These subpoints provide more specific details, evidence, or examples that support your main ideas. They help to further strengthen your arguments and make your essay more convincing.

By following these four steps - you'll be well on your way to creating a clear and compelling essay outline.

Essay Outline Format

It is an easy way for you to write your thoughts in an organized manner. It may seem unnecessary and unimportant, but it is not.

It is one of the most crucial steps for essay writing as it shapes your entire essay and aids the writing process.

An essay outline consists of three main parts:

1. Introduction

The introduction body of your essay should be attention-grabbing. It should be written in such a manner that it attracts the reader’s interest. It should also provide background information about the topic for the readers.

You can use a dramatic tone to grab readers’ attention, but it should connect the audience to your thesis statement.

Here are some points without which your introduction paragraph is incomplete.

To attract the reader with the first few opening lines, we use a hook statement. It helps engage the reader and motivates them to read further. There are different types of hook sentences ranging from quotes, rhetorical questions to anecdotes and statistics, and much more.

Are you struggling to come up with an interesting hook? View these hook examples to get inspired!

A thesis statement is stated at the end of your introduction. It is the most important statement of your entire essay. It summarizes the purpose of the essay in one sentence.

The thesis statement tells the readers about the main theme of the essay, and it must be strong and clear. It holds the entire crux of your essay.

Need help creating a strong thesis statement? Check out this guide on thesis statements and learn to write a statement that perfectly captures your main argument!

2. Body Paragraphs

The body paragraphs of an essay are where all the details and evidence come into play. This is where you dive deep into the argument, providing explanations and supporting your ideas with solid evidence. 

If you're writing a persuasive essay, these paragraphs will be the powerhouse that convinces your readers. Similarly, in an argumentative essay, your body paragraphs will work their magic to sway your audience to your side.

Each paragraph should have a topic sentence and no more than one idea. A topic sentence is the crux of the contents of your paragraph. It is essential to keep your reader interested in the essay.

The topic sentence is followed by the supporting points and opinions, which are then justified with strong evidence.

3. Conclusion

When it comes to wrapping up your essay, never underestimate the power of a strong conclusion. Just like the introduction and body paragraphs, the conclusion plays a vital role in providing a sense of closure to your topic. 

To craft an impactful conclusion, it's crucial to summarize the key points discussed in the introduction and body paragraphs. You want to remind your readers of the important information you shared earlier. But keep it concise and to the point. Short, powerful sentences will leave a lasting impression.

Remember, your conclusion shouldn't drag on. Instead, restate your thesis statement and the supporting points you mentioned earlier. And here's a pro tip: go the extra mile and suggest a course of action. It leaves your readers with something to ponder or reflect on.

5 Paragraph Essay Outline Structure

An outline is an essential part of the writing as it helps the writer stay focused. A typical 5 paragraph essay outline example is shown here. This includes:

  • State the topic
  • Thesis statement
  • Introduction
  • Explanation
  • A conclusion that ties to the thesis
  • Summary of the essay
  • Restate the thesis statement

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Essay Outline Template

The outline of the essay is the skeleton that you will fill out with the content. Both outline and relevant content are important for a good essay. The content you will add to flesh out the outline should be credible, relevant, and interesting.

The outline structure for the essay is not complex or difficult. No matter which type of essay you write, you either use an alphanumeric structure or a decimal structure for the outline.

Below is an outline sample that you can easily follow for your essay.

Essay Outline Sample

Essay Outline Examples

An essay outline template should follow when you start writing the essay. Every writer should learn how to write an outline for every type of essay and research paper.

Essay outline 4th grade

Essay outline 5th grade

Essay outline high school

Essay outline college

Given below are essay outline examples for different types of essay writing.

Argumentative Essay Outline

An  argumentative essay  is a type of essay that shows both sides of the topic that you are exploring. The argument that presents the basis of the essay should be created by providing evidence and supporting details.

Persuasive Essay Outline

A  persuasive essay  is similar to an argumentative essay. Your job is to provide facts and details to create the argument. In a persuasive essay, you convince your readers of your point of view.

Compare and Contrast Essay Outline

A  compare and contrast essay  explains the similarities and differences between two things. While comparing, you should focus on the differences between two seemingly similar objects. While contrasting, you should focus on the similarities between two different objects.

Narrative Essay Outline

A narrative essay is written to share a story. Normally, a narrative essay is written from a personal point of view in an essay. The basic purpose of the narrative essay is to describe something creatively.

Expository Essay Outline

An  expository essay  is a type of essay that explains, analyzes, and illustrates something for the readers. An expository essay should be unbiased and entirely based on facts. Be sure to use academic resources for your research and cite your sources.

Analytical Essay Outline

An  analytical essay  is written to analyze the topic from a critical point of view. An analytical essay breaks down the content into different parts and explains the topic bit by bit.

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Outline

A rhetorical essay is written to examine the writer or artist’s work and develop a great essay. It also includes the discussion.

Cause and Effect Essay Outline

A  cause and effect essay  describes why something happens and examines the consequences of an occurrence or phenomenon. It is also a type of expository essay.

Informative Essay Outline

An  informative essay  is written to inform the audience about different objects, concepts, people, issues, etc.

The main purpose is to respond to the question with a detailed explanation and inform the target audience about the topic.

Synthesis Essay Outline

A  synthesis essay  requires the writer to describe a certain unique viewpoint about the issue or topic. Create a claim about the topic and use different sources and information to prove it.

Literary Analysis Essay Outline

A  literary analysis essay  is written to analyze and examine a novel, book, play, or any other piece of literature. The writer analyzes the different devices such as the ideas, characters, plot, theme, tone, etc., to deliver his message.

Definition Essay Outline

A  definition essay  requires students to pick a particular concept, term, or idea and define it in their own words and according to their understanding.

Descriptive Essay Outline

A  descriptive essay  is a type of essay written to describe a person, place, object, or event. The writer must describe the topic so that the reader can visualize it using their five senses.

Evaluation Essay Outline

Problem Solution Essay Outline

In a problem-solution essay, you are given a problem as a topic and you have to suggest multiple solutions on it.

Scholarship Essay Outline

A  scholarship essay  is required at the time of admission when you are applying for a scholarship. Scholarship essays must be written in a way that should stand alone to help you get a scholarship.

Reflective Essay Outline

A reflective essay  is written to express your own thoughts and point of view regarding a specific topic.

Getting started on your essay? Give this comprehensive essay writing guide a read to make sure you write an effective essay!

With this complete guide, now you understand how to create an outline for your essay successfully. However, if you still can’t write an effective essay, then the best option is to consult a professional academic writing service.

Essay writing is a dull and boring task for some people. So why not get some help instead of wasting your time and effort? is here to help you. All your  do my essay for me  requests are managed by professional essay writers.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the three types of outlines.

Here are the three types of essay outline;

  • Working outline
  • Speaking outline
  • Full-sentence outline

All three types are different from each other and are used for different purposes.

What does a full-sentence outline look like?

A full sentence outline contains full sentences at each level of the essay’s outline. It is similar to an alphanumeric outline and it is a commonly used essay outline.

What is a traditional outline format?

A traditional essay outline begins with writing down all the important points in one place and listing them down and adding sub-topics to them. Besides, it will also include evidence and proof that you will use to back your arguments.

What is the benefit of using a traditional outline format and an informal outline format?

A traditional outline format helps the students in listing down all the important details in one palace while an informal outline will help you coming up with new ideas and highlighting important points

Nova A.

As a Digital Content Strategist, Nova Allison has eight years of experience in writing both technical and scientific content. With a focus on developing online content plans that engage audiences, Nova strives to write pieces that are not only informative but captivating as well.

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How to Write an Essay Outline + Essay Outline Examples

Download for free, how to write an essay outline + essay outline examples .

Writing an essay can seem like a daunting task, but one of the best ways to tackle this challenge is to organize your ideas into a well-structured essay outline. This guide will walk you through the process of creating an essay outline, complete with essay outline examples, to ensure your next essay is a masterpiece.

We’ve compiled a variety of essay outline examples to help you understand how to structure your own essay. We'll cover persuasive essays, narrative essays, descriptive essays, expository essays, and even provide a sample research paper outline. Each example will provide you with an idea of how to lay out the structure and details for each type of essay.

Looking for a printable list of essay outline examples? Our printable PDF features essay outline examples and templates that your students can use as examples when writing research papers, or as a supplement for an essay-writing unit

Why write an essay outline? 

An outline serves as the skeleton of your essay, giving you a clear and organized path to articulate your thoughts. Not only does it make writing an essay significantly easier, but it also allows you to present your arguments coherently and effectively.

An essay outline will help you organize your main ideas and determine the order in which you are going to write about them.

Student receives essay feedback A+ . Essay outline examples.

Types of essay outlines

Several types of essay outlines can be used when writing an essay. The two most common types are the alphanumeric outline and the decimal outline.

An alphanumeric outline typically uses Roman numerals, capital letters, Arabic numerals, and lowercase letters, in that order. Each level provides a different level of specificity. This structure is a very effective way to think through how you will organize and present the information in your essay. It also helps you develop a strong argumentative essay.

Alternatively, a decimal outline uses only numbers, and each subsection is a decimal subdivision of the main section. This type of outline is often used in scientific papers.

Persuasive essay outline example 

In the following section, we'll explore a persuasive essay outline example on competitive swimming. The purpose of a persuasive essay is to convince the reader of a particular point of view or idea, using compelling arguments and evidence.

In this case, the argument is that competitive swimming is an ideal sport for kids. The essay will present a series of arguments to support this view, demonstrating the various benefits of competitive swimming for children.

Competitive Swimming, an Ideal Sport for Kids


Start your argumentative essay outline by stating your point of view and/or presenting your persuasive argument.

Thesis: Competitive swimming is a great alternative to other youth sports.

Body Paragraph 1

Introduce your primary persuasive argument and provide supporting details in your argumentative essay outline.

Topic Sentence:   Competitive swimming provides the same benefits as other sports.

  • Detail Sentence 1:   It is good exercise and builds muscular strength.
  • Detail Sentence 2:   It promotes cooperation among team members, especially in relays.

Body Paragraph 2

Introduce a secondary argument and provide supporting details.

Topic Sentence:   Competitive swimming provides some unique additional benefits.

  • Detail Sentence 1:   Swimming is an important skill that can be used forever.
  • Detail Sentence 2:  Swimming poses a reduced risk of injury.
  • Detail Sentence 3:   Each swimmer can easily chart his or her own progress.

