How To Write an Outline for Your Essay

by | Nov 23, 2021 | GrammarSpot, Writing Tips | 2 comments

I don’t personally know of anyone who has set out to write an essay in order to fail. Most of us do our best in hopes of obtaining an “A” in class or a promotion at work. There are a lot of techniques you could use to get your essay written, but what is the best way? For starters, you’ll need an outline. Because I want you to succeed, I’ll show you how to write an outline to get you headed in the right direction.

How to write an outline


How To Write an Outline: What It Is

To begin, you should understand what an outline is. As you might already assume, it’s a list of what you plan to include in your paper. It’s like a brief essay without all the details. An outline portrays the main ideas of what you’re going to include, as well as a structured list of the arguments you want to make and in what order you want to make them.

You could write an essay without an outline, but you shouldn’t. Without an outline, I always seem to miss something, and I don’t think about it until after I have turned in the essay. Of course, what I missed is the most important point or the principal argument I was hoping to make, too. As a result, I’m up all night wishing I would have written the outline to begin with. Just trust me on this one.


How To Write an Outline for a Paper: Understanding Your Assignment

It’s important you understand the specifics of your assignment. Most essays call for just three supporting paragraphs, but depending on your assignment, you might need to include more. Ask yourself, “What am I trying to accomplish with this essay?” This will help you get started on a thesis.

Determine who the audience is so you can write a hook that catches on. Often times a teacher is your reader, but there is generally a larger audience. This is often determined by your topic, but it could also simply be the general public, your classmates or anyone else who might find the topic interesting.


How To Write an Essay Outline: What To Include

Most college essays are structured with five paragraphs, but you can adjust as needed depending on what you’re writing. When you know how to write an essay outline, you include each of these points:

  1. Introduction – This first paragraph will include a thesis and an introduction to your topic. You should create your thesis before you complete any other part of the outline, as it will guide the entire process.
  2. Body Paragraph One – This will include the first argument in your thesis, as well as supporting facts to back it up.
  3. Body Paragraph Two – This is a paragraph with the second argument and supporting facts.
  4. Body Paragraph Three – This is a final supporting paragraph with either an additional argument to support your thesis or a counterargument against it.
  5. Conclusion – Use the conclusion to restate your thesis, and include a summary of your three body paragraphs and a call to action.



Researching your topic is an essential step at this point in the process, as you can’t make an outline without the information you plan to include. Read news articles, dive into books, search online and conduct interviews. You can begin to whittle down all the information you collect to the most important points. Those points are what you’ll include in the outline first, then the paper.


How To Write an Outline: Examples

Sometimes, the best way to understand how to write an outline for a paper is by seeing it in action. I would outline this blog, but that would be redundant, wouldn’t it? Instead, let’s take a look at an outline for an expository essay. These are common in academic writing, often with fun topics you can put a spin on. The topic for our example is “How Students Benefit From Later School Start Times.”

The more detailed your essay outline is, the easier it will be to remember what your main points are and what you want to include in the paper. Of course, your outline doesn’t have to be this detailed. A simplified version could look something like this:

You can see how this outline is much more concise, but still gives you enough information to remember what you want to include in your paper. I guess it depends on what type of thinker you are and how many details you need to avoid writer’s block. It might also depend on how much access you have to your research materials while writing the actual paper.


How to write an outline for a paper

Do You Understand How To Write an Outline Now?

You’ve learned about the basics and you’ve seen some examples. Do you understand how to write an outline for your essay now? What’s the topic you’re writing about? I always love getting new writing ideas, so leave them in the comments below!

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