It would be best if you planned the structure of your essay before you start writing. An essay outline is perhaps one of the most underrated aspects of the essay writing process. It allows the author to paint a picture of how the argument will develop by writing short phrases or summary sentences for each paragraph.
You may need to complete and hand in an outline in some cases before writing the essay. But even if you don't need to submit one, it is recommended to develop an essay outline so you don't get off track.
At this first stage of the essay writing process, your ideas have not yet been shaped into a structured format. Ensure you fully understand the topic you are pursuing and have done some initial research on gathering sources and giving the essay a structured flow.
Categorising information is the next step in writing an essay outline. Go through the information, ideas, and data you've gathered and establish the main argument you want to make in the essay – this will form the basis of your thesis statement. Once you have a clear idea about the main point of your essay, you can organise the information in a way that enables you to address the thesis statement.
Try and arrange the information into sections relating to different facets of your argument. For example, if you're writing about a literary text, you may assemble your thoughts into themes; In an essay discussing politics, it could be the critical decisions that led to historical changes.
In most cases, your essay outline will centre around a three-themes approach. For a high school essay, you can divide the three themes into three body paragraphs. For a university-level essay, they can be split into three long sections, each comprising several paragraphs.
When creating the outline, critically analyse the points and sections to determine if any of them are redundant. It is essential to make sure every idea you cover is directly connected to your thesis statement.
Once you have organised the information into several sections, the next step is to decide the sequence they appear in the essay. An essay always begins with an introduction and ends with a conclusion, but how you organise the essay's body is entirely up to you.
Take into consideration the following points when choosing what order the material appears.
You will discuss a single idea related to your main argument in each paragraph, using points of analysis and evidence.
You can present these points as short phrases or full sentences. Broader issues can be split into sub-points.
The following template highlights how a five-paragraph essay should be structured:
The essayist can choose whether to write the outline in full sentences or key bullet points; both methods are effective. However, it is essential to be consistent in your choice.
The literary analysis outline example below emphasizes the theme of coming of age in Laura Ingalls Wilder's "By the Shores of Silver Lake."
The essay's main body comprises three themes, each of which will be examined through examples.
Link with the previous novels
Impact of Mary's blindness on the family
The burden of Laura's responsibilities
Here is an example outline for an expository essay summarizing how the conquest of Mecca in December 629 marked the beginning of the Golden Islamic Age.
The paragraphs in the outline are summarised in short phrases, while the answers are provided in full sentences.
Circumstances leading to the epic clash
Regrouping in Medina
The beginning of the golden Islamic Age
The following outline is for an argumentative essay examining the impact of online learning on conventional public libraries. It presents each point using short phrases.
The main body comprises three paragraphs, each providing arguments about the effects of online learning on the role of public libraries.
Libraries are expensive to maintain
A severe mistake to replace libraries with tablets
Libraries are more than lending books
Just like other essay types, a functional outline is essential for a narrative essay. Here is how you can structure an outline for your narrative essay.