Conclude your essay writing with a summary of the thesis and persuasive arguments. Brainstorming details that support your point-of-view is a great way to start before creating your outline and first draft.

Concluding Sentence:   There are many reasons why competitive swimming is a great alternative to other youth sports, including...

Narrative essay outline example

In the following section, we will examine a narrative essay outline example titled "How Losing a Swim Meet Made Me a Better Swimmer." Narrative essays aim to tell a story, often about a personal experience, to engage the reader and convey a particular point or lesson.

In this case, the narrative revolves around the author's personal journey of improvement and self-discovery through swimming. The essay will illustrate how an initial setback served as a catalyst for significant improvement and personal growth.

How Losing a Swim Meet Made Me a Better Swimmer

Introduce the subject of your narrative essay using a thesis statement and a plan of development (POD).

Thesis: The first time I participated in a competitive swim meet, I finished in last place. With more focused training and coaching, I was able to finish 2nd in the State Championship meet.

Plan of development:   I was very disappointed in my results from the first meet, so I improved my training and fitness. This helped me swim better and faster, which helped me to greatly improve my results.

Set the scene and provide supporting details. Again, start by brainstorming different ways to begin; then go ahead and craft an outline and a first draft.

Topic Sentence:   I was embarrassed at finishing last in my first competitive swim meet, so I began working on ways to improve my performance.

  • Detail Sentence 1:   I spent extra time with my coach and the team captains learning how to improve my technique.
  • Detail Sentence 2:   I started running and lifting weights to increase my overall fitness level.

Provide additional supporting details, descriptions, and experiences to develop your general idea in your essay writing.

Topic Sentence:   Over time, my results began to improve and I was able to qualify for the state championship meet.

  • Detail Sentence 1:   My technique and fitness level made me faster and able to swim longer distances.
  • Detail Sentence 2:  I steadily got better, and I began winning or placing in the top 3 at most of my meets.
  • Detail Sentence 3:  My results improved to the point that I was able to qualify for the state championship meet.

Body Paragraph 3

The next step in the writing process is to provide additional supporting details, descriptions, and experiences. You can then divide them up under different headings.

Topic Sentence:   With my new confidence, techniques, and fitness level, I was able to finish 2nd at the state championship meet.

  • Detail Sentence 1:   I was able to swim well against a higher level of competition due to my training and technique.
  • Detail Sentence 2:  I was no longer embarrassed about my last-place finish, and was able to use it as motivation!

Conclude the narrative essay with a recap of the events described or a reflection on the lesson learned in the story. Briefly summarize the details you included under each heading.

Concluding Sentence:   I used my last-place finish in my first competitive swim meet as motivation to improve my performance.

Descriptive essay outline example

We will now delve into a descriptive essay outline example. Descriptive essays aim to create a vivid and detailed description of a person, place, object, or event to paint a picture for the reader. The intention is to immerse the reader in the subject matter fully.

In this case, the essay provides an in-depth description of a visit to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. The essay will use sensory and descriptive details to create a vivid and memorable experience for the reader.

Visiting the Hockey Hall of Fame

Introduce the subject of your descriptive essay with a thesis statement covering the person, place, object, etc. you are writing about.

Thesis: The Hockey Hall of Fame is full of sights, sounds, and experiences that will delight hockey fans of all ages.

Set the scene and provide factual details.

Topic Sentence:   The Hockey Hall of Fame is located in Toronto, Canada and features exhibits from amateur and professional hockey.

  • Detail Sentence 1:   The Hall is located in downtown Toronto and is visited by 1 million people every year.
  • Detail Sentence 2:   You can see exhibits ranging from the early beginnings of the sport to the modern NHL and Olympics.

Provide additional sensory details, descriptions, and experiences.

Topic Sentence:   There are many types of exhibits and shows, including activities you can participate in.

  • Detail Sentence 1:  Player statues, plaques, and jerseys decorate the walls in every room of the Hall.
  • Detail Sentence 2:  Many of the exhibits have movies and multimedia activities that make you feel like you're part of the game.
  • Detail Sentence 3:  You can even practice shooting pucks on virtual versions of some of the game's greatest goalies!

Conclude the essay with a paragraph that restates the thesis and recaps the descriptive and sensory details.

Concluding Sentence:   The Hockey Hall of Fame is an experience that combines the best sights, sounds and history of the game in Toronto.

Expository essay outline example

In the following section, we will explore an example of an expository essay. An expository essay aims to explain or describe a topic using logic. It presents a balanced analysis of a topic based on facts—with no references to the writer’s opinions or emotions.

For this example, the topic is "Why The School Year Should be Shorter". This essay will use logic and reason to demonstrate that a shorter school year could provide various benefits for students, teachers, and school districts.

Why The School Year Should be Shorter

Introduce the primary argument or main point of an expository essay, or other types of academic writing, using a thesis statement and context.

Thesis: The school year is too long, and should be shortened to benefit students and teachers, save districts money, and improve test scores and academic results. Other countries have shorter school years, and achieve better results.

Describe the primary argument and provide supporting details and evidence.

Topic Sentence:   A shorter school year would benefit students and teachers by giving them more time off.

  • Detail Sentence 1:   Students and teachers would be able to spend more time with their families.
  • Detail Sentence 2:  Teachers would be refreshed and rejuvenated and able to teach more effectively.

Provide additional supporting details and evidence, as in this essay outline example.

Topic Sentence:  A shorter school year would save school districts millions of dollars per year.

  • Detail Sentence 1:   Districts could save money on energy costs by keeping schools closed longer.
  • Detail Sentence 2:  A shorter school year means much lower supply and transportation costs.
  • Detail Sentence 3:  Well-rested and happy students would help improve test scores.

Provide additional or supplemental supporting details, evidence, and analysis, as in the essay outline example.

Topic Sentence:   Shortening the school year would also provide many benefits for parents and caregivers.

  • Detail Sentence 1:   A shorter school year would mean less stress and running around for parents.
  • Detail Sentence 2:  Caregivers would have more balance in their lives with fewer days in the school year.

Conclude the essay with an overview of the main argument, and highlight the importance of your evidence and conclusion.

Concluding Sentence:   Shortening the school year would be a great way to improve the quality of life for students, teachers, and parents while saving money for districts and improving academic results.

Sample research paper outline

Now let’s dive into a research paper outline. Unlike a typical essay, a research paper presents a thorough and detailed study on a specific topic. However, it shares the same foundation with an essay in terms of structuring the ideas logically and coherently. The outline for a research paper includes an introduction, a series of topic points that cover various aspects of the main topic, and a conclusion.

This research paper will explore the background of Mt. Everest, the major explorers who attempted its summit, and the impact of these expeditions on Mt. Everest and the local community.

The Conquest of Mt. Everest

  • Location of Mt. Everest
  • Geography of the Surrounding Area
  • Height of the mountain
  • Jomolungma (Tibetan name)
  • Sagarmatha (Nepalese name)
  • The number of people who have climbed Everest to date
  • First to reach the summit (1953)
  • Led a team of experienced mountain climbers who worked together
  • Norgay was an experienced climber and guide who accompanied Hillary
  • Sherpas still used to guide expeditions
  • Leader of the failed 1996 expedition
  • Led group of (mainly) tourists with little mountain climbing experience
  • Loss of trees due to high demand for wood for cooking and heating for tourists.
  • Piles of trash left by climbing expeditions
  • Expedition fees provide income for the country
  • Expeditions provide work for the Sherpas, contributing to the local economy.
  • Introduction of motor vehicles
  • Introduction of electricity

The Everest essay outline template is based on a research paper submitted by Alexandra Ferber, 9th grade.

Happy writing!

Writing an essay outline is a crucial step in crafting a well-structured and coherent essay. Regardless of the type of essay - be it persuasive, narrative, descriptive, expository, or a research paper - an outline serves as a roadmap that organizes your thoughts and guides your writing process. The various essay outline examples provided above serve as a guide to help you structure your own essay. Remember, the key to a great essay lies not just in the content but in its organization and flow. Happy writing!

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How to Write an Essay Outline with Step-by-Step Instructions

make an essay outline

An essay outline is like a plan for your writing before you start putting words on paper. It helps you organize your thoughts by summarizing the main points for each paragraph. This way, you can see how your argument will unfold.

Sometimes, your assignment might specifically ask for an outline before you begin writing. But even if it's not required, making an outline is a good practice. It helps you structure your ideas and gives you a clear roadmap for your writing process.

By breaking down each paragraph into brief summaries of the points you want to cover, you ensure that your essay will have a logical flow. This makes it easier for your readers to follow your argument. Additionally, creating an outline allows you to assess the coherence and relevance of each point, helping you identify and address any weak spots in your argument early on.

In essence, think of writing an essay outline as a practical tool for better organization and refining your ideas. It's a useful step that can make your writing process smoother and your final essay more compelling. If you're pressed for time or need additional assistance, you can pay for essay services to lighten your workload and ensure a polished end result.

How to Organize an Essay Outline in 2 Steps

Writing a college essay outline effectively is like creating a roadmap for your thoughts. It not only helps you stay on track but also ensures your ideas unfold in a logical and coherent manner. According to our online essay writing service , two crucial steps in this process are establishing classifications and arranging data.

essay outline

Establishing Classifications

When considering how to make a topic outline, begin by categorizing your primary ideas into distinct classifications. This categorization serves as the structural backbone of your essay, allowing you to identify common themes or topics that naturally align. For instance, imagine you're writing about the benefits of technology in education. Your classifications could include categories such as improved accessibility, enhanced collaboration, and personalized learning. By doing this, you create a roadmap that guides your discussion and helps maintain a clear focus for each section.

Consider, too, the diverse landscape of essay formats . Depending on the type of essay you're crafting, whether it's persuasive, informative, or analytical, the format can influence how you structure your outline. Recognizing the nuances of various essay formats ensures that your outline aligns seamlessly with the requirements of your chosen genre, enhancing the overall coherence and effectiveness of your writing.

Furthermore, seeking essay outline help can be valuable at this stage. Whether it's from a teacher, tutor, or online resources, getting assistance in organizing your thoughts and refining your outline can provide valuable insights.

Arrangement of Data

Once your classifications are in place, the next step is to carefully arrange the supporting details within each category. Picture this as assembling the pieces of a puzzle to form a cohesive picture. Consider the logical flow of information – arrange your details in a way that makes the most sense for your reader to grasp your argument. Going back to our technology in education example, under the classification of improved accessibility, you might discuss the impact of online resources, digital textbooks, and e-learning platforms. This deliberate arrangement ensures a smooth transition from one idea to the next, guiding your reader through your essay seamlessly and mastering the art of how to write an academic essay .

what does an essay outline look like examples

Essay Structure Outline

In this section, we'll look at the five paragraph essay outline and how each paragraph centers around one idea supporting your main topic. You'll use evidence or analysis to expand on each point.

The typical outline format will present these points in short, numbered sentences or phrases, with the option to add sub-points for more detail. See the template below for a straightforward structure suited for a five paragraph essay outline example.

essay structure outline

I. Introduction

  • Hook/Opening statement
  • Background information
  • Thesis statement

II. Body Paragraphs

  • Paragraph 1:
  • Topic sentence
  • Supporting detail 1
  • Supporting detail 2
  • Transition to the next paragraph
  • Paragraph 2:
  • Continue this pattern for additional paragraphs

III. Counterargument/Refutation (if applicable)

  • Counterargument
  • Transition to the next section

IV. Conclusion

  • Summary of main points
  • Restate thesis
  • Closing remarks or call to action

V. References/Bibliography (if required)

Essay Outline Examples

In the following sections, we'll explore practical examples of outlines to guide you through the structuring process. Let's delve into each to understand their distinct structures and purposes.

Argumentative Essay Outline

This outline is designed for essays where you aim to persuade your audience to adopt a specific stance or viewpoint. It typically comprises:


Body Paragraphs:

  • Each paragraph presents a distinct supporting argument.
  • Supporting evidence or analysis
  • Counterargument and refutation (if applicable)


  • Recap of main points
  • Restatement of thesis

Expository Essay Outline

This outline is suitable for essays that aim to inform or explain a particular topic. It generally follows this structure:

expository essay outline

  • Each paragraph explores a specific aspect or subtopic.
  • Supporting evidence or examples
  • Final thoughts or implications

College Admissions Essay Outline

Crafting a compelling college admissions essay requires a thoughtful approach to showcase your unique qualities and experiences. Here's a comprehensive outline tailored for this specific essay type:

  • Personal Hook: Capture the reader's attention with a personal anecdote, quote, or question.
  • Background Information: Provide context about your educational goals, aspirations, or experiences.
  • Thesis Statement: Clearly state the overarching theme or message you aim to convey.
  • Paragraph 1 - Academic Achievements and Goals:
  • Highlight key academic accomplishments.
  • Discuss your academic aspirations and how the college aligns with them.
  • Paragraph 2 - Extracurricular Involvement:
  • Detail significant extracurricular activities, showcasing leadership and impact.
  • Connect your extracurricular experiences to your personal growth.
  • Paragraph 3 - Personal Challenges and Growth:
  • Share personal challenges you've overcome.
  • Emphasize lessons learned and personal growth.
  • Paragraph 4 - Unique Qualities and Perspectives:
  • Showcase your unique qualities, skills, or perspectives.
  • Explain how these contribute to the college community.
  • Reiteration of Fit: Reinforce why you are an ideal fit for the college.
  • Reflection on Journey: Reflect on your academic and personal journey.
  • Closing Thoughts: End with a strong and memorable statement.

Literary Analysis Essay Outline

Analyzing a piece of literature requires a systematic approach to uncover its deeper meanings and literary elements. Here's a detailed outline:

  • Hook: Engage the reader with a captivating introduction related to the literary work.
  • Context: Provide necessary background information about the author, time period, or cultural context.
  • Thesis Statement: Clearly state the main point of your analysis, focusing on a specific aspect of the literary work.
  • Paragraph 1 - Introduction to Literary Elements:
  • Introduce and define the primary literary elements (such as theme, character, or setting) to be analyzed.
  • Provide brief examples or evidence from the text.
  • Paragraphs 2-4 - In-Depth Analysis of Literary Elements:
  • Dedicate each paragraph to a specific literary element.
  • Analyze how each element contributes to the overall meaning or theme.
  • Provide evidence from the text to support your analysis.
  • Paragraph 5 - Exploration of Symbolism or Imagery:
  • Discuss any symbolic elements or recurring imagery in the literary work.
  • Explore the deeper meanings behind these symbols.
  • Summarize Key Points: Recap the main findings from each body paragraph.
  • Restate Thesis: Reaffirm the main argument of your analysis.
  • Final Thoughts: Provide broader insights into the significance of your analysis and its implications.

Persuasive Essay Outline

In persuasive essays, the goal is to convince the reader of a particular viewpoint or to prompt action. Here's an effective outline for structuring this type of essay:

persuasive essay outline

  • Hook: Capture the reader's attention with a compelling statement, fact, or question.
  • Background Information: Provide context about the issue or topic.
  • Thesis Statement: Clearly state your stance and the main points supporting your argument.
  • Paragraph 1 - Strongest Argument:
  • Present your most compelling argument.
  • Support it with evidence, examples, or statistics.
  • Address potential counterarguments.
  • Paragraph 2 - Supporting Argument:
  • Introduce a secondary argument supporting your thesis.
  • Provide evidence and explain its relevance.
  • Discuss counterarguments and refute them.
  • Paragraph 3 - Additional Supporting Argument or Counterargument:
  • Introduce another supporting argument or address a counterargument.
  • Strengthen your position with evidence and reasoning.

Counterargument and Rebuttal:

  • Address Counterarguments:
  • Acknowledge opposing viewpoints.
  • Present counterarguments to anticipate and address objections.
  • Refute counterarguments with strong evidence or reasoning.
  • Reinforce the superiority of your position.
  • Summarize Main Points: Recap the key arguments presented in the body paragraphs.
  • Restate Thesis: Reaffirm your stance on the issue.
  • Call to Action or Closing Thoughts: Encourage the reader to take a specific action or leave them with a thought-provoking statement.

Personal Essay Outline

A personal essay provides a platform to express personal experiences, reflections, and insights. Here's an outline to help structure your personal essay:

  • Hook: Start with a captivating anecdote, quote, or personal reflection.
  • Background: Briefly introduce the central theme or topic of your personal essay.
  • Thesis Statement: Clearly state the overarching message or lesson you want to convey.
  • Paragraph 1 - Starting Point or Background:
  • Share the initial circumstances or background of your narrative.
  • Set the stage for the unfolding story.
  • Paragraphs 2-4 - Key Moments or Reflections:
  • Dedicate each paragraph to a significant moment or reflection.
  • Describe events, emotions, and personal growth.
  • Connect each to the overarching theme.
  • Paragraph 5 - Resolution or Turning Point:
  • Describe the turning point or resolution of your narrative.
  • Reflect on how it impacted you or shaped your perspective.

Reflection and Insights:

  • Personal Growth: Reflect on how the experiences described influenced your personal growth.
  • Lessons Learned: Share insights or lessons learned from the narrative.
  • Connection to Thesis: Reinforce how your personal story aligns with the thesis statement.
  • Summarize Journey: Recap the main events or reflections discussed in the body paragraphs.
  • Restate Thesis: Reaffirm the central message or lesson of your personal essay.
  • Closing Thoughts: End with a powerful statement, reflection, or call to action.

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  • How to Write an Essay Outline: Full Guide With Examples

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Table of Contents

Essay outline toolkit, how to write an essay outline, outline for different types of essays.

Well, one thing you need to work on before writing an essay is to set its structure. Once, you are done writing the structure of your essay, writing an outline will become an easier task. In this guide, not only will we explain how to write an outline for an essay but also explain how to create its structure. So let's get started.

Also, are you in a hurry? No worries, we have curated an essay outline toolkit that will help you understand the process of writing an outline for an essay in under 5 mins.

Once you are done with these steps, this is what your structure will look like

Thesis statement: To inform readers about the serious health risks associated with exposure to air pollution, with the goal of raising awareness about the need for stricter environmental regulation.


  • Add a hook like Imagine taking a deep breath of fresh, clean air. Unfortunately, for millions of people worldwide, this simple pleasure has become a luxury due to the pervasive issue of air pollution.
  • Mention how the negative impact of Air pollution on human health is increasing.

The harmful effects of air pollution on the respiratory system underscore the urgent need for comprehensive pollution control measures.

The types and sources of air pollutants

  • Explanation of common air pollutants (e.g., particulate matter, volatile organic compounds).
  • Examples of industries or activities contributing to air pollution.

Transition phrases - Furthermore, additionally, etc.

The health consequences of exposure to air pollution

  • Discuss different Respiratory Health Issues like asthma and its symptoms.
  • Discuss Other Different Health issues like heart attacks and their symptoms.

Current environmental policies and their effectiveness in mitigating air pollution

  • Discuss about various environmental agencies and organisations along with the standards set and initiatives taken by them.
  • Challenges and Effectiveness - Discuss the evolution of policies and technological advancements in the field.
  • Reiterate the thesis statement.
  • Reinforce the importance of addressing air pollution and its impact on health.
  • Recap the types, effects, and mitigation strategies discussed in the essay.

This is what your outline will look like

Firstly, the essay will discuss the types and sources of air pollutants by highlighting industrial and individual activities contributing to air pollution. Secondly, the essay will shed light on the health consequences of air pollution by emphasizing respiratory and other health diseases. Finally, the essay will be concluded by discussing the current environmental policies and their effectiveness in controlling air pollution by checking the standards set by organizations and initiatives taken by agencies.

1. Identify the topic

Identifying your essay's topic is the crucial first step. Begin by asking yourself these questions: Do you have a genuine interest in this topic? Does it resonate with you emotionally or intellectually? Your passion for a topic will fuel your essay.

However, don't rely solely on emotion. Consider these factors:

  • Is the topic suitable for your audience?
  • What's your purpose for writing about it?
  • Can you gain sufficient knowledge in the given time?
  • Is the topic neither too broad nor too narrow for the required word count?
  • Can you access enough research material?

Additionally, if your chosen topic feels too broad, narrow it down by focusing on a specific aspect or perspective. This ensures better manageability and clarity in your writing.

Imagine your professor asked you to write an article on air pollution, in such case your topic can be “The Impact of Air Pollution on Human Health” This clearly states that your essay will look into the effects of air pollution on human well-being.

2. Define the objective

Once you've chosen your essay topic, the next step is to define your purpose. Majorly, your essay should convey your unique perspective, thoughts, and ideas about the subject. So, Emphasize working with and building upon existing ideas rather than just restating them. Other than that some specific objectives may include:

Narration: This is written for the purpose of sharing personal experiences or goals in a compelpng manner for self-expression.

Persuasion: This is written for the purpose of convincing readers about the argument you agree with through logical reasoning.

Argumentation: This is written for the purpose of taking a clear stance on a topic and supporting it with evidence.

Explanation: This is written for the purpose of providing effective information or descriptions to readers.

The objective of this essay is to inform your readers about the serious health risks associated with exposure to air pollution, with the goal of raising awareness about the need for stricter environmental regulations.

3. Craft the thesis

This step involves stating the core message you aim to convey through your project. In essence, you're crafting a concise and clear statement that summarizes the central argument or theme that your entire work revolves around. Additionally, It's a critical element that ensures your project remains coherent and purposeful, allowing your readers to understand the primary point you're trying to make.

Crafting a thesis statement is a dynamic process. It doesn't happen immediately after reading an assignment. Instead, it involves gathering evidence, organizing it, identifying relationships, and assessing their significance. Only after completing these steps will you arrive at a 'working thesis.' This thesis serves as the cornerstone of your essay, presenting its main idea and argument, which you'll substantiate with evidence. Both your argument and thesis act as guiding forces for your essay's structure, and they may require refinements as your essay evolves.

The thesis statement for your essay could be: "The harmful effects of air pollution on respiratory and other body systems underscore the urgent need for comprehensive pollution control measures."

4. Main points

Now that you have a clear understanding of your essay's purpose and argument, the next crucial step is to construct the foundational main points that will serve as the guiding framework for your essay. This involves delving into each main point and elaborating on the essential information that will form the core of your essay. This structural map helps you organize your thoughts, ideas, and information in a logical sequence, making it easier for both you as the writer and your readers to follow the flow of your project. it helps you ensure that your points are aligned with your thesis statement and are able to explain them.

Also, It is important to ensure that each main idea in your essay is completed within its dedicated body paragraph. Because overloading a single paragraph with multiple concepts can lead to confusion and errors in sentence structure. Moreover, each main point you introduce should directly align with your thesis and provide substantial support for any arguments you propose.

The main points for your essay could be

  • The types and sources of air pollutants.
  • The health consequences of prolonged exposure to air pollution.
  • Current environmental policies and their effectiveness in mitigating air pollution.

5. Sub-points

After outlining the key main points, proceed to introduce the specific subpoints you intend to elaborate on, as well as the supporting evidence such as examples, quotations, statistical data, and more that will strengthen your arguments.

This process will help you dissect each major part into more manageable components, making your project more organized and comprehensible. By defining these sub-points, you provide a roadmap not only for yourself but also for your readers.

6. Evidence and citations

After summarizing the points you intend to discuss and the information you'll be presenting, proceed to cite the evidence, including examples and statistical data, that supports your information. This is where you'll list down the sources from which you'll draw your information, examples, and statistical data.

Listing these sources will help you to make sure that you have a well-structured plan for gathering the necessary information to support your writing. This step will help you stay organized and ensure you don't miss any critical data or overlook important references. Additionally, help in keeping all the information in one place will ease your writing process.

You can cite scientific studies from the World Health Organization (WHO), and provide statistical data on yearly deaths due to air pollution

7. Introduction and hook

After you're done writing an outline for your key content and have identified your information sources, the next step will be to craft an engaging introduction hook tailored to the nature of your essay. A hook is a sentence or phrase designed to captivate and grab the attention of your readers and can take various forms, such as a quotation, statistical data, or an intriguing fact.

Also, you craft the introduction in which your primary objective is to provide essential context and introduce the main idea or thesis statement of your project. This section acts as a guide for your readers, setting the stage by explaining what your project is about and why it matters. For your introduction, state the points you will be mentioning, along with a hook that will be designed to captivate and grab the attention of readers.

You can start the introduction with an anecdote like “Imagine taking a deep breath of fresh, clean air. Unfortunately, for millions of people worldwide, this simple pleasure has become a luxury due to the pervasive issue of air pollution” and then continue to explain the increasingly negative impact of air pollution on human health

8. Conclusion

In this section, you will bring your essay to a close by revisiting your thesis statement and reinforcing the central argument you've presented throughout. Also, you'll summarize the key points made in the essay and conclude with a compelling call to action. This section serves as a final, concise overview, allowing your readers to grasp the main takeaways from your work.

In the conclusion, you will restate the thesis by emphasizing the urgency of addressing air pollution and then summarize key points you made in the essay.

9. Transitions

Transition words play a crucial role in ensuring the seamless flow of your writing by fostering smooth transitions between sentences, paragraphs, and topics. After completing your outline, it's essential that you identify and incorporate transitions wherever needed to facilitate smooth transitions between sentences, ideas, or topics. Some common types of transitions are listed below

Addition: This is used when multiple ideas are presented that flow in the same direction

Contrast: This is used when a difference in idea or change in the argument is presented

Comparison: This is used when a similarity between ideas that are not under the same heading is presented

Cause and effect: This is used to show that an event or action leads to some result

Summary or conclusion: This is used when we want to signify what follows is summarizing the previous text.

You can use words like “furthermore”, and “consequently” to transition from “types and sources of air pollutants” to “the health consequences of prolonged exposure to air pollution”

10. Refine and review

Lastly, in the final step, you will do a review of your outline to check for any extra elements that may have been unknowingly included. Additionally, ensure that your outline provides a thorough and complete overview of your topic, leaving no important points overlooked.

Finally, during the review, you will need to ensure that each point flows logically and you have included all the necessary information and didn't add any extra points

1. Argumentative Essay Outline

Argumentative Essay Outline

An argumentative essay outline have a straightforward structure which makes it easy for readers to follow. The goal of an argumentative essay is to clearly outline a point of view, reasoning, and evidence.

  • Argumentative Essay Outline Toolkit
  • Sample of Argumentative Essay Structure
  • Sample of Argumentative Essay Outline
  • How to Write an Outline for an Argumentative Essay

2. Persuasive Essay Outline

Persuasive Essay Outline

A persuasive essay is used to prove a point of view. For this reason, drafting an outline for a persuasive essay becomes important as it ensures emotional components and helps not to get confused in your supporting proofs.

  • Persuasive Essay Outline Toolkit
  • Sample of Persuasive Essay Structure
  • Sample of Persuasive Essay Outline
  • How to Write an Outline for a Persuasive Essay

3. Informative Essay Outline

Informative Essay Outline

An informative essay outline have a straightforward structure which makes it easy for readers to follow. The goal of an informative essay is to clearly outline a piece of information, its reasoning, and evidence.

  • Informative Essay Outline Toolkit
  • Sample of Informative Essay Structure
  • Sample of Informative Essay Outline
  • How to Write an Outline for an Informative Essay

4. Narrative Essay Outline

Narrative Essay Outline

A narrative essay is a type of essay in which the writer narrates a story. The story could be real, or fictional, and deals with writer’s personal development. An outline of a narrative essay doesn't follow any specific rules.

  • Narrative Essay Outline Toolkit
  • Sample of Narrative Essay Structure
  • Sample of Narrative Essay Outline
  • How to Write an Outline for a Narrative Essayy

5. Rhetorical Essay Outline

Rhetorical Essay Outline

A rhetorical analysis essay in an essay type that aims to study how the author persuaded, informed, or entertained the audience. This type of essay analyzes the text in specific terms of rhetoric, breaks them, and examine them individually.

  • Rhetorical Essay Outline Toolkit
  • Sample of Rhetorical Essay Structure
  • Sample of Rhetorical Essay Outline
  • How to Write an Outline for a Rhetorical Essay

6. Compare and Contrast Essay

Compare and Contrast Essay Outline

Compare and contrast essays are academic papers in which a student analyses two or more subjects with each other. The structure mention paragraphs that describe two subjects, and then conduct a final analysis.

  • Compare and Contrast Essay Outline Toolkit
  • Sample of Compare and contrast Structure
  • Sample of Compare and Contrast Essay Outline
  • How to Write an Outline for a Compare and Contrast Essay

7. Expository Essay Outline

 Expository Essay Outline Essay Outline

An expository essay presents information on a topic, it explains a situation, person, idea, etc. An expository essay outline divides each paragraph into components for the purpose of better understanding how information will work together.

  • Expository Essay Outline Toolkit
  • Sample of Expository Essay Structure
  • Sample of Expository Essay Outline
  • How to Write an Outline for a Expository Essay

8. 5-paragraph essay outline

 5-paragraph essay outline

An 5-Paragraph Essay outline have a straightforward structure which makes it easy for readers to follow. The goal of an 5-Paragraph Essay is to clearly outline a point of view, reasoning, and evidence.

  • 5-Paragraph Outline Toolkit
  • Sample of 5-Paragraph Structure
  • Sample of 5-Paragraph Outline
  • How to Write an Outline for a 5-Paragraph


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Essay Outline: An Ultimate Guide


Table of contents

  • 1 Understanding the Importance of Proper Essay Outline
  • 2.1 Introduction
  • 2.3 Conclusion
  • 3.1 Alphanumeric structure style
  • 3.2 Decimal structure style
  • 4 Steps to Creating an Outline for an Essay
  • 5 Tips for a Successful Essay Outline
  • 6.1 Template for a Narrative Essay Outline
  • 6.2 Template of Argumentative Essay Outline
  • 6.3 Template of Compare and Contrast Essay Outline
  • 6.4 Template of Admission Essay Outline
  • 7 Benefits of the Essay Outline in the Writing Process
  • 8 Elevate Your Essay Writing with Outline

Have you ever felt like your thoughts are all over the place when you write an essay, or do you just want to make the essay writing a breeze? Well, you have hit the right spot!

In this article, we will break down how to write an outline for an essay into simple, easy-to-follow steps. No more staring at a blank page, wondering what an essay outline is or how to go about writing an essay outline.

With a well-structured essay outline and a clear thesis statement, you will have a roadmap to navigate your essay, keeping your writing process on point.

Here is a sneak peek of what we will cover in this article:

  • After reading this article, you will understand the importance of essay outline;
  • You will learn about the effective essay outline parts;
  • Understanding various types of essay outlines is crucial for creating a well-structured essay.

Whether you are an experienced essay writer looking to level up your game or a newbie trying to score big on your first big assignment, this essay writing guide has got you covered.

Understanding the Importance of Proper Essay Outline

Essay outlines are undoubtedly the unsung heroes of the writing world. They are not there just for show but play a crucial role in making your essay shine. Now, you must wonder how a basic essay outline and a good thesis statement that sums up the main points in the essay can do such a marvelous job.

Picture reading a book with pages all out of order. It will be vast chaos, right? Similarly, a simple outline for an essay ensures your essay ideas are in the correct order, making it easy for readers to follow your train of thought.

Moreover, it also helps boost your writing speed. Having a comprehensive essay outline ready in hand will give you a clear path to follow. Therefore, you will no longer waste time wondering what comes next. It is like having a GPS for your essay writing journey.

In general, an essay outline is your secret weapon for crafting clear, well-organized, and efficient essays. They are for perfectionists and anyone who wants their essays to grab the highest grade. So, don’t skip the outline next time you write an essay outline. Remember, it is your ticket to smoother and more coherent writing!

Essential Parts of Essay Outline

Crafting an effective outline for essay writing can be like trying to bake a cake without a recipe. You know you want a delicious result, but things can get messy without understanding the key components, such as a thesis statement, introduction, and the order to mix them.

Similarly, many people struggle while creating an outline because they do not fully grasp the significance of each part and how to handle it effectively. Here is a template for a basic essay outline :


It is like having all the cake ingredients but not knowing the proportions or the order to combine them for that perfect cake. Do you fall into a similar category? Stress no more. Below, you will find all the information you need about the practical essay outline parts:


The introduction is like the opening act in your standard essay outline structure. While many might think it requires a concise summary, it differs from how you should write your essay’s introduction. Firstly, the conclusion should have the hook statement of the thesis.

The introduction of a stellar essay should start with an engaging hook to grab your reader’s attention, provide some background information to set the stage, and end with a crisp and concise thesis statement that tells your reader what to expect in the main body of your essay.

An introduction is the writer’s chance to make a solid first impression and set the tone for the rest of the writing. Following this approach will leave your readers wanting to read more!

In the structure of an essay outline, the body parts of an essay are like the heart of your writing. Instead of filling it with meaningless information, you should focus on delving into your thesis statement, providing examples, supporting points, and evidence to support your arguments.

To clarify further, the main points are the big ideas you want to explore in your body paragraphs. They will act as topic sentences – the guiding stars—keeping your writing on track and your reader engaged.

In the context of a five-paragraph essay , your body paragraphs play a crucial role. Each body paragraph should focus on a main idea introduced in the opening or topic sentence. Afterward, you should include supporting points such as facts, quotes, anecdotes, or explanations to provide depth and context to your main idea.

Ultimately, you can incorporate real-life instances and credible data to strengthen your arguments further, adding credibility and persuasiveness to your essay and the main body paragraph.

By following this approach, your essay will be meaningful and convincing!

The last part of your academic expository essay outline is the conclusion – it is like the grand finale of a fireworks show. It is your chance to bring your main point back into focus.

However, instead of repeating it word by word, it is better to restate your thesis with a new perspective or a broader understanding, giving your readers a sense of closure.

Once you have restated your thesis, it is time to give your readers a quick recap. Summarize all the main points, reminding your readers of their incredible journey through your essay.

Finally, you have to add your personal touch by sharing your final thoughts on the topic or a call to action if it is relevant. Also, you can add a few sensory aspects to evoke deep thoughts in the reader.

In your detailed essay outline format, the final paragraph of your paper is where you tie everything together. You revisit your thesis, summarize your main ideas, and leave your readers with food for thought.

Common Types

While it is all up to you to decide how to organize an outline, we advise you to ensure your essay outline adheres to the requirements provided along with the essay topic. You can choose the most convenient if there’s no required system for formatting the outline. Some are widely accepted. What are those types?

Alphanumeric structure style

The alphanumeric structure is the most frequent one. It features and follows these characters in the order of Roman numerals, Capital letters, Arabic numerals, and Lowercase letters.

Every subdivision is described as Roman numbers, and then you go with capital letters, Arabic numerals, and lowercase letters, accordingly.

  • Roman numerals (I, II, III, etc.) to identify major sections of the outline. Usually, you will have five of them, each for every paragraph of the paper.
  • Capital letters (A, B, C, etc.) appear to show points in the sections.
  • Arabic numbers (1,2,3, etc.) are used for further important details.
  • Lowercase letters (a,b,c, etc.) indicate if more details are needed.


Decimal structure style

The decimal structure is similar to the alphanumeric structure but has one difference. Here we use only numerals. The added benefit of the decimal outline system relates to its decimal notation, which shows how every outline level relates to the main section.

Some people prefer this structure type because it might be easier to display the connection between each element.

  • The outline begins with 1.0 and continues with 2.0, 3.0, etc. determining the beginning of every new section.
  • For every new information point, we change the number after the dot. For instance, when we add information to the paragraph with the number 3.0, we name a new piece of information 3.1, 3.2, and so on.
  • In case further details are needed, we add more decimals. In our case, it will look like 3.1.1, 3.2.1, etc.


Steps to Creating an Outline for an Essay

Creating a good essay outline might seem easy. However, this is not true at all. Even experienced essay writers spend a lot of time creating a clear and solid outline for their essays. Your half-work is done once you have created an effective essay outline.

It is not about following rigid rules but about crafting a flexible framework that helps you express your ideas effectively.

Do you often find yourself wondering who can “ write an essay for me ”? Following the steps mentioned below, you can create a stellar outline and, as a result, write a well-structured essay on your own:

  • Understand the Essay Prompt or Choose a Topic : Consider it the starting point of your essay-writing or your writing an MLA paper journey. You either have a prompt handed to you, or you get to pick your essay topic. If you have a prompt, make sure you fully understand it. If you’re choosing a topic, pick something that genuinely interests you, making the writing process much more enjoyable.
  • Conduct Preliminary Research : It’s time to gather much information and evidence for your essay. Read the books or scroll on the internet to gather some preliminary research and provide supporting evidence. It will help you understand your topic better and get a general idea of what others have said about it.
  • Identify the Main Argument and Supporting Ideas: Imagine you’re building the skeleton of your essay. Identify the central point of your essay. It will be like the major bones, giving structure to your piece. Then, consider supporting ideas or arguments for the main point. These are like the smaller bones that provide strength and context.
  • Arrange the Points in a Logical Order : Once you have the key points identified, it is time to put them together in an organized manner to create a coherent structure, a critical aspect of constructing effective academic works. Think about the flow of your essay. How should your primary ideas be arranged to ensure a smoother information flow? It is like assembling a puzzle—each piece should fit together seamlessly.
  • Draft the Outline : In the end, you must start drafting your outline using your primary and supporting ideas. Use headings, subheadings, and bullet points to make it clear and organized. Your outline is your guide, so the choice is yours whether you want to make it a full-sentence outline (detailed) or a short-sentence outline (brief).

Tips for a Successful Essay Outline

Crafting an effective essay outline is like setting the stage for a well-organized and compelling essay. Whether you are working on an expository, descriptive, or literary analysis essay outline, the right approach can make all the difference. In this article, we will share valuable tips to help you create an essay outline that lays the foundation for your writing journey:

  • Be Specific but Concise: Avoid unnecessary complexity and get straight to the point when outlining. The more specific you are about your key points and supporting details, the more effective the outline you will create. Take it as trimming the fat off your writing—only the lean, meaningful topic sentence remains.
  • Get Rid of the Fluff: Toss all the extra words and phrases that don’t add value to your outline. Your outline should be free from unnecessary fluff. Removing it will make the essay outline simpler and more focused.
  • Use Bullet Points for Clarity: Remember, bullet points are your friends in outlining. They break down your ideas into bite-sized pieces, making your outline easy to skim and understand. It is like using road signs to navigate through your outline structure.
  • Maintain a Consistent Structure: Keep things tidy and consistent. If you make an alphanumeric outline with Roman numerals for the main points, stick with them throughout. The same goes for subheadings and bullet points. Consistency in your alphanumeric format makes your outline easy on the eyes and brain.
  • Revise and Adjust as Necessary: An essay outline is a flexible tool, not set in stone. Therefore, feel free to revise and adjust as you go along. If a new idea pops up, incorporate it. If a section doesn’t seem to fit, reorganize. Keep refining your outline until it meets your satisfaction.

By following these tips, you can create an outline for an essay. With all the strategies mentioned above, you are well-equipped to craft a successful outline.

Examples and Templates of Various Essay Outlines

Crafting an essay can sometimes feel daunting, and sometimes you need to ask PapersOwl for help . That’s where the essay outline template comes in handy. It is like a trusty guide tailored for different essay types . Each template will serve as a roadmap, ensuring your essay is well-structured. Whether you share a personal story, build a persuasive argument, or aim for your dream school, we have covered you with these templates.

Let’s discuss each one and see how they work wonders:

Template for a Narrative Essay Outline

Imagine this as a storytelling guide. In a narrative essay, you are sharing a personal story or experience. Your outline should include sections for the introduction, plot development, characters, setting, climax, and conclusion. It is like mapping out the chapters of your own life’s story.

A narrative essay is a piece of writing that tells a story about an event on something creatively. It is similar to telling a personal story, a fiction narrative, or a literacy narrative essay. It is the least complicated kind of writing because you don’t have to perform any research. The most common topic for such an essay would be “How I spent my summer vacation.” The narrative essay has to be engaging. To do so, you have to:

  • Conduct a thrilling plot.
  • Include a conflict (i.e., a protagonist and an antagonist).
  • Make bright characters.
  • Exaggerate descriptions, but do not lie.

Using your imagination is one of the best strategies for entertaining your writing. Let it fill your essay with details and language to make your story come alive. Describe smells, emotions, feelings, and so on. However, remember that, in most cases, narrative essays are real stories.


Template of Argumentative Essay Outline

An argumentative essay outline presents a clear stance and supports it with evidence. Your outline should have sections for the introduction, thesis statement, main arguments with supporting evidence, counterarguments, and a strong conclusion.

When writing such an essay, remember to:

  • Pick a topic you are interested in (the reader will always notice your disinterest).
  • Provide good arguments (be concrete).
  • Research as much as possible (surprise your reader with new facts).

When working on your argument, collect valuable sources such as scientific magazines, academic journals, documentaries, newspapers, etc.


Template of Compare and Contrast Essay Outline

In a compare and contrast essay , you are exploring two or more subjects. Your outline should include sections for the introduction, points of comparison, points of contrast, and a conclusion that ties it all together. It involves writing where you should highlight in which ways certain things are similar to and different from one another. This writing assignment stimulates critical thinking and forces you to conduct a compelling analysis.

Generally, comparative essays have an introduction (topic, theme, and thesis statement), body paragraphs, and a conclusion summarising the comparison. This article will describe only some of the processes of writing a comparison essay. However, I will provide you with specific tips:

  • Use cue words (also, like, similar to, unlike, compared to, nevertheless, etc.)
  • Be more specific in your thesis.

By the last point,  write something like “BMW and Mercedes-Benz provide the same product; however, their marketing strategy differs” instead of “This essay will compare BMW and Mercedes-Benz.”

This is what your outline should look like:


Template of Admission Essay Outline

Admission essays are your chance to stand out. Your outline should cover the introduction, your personal background, achievements, challenges faced, and why you’re a perfect fit for the institution. It’s like crafting a masterpiece self-portrait in the writing world.

These templates, such as the APA outline , offer structure and direction for different essay types, making your academic journey less daunting and more organized. So, choose the one that fits your essay type, and let it be your guiding star.

Also, before creating an essay outline, you must take some time out and search for an outline example for an essay on Google. Looking through outline essay examples can provide valuable insights into structuring your academic essays.

Benefits of the Essay Outline in the Writing Process

Imagine having a powerful tool at your disposal, one that not only simplifies your writing process but also elevates the quality of your work. An outline is that very tool, often underestimated but holding the key to success in academic and creative writing. From enhancing organization to boosting your writing efficiency, it brings an overwhelming number of advantages to the table.

Also, it acts as a lifesaver when it comes to revisions. Whether you want to rearrange paragraphs, add new points, remove irrelevant details, or need to start a planning sheet for an essay , you can do so easily without losing your way. Lastly, using an essay outline enhances the final output. It ensures your essay is well-organized, coherent, and impactful.

Therefore, it would not be wrong to say that a basic outline for an essay is a secret weapon in academic writing, making drafting easier, revisions quicker, and the final result more impressive.

Elevate Your Essay Writing with Outline

As we wrap up our journey through the art of essay outlining, let’s take a moment to savor the significance of this invaluable tool. Outlining an essay is not merely a roadmap but the key to unlocking your full potential. It makes essay setup a breeze, revisions a cinch, and elevates your final output to new heights. So, the next time you face a blank page, remember the trusty outline by your side, ready to guide you through the essay layout. With this ultimate guide in your toolkit, you’re well-equipped to craft essays that captivate, persuade, and inspire.

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How to Write an Essay Outline?

28 August, 2020

8 minutes read

Author:  Tomas White

Now that the school year has begun, you will start to receive many essay assignments. One way to organize your thoughts before writing is to create an essay outline. What is an essay outline? It's a tool that helps you organize your ideas and write a better essay. In this article, we will discuss why writing an outline for your essay is helpful, how it will improve your writing, and how to go about creating one.

Essay Outline

What is an Essay Outline?

An outline is a tool that you can use for organizing your ideas and structuring your essay in a proper manner. It should summarize your essay and help you organize your content in a logical order. An outline can guide you throughout the writing process and remind you of what you should be writing about. Most commonly, an essay is written following a 5-paragraph structure, addressing the key points that you have laid out in the outline. Below, you will find more about the proper structure of your essay outline and what these 5 paragraphs should include.

Why Do You Need It?

Sitting down to write an essay can be overwhelming. Writing an outline helps alleviate some of that frustration. Furthermore, it will help you organize thoughts, present ideas logically and with a natural flow, as well as clarify your thesis and conclusion.

Find out the basic essay information with this article: What is an Essay?

Overall, an outline will help you communicate your point in a clear and organized format. The structure of your essay will rely on the outline you compose.

Preparing Your Outline

Before you begin writing an outline for the essay, make sure you understand the assignment. Namely, what exactly is the instructor looking for? Our  essay writer  recommends you to follow these simple steps:

Writing an Essay Outline

1. Develop a Topic

The first step in your outline is to identify your topic. Once you have a clear understanding of the instructor’s expectations, begin brainstorming topics that fit within the assignment. Make a list of ideas and pick the ones that are of your interest. If you are stuck between a few ideas, begin free writing. Give yourself 5 minutes for each idea and just write everything that first comes to mind without editing or stopping. The idea that inspires you the most may just be the perfect essay topic for this assignment. In fact, essays are easier to write and read if the author is passionate about what he/she is writing.

Related Posts: Argumentative essay topics | Compare&Contrast essay topics

2. Identify the purpose, audience, and argument/ideas

Once you have developed a topic, you will need to define the purpose (or the reason) for writing this essay as well as who you are writing for. By having a clear understanding of the purpose, the audience, and the necessary arguments/ideas that need to be addressed, you will be better prepared to write an influential essay.

Purpose, audience, argument of an essay

Take a second to look back over the instructions for the assignment and ask yourself the following questions.

  • What are the objectives of the assignment?
  • Are there keywords that stand out in the instructions?
  • Are you being asked to persuade, entertain, enlighten, or educate your audience?
  • Who is your audience? Is it the teacher, the other students, or someone else?
  • What arguments or counter ideas might the audience have for your topic/idea?
  • What emotions might these ideas bring up and how can you counterbalance them with facts?

3. Develop a thesis statement

Now that you know your topic, purpose, audience and have developed your main arguments/ideas – it is time to write your thesis statement . A thesis is only one to two sentences long and highlights the question your essay will be answering. It does not state your opinion or list facts though, but rather identifies what you will be arguing for or against within the body of your essay. Keep in mind that thesis statements must be accurate, clear, and relevant to the topic.

Structuring Your Outline

Now that you have read the above information, the question is:  how to write an essay outline?

First, decide on what structure to use. There are two main essay outline formats to choose from:   alphanumeric and decimal .

The alphanumeric format uses Roman numerals (I, II, III, IV, etc), capital letters (A, B, C, D, etc.), Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.), and lowercase letters (a, b, c, d, etc.).  This one is more common than the other.

On the contrary, the decimal format only uses numbers. It begins with 1.0. Subsections add a decimal. The most important points under 1.0 would be 1.1, 1.2, etc. The subsections beneath 1.1 would be 1.1.1, 1.1.2, 1.1.3, etc. For a visual example of an essay outline scroll to the bottom of this article.

For the visual examples of the stated outline formats, scroll down to the bottom of this article.

Apply sub-section structure. The more detailed content of your essay will be found within the sub-sections, while the main sections are your fundamental ideas and arguments. Therefore, the sub-sections are the facts that support main sections. Think of the section title as the topic sentence for your paragraph and the sub-section as the tiny details that explain the idea of the topic. Notably, your sub-sections need to flow naturally from one to another.

Essay outline structure

Integrate paragraphs into your outline. Start fleshing out your section and subsection notes. Your introduction will need to include your topic and thesis statement. For a short essay, this only needs to be one paragraph long. Then, refer to your assignment instructions to clarify the length. Next is the body part – a ‘skeleton’ on which the entire essay is based. This section will consist of several paragraphs, each playing a supportive role in the filling of your thesis. The final section of your outline is the conclusion. This is a summary of everything you have stated in your essay. In this part, paraphrase your thesis statement and highlight the arguments made within the essay to support it. Remember that presenting new ideas and concepts in the concluding sentences is a big academic mistake. Rather, your final words should only emphasize the points you’ve indicated earlier and focus on the already-highlighted ideas.

Essay Outline Examples

Now, it’s time to showcase the most common essay outline types. For you to get the right idea of what an outline actually is, we have transformed the content of the article you are currently reading into an outline.

Alphanumeric format essay outline sample:

Alphanumeric Outline template

Decimal format essay outline sample:

Decimal outline example

Drawing the Line

Now that you know how to use an essay outline, you are well on your way to writing clear, persuasive essays. This tool will help you improve your writing and earn a higher grade for your essay. Now it’s time for you to get started and make use of this tool.

In case you have any questions, you are free to skim through our essay writing guide where you can find helpful information on how to plan, structure and write different types of essays.

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6 Essay Outline Template and Examples

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Amanda Green was born in a small town in the west of Scotland, where everyone knows everyone. I joined the Toastmasters 15 years ago, and I served in nearly every office in the club since then. I love helping others gain confidence and skills they can apply in every day life.

Are you writing an essay but need help figuring out where to start? Or maybe you have the beginning and middle but need to know how to end it. Check out these six essay outline templates and examples I made to help get you started. Each one is unique, but all have the same basic structure.

Once you have your outline, writing the essay will be much easier. So, download one of these templates today and get started on your next great essay!

What Is the Best Essay Outline?

what does an essay outline look like examples

The best writing essay template varies based on the essay’s purpose. You need to employ a descriptive tone when writing a narrative essay but present more facts and stats when you’re working on an argumentative one. Regardless of the type, a well-structured essay outline is what you need to get started.

Do I Need to Make an Outline for My College Essay?

The college essay is a commonly assigned personal narrative writing assignment for college admissions.

The purpose of college essays is to give admissions people insight into who you are as an individual, outside of your grades and standardized test scores . An effective college essay tells a specific story about who you are and how you have grown due to your experiences.

It should not be a list of your accomplishments or a resume of your extracurricular activities. A good college essay should be engaging and reveal something unique about you that cannot be found anywhere else in your application.

One way to ensure that your college essay is engaging and tells a unique story is to create an outline before you begin writing. By creating an outline, you will have a roadmap for your essay that will keep you on track and help you stay focused on the most important aspects of your story. An outline will also help the essay flow well and be easy to read.

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College essays are typically three to five pages long, so it is important to use your space wisely and ensure that each sentence serves a purpose. Your outline can be as basic or as detailed as you need it to be, but it should at least have an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

With a clear understanding of the structure of your essay, you will be able to craft a compelling and memorable story that will leave a lasting impression on admissions officers.

What Are the 4 Contents of an Outline?

There are four main principles to creating an outline:

  • Consistency: Always follow the standard outlining format.
  • Unity: Each letter and number in the outline must represent one idea.
  • Coherence: Ideas should have a natural flow and ideas connected.
  • Emphasis: The materials should be balanced and engaging for the audience.

What Does a Good Outline Look Like?

A good outline can distinguish between a successful essay and one that fails to engage the reader. An outline should be created before you begin writing, including a general overview of the main points you want to cover and more specific subpoints. In addition, an outline can help you to keep your argument focused and on track.

Without an outline, it is easy to wander off-topic or get sidetracked by tangential issues. By contrast, a well-crafted outline will ensure that your essay is organized and flows smoothly from beginning to end.

Why You Need an Outline for Everything You Write

When you sit down to write, whether it’s a school paper or a blog post, you probably don’t start by typing out a complete sentence. More likely, you begin with a vague idea, a few keywords, or even just a blank page. But if you want to produce something coherent and well-organized, it’s important to take some time to create an outline.

I use outlines for all my fiction novels, short stories, and screenplays. And, while it takes some work upfront, it makes the writing process flow smoothly and go faster.

An outline is simply a tool for organizing your thoughts. Listing out the main points you want to cover can help you to see the overall structure of your piece and make sure that all of your ideas fit together logically.

It can also be helpful in identifying any gaps in your reasoning or areas where you need further research. And once you’ve got a good outline, the actual process of writing will be much smoother and quicker.

So next time you’re feeling stuck or overwhelmed by a writing project, try starting with an outline. It seems like an extra step, but it will save you time and hassle in the long run.

Types of Essay Outlines: Pick the Perfect Essay Outline

There’s a variety of essays to write. Pick which template and effective essay outline work best for the kind of essay you’re doing.

Informative Essay Outline



Write an introduction that takes into account these ideas:

  • Tell the reader what you want to inform them about in two or three sentences.
  • Clearly state the topic of the essay.
  • Add informative details related to the topic.

Consider the following when writing the body of your essay:

  • Dedicate at least one paragraph to each of the ideas expressed in the essay.
  • Mention the topic of each paragraph right at its start.
  • Support your ideas with details and concise information.
  • Structure your ideas so they flow and make sense.
  • Every paragraph should have a transition into the next.
  • Include charts, tables, and graphs as needed.

Your conclusion should contain the following:

  • A brief summary of the body.
  • A reiteration of the topic discussed.
  • A satisfactory ending with key takeaways.

Narrative Essay Outline

Key elements of your introduction:

  • A hook that catches the attention of the reader.
  • Some background information on the topic to set the tone and mood.
  • Introduce the main idea of the essay.
  • Give insights about the who, when, and where.
  • Say what happened without getting into the details of the story.
  • A cliffhanger.

In the body:

  • Structure your information properly.
  • Begin with the major point of the topic.
  • Continue by adding facts, details, reasons, and evidence.
  • Explain and elaborate on the topic further.
  • Include your thoughts and feelings.
  • Use a lot of descriptive words and action verbs.
  • Make the reader feel what you felt.

In the conclusion:

  • Summarize the entire experience.
  • End with the one important thing you want your readers to remember.
  • Talk about the consequences of what happened.
  • Note how this experience changed you.
  • Do these past events still have an impact on the present?

Compare and Contrast Essay Outline

In the introduction:

  • Make a general statement about the topic.
  • Introduce what is being compared.
  • Structure the main body into ideas comparing different aspects.
  • For each idea, introduce the first difference or similarity.
  • Use examples to show the difference or similarities.
  • Make the comparison clear.
  • Reinstate the idea discussed throughout the paragraph.
  • Repeat as needed for each of the comparisons in the essay.
  • Conclude by talking about the main differences and similarities mentioned throughout the essay.
  • If needed, conclude which of the items compared is better.

Argumentative Essay Outline

  • Start with a hook that captivates the reader’s interest.
  • Consider using rhetorical questions.
  • Present background information that might be relevant to the topic.
  • Do not reveal the main arguments you’ll address in the body.
  • Make your thesis statement at the end of the intro.
  • The first sentence should transition from the intro to the body of the article.
  • Introduce the main sub-argument.
  • Link the main sub-argument to the thesis statement.
  • Offer whatever facts and stats you have to support your claim.
  • Link to external resources.
  • Summarize the significance of the claim and how it’s related to the thesis.
  • Start your conclusion with a reiteration of the thesis statement.
  • Be assertive.
  • Summarize the sub-arguments briefly.
  • Write a memorable concluding statement.

Persuasive Essay Outline

  • Start with a hook that’s relevant to the topic.
  • Form the thesis statement to state your position on the topic.
  • Pick three arguments that you will use to convince the reader of your position.
  • Write a paragraph about the first argument stated in the introduction.
  • Support your argument with examples.
  • Transition to the second idea and write a paragraph about that.
  • Use whatever facts and stats you can.
  • Include visual aid to support your claim.
  • Do this for all three paragraphs.


  • Reiterate your thesis statement and your arguments.
  • Connect the closing statement with the opening hook.

Expository Essay Outline

  • Start with a hook.
  • Ask rhetorical questions.
  • Expose the thesis statement.
  • Offer background info on the topic you want to discuss.
  • Use a transition sentence at the end of the intro.
  • An expository essay doesn’t need arguments, so it’s technically easier for the writer.
  • They have three body paragraphs that talk about topic-related issues.
  • Each claim needs to be supported with facts and evidence.
  • Cite your sources.
  • Pay attention to the quality of your sources.
  • Add a synopsis of the most important points.
  • Restate the main point being made or the thesis statement.
  • Include all of the most important information that pertains to your thesis.
  • Make connections between the information in the body and the info presented.

Best Tips for Writing an Essay

what does an essay outline look like examples

Follow these simple points when constructing your own essay.

Start With an Outline

One of the best tips for writing an essay is to start with an outline. An outline will help to organize your thoughts and ensure that you include all relevant information in your essay. An outline can also be helpful when revising your essay, as it can help you see where you need to add or delete information.

Make Sure Your Thesis Statement Is Clear

Your thesis statement should be the main point of your essay, so it must be clear and concise. A good thesis statement should be one or two sentences long and directly state your essay’s main point.

Include Supporting Evidence

To make your argument convincing, you will need to include supporting evidence. This evidence can come from statistics, expert opinions, or real-life examples. Including this type of evidence will help to strengthen your argument and make it more persuasive.

Use Transitions Between Paragraphs

When you are writing your essay, it is important to use transitions between paragraphs. Transitions help to create a logical flow between ideas and make your essay easier to read. With transitions, your essay may seem smooth and cohesive.

Choose Your Words Carefully

The words that you use in your essay can make a big difference in how effective it is. When choosing your words, be sure to select those that are precise and convey exactly what you mean. Vague or ambiguous words can make your argument sound weak and unconvincing.

Edit and Proofread Your Essay

Once you have finished writing your essay, editing and proofreading it before submitting it is important. Editing involves ensuring that your grammar and punctuation are correct and that your paper flows well and makes sense. Proofreading involves reading your paper aloud to catch any errors you may have missed when editing.

Final Thoughts

An outline is simply a tool for organizing your thoughts. It can help identify gaps in reasoning or areas where further research is needed. In English, there are different types of essays depending on what information to want to transmit. A college essay outline template can be useful when you’re looking for admission, while a persuasive essay can be helpful in a debate class.

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Types of Outlines and Samples

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Alphanumeric Outlines

This is the most common type of outline and usually instantly recognizable to most people. The formatting follows these characters, in this order:

  • Roman Numerals
  • Capitalized Letters
  • Arabic Numerals
  • Lowercase Letters

If the outline needs to subdivide beyond these divisions, use Arabic numerals inside parentheses and then lowercase letters inside parentheses. Select the "Sample Outlines" PDF in the Media Box above to download the sample of this outline.

The sample PDF in the Media Box above is an example of an outline that a student might create before writing an essay. In order to organize her thoughts and make sure that she has not forgotten any key points that she wants to address, she creates the outline as a framework for her essay.

What is the assignment?

Your instructor asks the class to write an expository (explanatory) essay on the typical steps a high school student would follow in order to apply to college.

What is the purpose of this essay?

To explain the process for applying to college

Who is the intended audience for this essay?

High school students intending to apply to college and their parents

What is the essay's thesis statement?

When applying to college, a student follows a certain process which includes choosing the right schools and preparing the application materials.

Full Sentence Outlines

The full sentence outline format is essentially the same as the Alphanumeric outline. The main difference (as the title suggests) is that full sentences are required at each level of the outline. This outline is most often used when preparing a traditional essay. Select the "Sample Outlines" PDF in the Media Box above to download the sample of this outline.

Decimal Outlines

The decimal outline is similar in format to the alphanumeric outline. The added benefit is a system of decimal notation that clearly shows how every level of the outline relates to the larger whole. Select the "Sample Outlines" PDF in the Media Box above to download the sample of this outline.

How to write an outline

An outline presents a picture of the main ideas and the subsidiary ideas of a subject. Some typical uses of outlining might be an essay, a term paper, a book review, or a speech. For any of these, an outline will show a basic overview and important details. It's a good idea to make an outline for yourself even if it isn't required by your professor, as the process can help put your ideas in order.

Some professors will have specific requirements, like requiring the outline to be in sentence form or have a "Discussion" section. A student’s first responsibility, of course, is to follow the requirements of the particular assignment. What follows illustrates only the basics of outlining.

Basic outline form

The main ideas take Roman numerals (I, II, ...) and should be in all-caps. Sub-points under each main idea take capital letters (A, B, ...) and are indented. Sub-points under the capital letters, if any, take Arabic numerals (1, 2, ...) and are further indented. Sub-points under the numerals, if any, take lowercase letters (a, b, ...) and are even further indented.

  • Subsidiary idea or supporting idea to I
  • Subsidiary idea to B
  • Subsidiary idea to 2
  • Subsidiary or supporting idea to II
  • Subsidiary idea to II

It is up to the writer to decide on how many main ideas and supporting ideas adequately describe the subject. However, traditional form dictates that if there is a I in the outline, there has to be a II ; if there is an A , there has to be a B ; and so forth.

Outline example

Suppose you are outlining a speech about gerrymandering, and these are some of the ideas you feel should be included: voter discrimination, "majority-minority" districts, the history of the term, and several Supreme Court cases.

To put these ideas into outline form, decide first on the main encompassing ideas. These might be: I. History of the term, II. Redistricting process, III. Racial aspects, IV. Current events.

Next, decide where the rest of the important ideas fit in. Are they part of the redistricting process, or do they belong under racial aspects? The complete outline might look like this:

Gerrymandering in the U.S.

  • Responsibility of state legislatures
  • Census data
  • Preclearance
  • Partisan approaches
  • Gomillion v. Lightfoot (1960)
  • Voter discrimination
  • Voting Rights Act (1965)
  • Majority-minority districts
  • Effects of gerrymandering in 2012 and 2016 elections
  • Gill v. Whitford Supreme Court Case

It is only possible to make an outline if you have familiarity with the subject. As you do research, you may find it necessary to add, subtract or change the position of various ideas. If you change your outline, ensure that logical relationship among ideas is preserved.

Helpful resources

To gain an initial familiarity with your topic, look it up in Gale Virtual Reference Library (a.k.a. "Academic Wikipedia"), a collection of entries from specialized encyclopedias. GVRL provides topic overviews, many of which are organized with an outline themselves.

Further reading

Tardiff, E., and Brizee, A. (2013). Developing an outline . In Purdue OWL . Look at all three sections. The third includes an example.

Lester, J.D., and Lester, Jr., J.D. (2010). Writing research papers: A complete guide (13th ed.). New York: Longman. Includes several models, including for a general-purpose academic paper. Check it out from the Stacks LB2369 .L4 2010.

Turabian, K.L. (2013). A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Request John Jay's copy from the Reference Desk (call number LB2369 .T8 2013).

Created by J. Dunham, 2003. Revised by R. Davis, Oct. 2017.

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What does a "good" outline look like? What does a full-sentence outline look like? How do I create one?

An outline is a tool used  to organize written ideas about a topic or thesis into a logical order. Outlines arrange major topics, subtopics, and supporting details.  Writers use outlines when writing their papers in order to know which topic to cover in what order.  Outlines for papers can be very general or very detailed. Check with your instructor to know which is expected of you.  Here are some examples of different outlines. You can also learn more by watching the short video below .

The most common type of outline is an alphanumeric outline , or an outline that uses letters and numbers in the following order:

I.      Roman Numerals

A.    I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, etc.

B.    Represent main ideas to be covered in the paper in the order they will be presented

II.    Uppercase Letters

A.   A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, etc.

B.    Represent subtopics within each main idea

III.       Arabic Numbers

   A.    1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, etc.

   B.    Represent details or subdivisions within subtopics

IV.    Lowercase Letters

   A.    a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, l, m, etc.

   B.    Represent details within subdivisions

Outline with  main ideas, subtopics, subdivisions and details :

Thesis: Drugs should be legalized.  

I. Legalization of drugs would reduce crime rates

A. Prohibition  

1. Before Prohibition, crime rate related to alcohol were low-to-medium  

2. During Prohibition, crime rates related to alcohol were high

a. Arrests for drunkenness and disorderly conduct increase 41%  

b. Federal prison population increased 366%  

3. After Prohibition, crime rates related to alcohol were very low 

B. Amsterdam/Netherlands 

1. Before Amsterdam had legalized marijuana, drug-related crime rates were high

2. After Amsterdam had legalized marijuana, drug-related crime rates dropped

II. Legalization of drugs would benefit the economy

1. Local taxes 

2. State taxes 

3. Federal taxes

B. Business Owners

1. Drug production  

2. Drug quality testing  

3. Drug sales

III. Legalization of drugs would benefit public health

A. Quality of drugs would increase

1. Fake/dangerous drugs eliminated

2. Fake/placebo drugs eliminated

3. Amount of active ingredient standardized and stabilized

B. Drug users with addiction issues would get more help

1. Hospitals

3. Public health clinics

C. Your people would be less likely to start drugs

F ull-sentence outline :

  • Each roman numeral (I, II, III, IV…) indicates the start of a new paragraph. So I. is the first sentence of the introduction, II. is the first sentence of the first paragraph of the body, III. is the first sentence of the second paragraph of the body, and so on.
  •  Each capital letter (A, B, C, D…) indicates a main point within the structure of the paragraph. So in our introduction, A. is the attention getter, B. is another attention getter, C. describes a point that makes the topic personal, and D. is the thesis statement.
  • Each Arabic numeral (1, 2, 3, 4…) indicates a sentence or piece of supporting evidence for each main point. So in the first body paragraph (II.), point A. is a general statement that needs some additional support, so 1. provides a supporting statement of fact and the citation of where that information came from. 2. provides another sentence with supporting evidence, as does 3.

Example of a full-sentence outline:

Warming Our World and Chilling Our Future

Thesis Statement: Today I want to share what I have learned about global warming and its causes.

I. Global warming is alive and well and thriving in Antarctica.

      A. In winter 1995, an iceberg the size of Rhode Island broke off.

      B. In October 1998, an iceberg the size of Delaware broke off.

      C. All of us have a lot at stake.

            1. Now, I am what you call a “country mouse.”

            2. I love the outdoors.

            3. You can be a “city mouse,” and like clean air, good water, and not having to worry about sun.

      D. Today I want to share what I have learned about global warming and its causes.

II. Global warming is a gradual warming of the Earth from human activities (citation).

      A. It is characterized by a high concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

            1. Each year five tons of CO2 are pumped into the atmosphere (citation).

            2. The carbon dioxide traps heat.

            3. 1998 set temperature records (citation).

      B. Carbon pollutants also eat a hole in the ozone layer (citation).

            1. In 1998 this hole set a size record.

            2. This allows more ultraviolet radiation to reach Earth.

      C. If this problem is not corrected; we may see disastrous results (citation).

            1. There could be dramatic climate changes.

                  a. There could be drought in the middle of continents.

                  b. There could be many severe storms.

                  c. There could be rising sea levels that would destroy coastal areas.

            2. There could be serious health problems.

                  a. There could be an increase in skin cancer.

                  b. There could be an increase in cataracts.

                  c. There could be damaged immune systems.

      D. Now that you understand what global warming is and why it is important, let’s examine its major causes.

III. The loss of woodlands adds to global warming (citation).             …..

IV. Industrial emissions accelerate global warming (citation).             …..

V. Personal energy consumption magnifies global warming (citation).             …..

VI. In conclusion, if you want to know why we have global warming, listen for the falling trees, watch the industrial smokestacks darkening the sky, and smell the exhaust fumes we are pumping into the air.

        A. Gore told a story on how global warming can sneak up on us.

        B. Addressing the National Academy of Sciences, the vice president said, “If dropped into a pot of boiling water….”

        C. The more we know about global warming, the more likely we are to jump and the less likely we are to be cooked.

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Comments (41)

  • This is very helpful. Thanks a lot! by krystal on Apr 01, 2015
  • Very nice and very helpful. I mean my parents are making me do a outline about a state. by Zelda on Apr 09, 2015
  • Very helpful, it cleared things up a lot for me, so thanks! by Roxy on Oct 05, 2015
  • Very helpful! Thank You! (Thumbs up!!) by Mavis on Oct 14, 2015
  • Were very helpful Thanks! by annette on Oct 18, 2015
  • Thank you guys this helped me out big time! It's actually saving my English grade from dropping. ;) And I really didn't know how a 'good' outline was suppose to look like soo Thank you Thank you Thank you!!!!! by Tiffanie on Nov 16, 2015
  • Thanks so much! This is perfect, especially the way you've explained what each area should contain. It's something writers need to know but so often get wrong. by Tammy on Oct 28, 2016
  • Thank you!! This was very helpful, as I am a watch and do type of person! by Alisa on Mar 23, 2017
  • The hardest part in writing a paper is the outlining. this is real good and helpful. thanks very much. by Archie on Jul 25, 2017
  • You made outlining easy for me Am forever grateful by joana jewel on Oct 02, 2017
  • This is a great video, very helpful and easy to follow. by cvelez on Apr 25, 2018
  • This was VERY helpful. Thank you! by Donna on May 18, 2018
  • Exactly what I needed. Thank you. by Sharon on Aug 12, 2018
  • i totally had no idea about the outline, thank you so much. by ngare irene on Aug 16, 2018
  • THIS!! Thank-you for taking the time to do this, I found it very helpful. by Lauren B. on Sep 22, 2018
  • After 45 minutes of surfing the web, this is the first helpful article I have come across in my attempt to find an outline example. Thank you. by Kate Metcalfe on Oct 10, 2018
  • Thank you so much. This was very helpful. The video and explanation was very easy to follow. by Linda Armstrong on Feb 18, 2019
  • Thankyou for putting the outline in full detail it helped me out alot. by Rosio on Mar 19, 2019
  • Thank you very much! Very helpful! by Loretha M on Apr 09, 2019
  • Exactly what I need. This is so helpful. Thank you!!! by My Le on May 15, 2019
  • thank you so much. it's such a big help. God Bless by flor timbal on Jun 21, 2019
  • This was extremely helpful towards my assignment that I am required to do in order to receive a grade. by Rhelle on Jul 27, 2019
  • Very, very helpful!!!!!!!! :D by Miranda S. on Aug 23, 2019
  • I found this video most useful. Thank you! by Ibironke on Sep 14, 2019
  • very helpful, its been a long time since I had to d this. This was by far the easiest to understand. Thanks, by Ms P on Apr 15, 2020
  • interesting thank you so much by Fausat Wellington on Apr 25, 2020
  • Many thanks! Very helpful, simple and effective. by Oliver on May 25, 2020
  • Great video...... Thanks by Belle on Jun 17, 2020
  • This is a great tutorial! Thanks by Jeff on Jun 22, 2020
  • This is good to explain. regards Devansh Chaurasiya by Devansh Chaurasiya on Jun 26, 2020
  • Thank you. This is very helpful. More power!!! by Gina Fatawil on Aug 11, 2020
  • This was super effective for my English class thanks!! by Jackie B on Sep 11, 2020
  • Overall, its very interesting by Yban Meradores on Sep 11, 2020
  • excellent explanations. by very helpful . Thanks on Sep 23, 2020
  • Very helpful, it makes me complete university assignment with ease by Manje on Nov 14, 2020
  • thank you ,my history teacher was making my class do outlines and i didn't know what to put in one thxs,thxs,and thxs by Maggie on Feb 17, 2021
  • Thanks just what I needed by Royce Castellanos on Apr 05, 2021
  • Thank you very much. This was really, really helpful. I had no idea how to do an outline and the other sites only says what it should be there, no examples. This was something that guided me and I could finish my outline fine. by Maria on Jun 25, 2021
  • This is wonderful, real. I have always been wondering, given a research title where do one get all the subtitles from but now I perfectly understand...Thank you. by Karen Mwangangi on Aug 09, 2021
  • Great video indeed, very helpful and understandable. by Linah on Sep 27, 2021
  • Very concise with with well thought-out examples. Thanks. by Definite on Mar 16, 2022

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