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Essay Outline: The Basic Guide for Beginners | Essaywriterforyou

essay outline

Students spend most of their time writing. As a result, college writing tasks have become a research field. There are studies on how to optimize the writing process. One of the most efficient techniques is writing an outline of your paper. You will find advice on how to how to write an essay outline in many guidelines on doing essays, and most of them out this technique in the first place as the best practical option.

What is an Essay Outline?

It is a model of your paper. While you have a vague idea of the ready text on your mind, writing an essay outline helps you to incarnate it.

Thorough revisions and editing of the ready essay text require more time and effort. Students often end writing several different essays instead of one, if some idea comes in the process and changes the direction of the narrative.

But it is different if you have an outline. You can consider it a construct of many fragments, and it is easier to manipulate them in the model.

  • When you gather the information by researching your topic, select the meaningful fragments you want to base your essay on, and put them into the outline;
  • you can change the order of the elements, visualize the logical connections between them, turn to different aspects, and evaluate how this or that variation will work. It is faster and more convenient for the writer;
  • if you remember an interesting idea and want to include it in the text, you can do it in this template and check how it fits in.

As you see, a good essay outline is a great organizing tool to get a “vision” of the essay. You know what it will be about, which data you will include and in which order, and how all significant parts will be connected. You can even decide which words and phrases you will use.

A detailed outline of an essay is 90% of the job done. The only thing that remains is to rewrite it into the text of your paper. 

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How to Write an Outline for an Essay?

This task is not so complicated as it seems. At this stage, your goal is to create a “sketch” of the future text without going into detail. Let’s review how to make an outline for an essay in practice.


Before you start to write the plan, you need to perform some preliminary tasks to define your goals:

  1. Refer to the requirements to the job and make sure that you got them all correctly;
  2. think about the audience. The tone of the text, the evidence you choose, and the general approach depend on whom you address the essay;
  3. formulate these aspects for yourself and write them down – these are your essay pillars;
  4. research the topic and note all fragments and ideas you find interesting and suitable for your papers.

Composing the Outline

You should follow the general structure of the essay. A general draft in the essay outline sample will include the following entries:

  1. The Introduction: here you will explain what your essay is about, and present the thesis statement.
  2. The Body: you prove your statement. One entry is for one statement, and the best method is to move from the general idea to the narrower and detailed aspects. The general structure of the entry is like the following:
    1. The statement;
    2. the evidence supporting the statements
  3. The Conclusion: here you summarize the text and underline the importance of the topic again.
  4. On paper (or the screen of your PC/laptop) you may organize the information visually with the help of titles and subtitles:
    1. The Title describes the more general point;
    2. The subtitle covers the parts – the evidence you will include into the text;
    3. You can have several subtitles for each title, and then splint the data to lesser fragments in the row.
  5. When you build the order of the elements – trace the logical connections between them. Make sure that each fragment of the paper is based on the previous statement, and all statements are connected with the thesis.
  6. Configure the transitions to ensure the smooth transfer between the paragraphs.

What Does an Outline Looks Like?

The ready outline of your essay would look like the multilevel list. It will have the strict definitions of the main points and the secondary entries serving to expound those points. Let’s view the essay outline example below:

  1. Title Page. This part is optional.
  2. Introduction:
    1. The hook: essays based on outlines receive better grades.
    2. The thesis statement: writing the outline helps even the inexperienced writers to create a thorough research paper.
    3. Transition phrase to the Body section: let’s see how this technique helps us in action.
  3. 3. The Body:
    1. Paragraph 1: Outline is the tool to organize thoughts:
      1. You can list all the found ideas and pick the best ones;
      2. Each time I write a text, I use the brainstorm techniques that brings dozens of ideas. Here I put them down, analyze, and choose those that will suit my goals. I base the work on them, and I am sure that I won’t miss useful things;
      3. The transition link to the next paragraph: but this is not the only advantage.
    2. Paragraph 2:
      1. The outline lets you change the plans on in passing;
      2. If you think of a different idea, you can adjust the scheme at once and see how those elements work in context or even change the whole plan. It won’t require that you rewrite the ready text;
      3. The transition link: this way it deals with meanings, and not only the written parts.
    3. Paragraph 3:
      1. The crucial role of the outline is to organize the thoughts. Many ideas and phrases wander our minds, and this method lets catch them;
      2. Like another author (name) said, the beginning of each story is a mess of fragments, but you create the order of that chaos (include the link to the source). Add more examples of your own writing experience;
      3. The transition link to the Conclusion (if this is the last paragraph of the Body section): so, we can see it is useful to create an essay outline before you create itself.

How to Do an Outline in MLA and APA Formats?

As you’ve noted, we used the so-called decimal list to illustrate the structure. This is one of the options allowed by the APA format, and we prefer the decimal form as it gives a better understanding of the primary and secondary items. However, you might need to format your outline in a different style.

The main format styles for college written works are MLA and APA.  

MLA format is the code of formatting rules that are mostly used for the works in Humanities, while APA is the default style for the works in Sciences and social studies. These codes have many similar features, and the main difference is in the citation rules.

In some cases, you might need to submit the college essay outline with the work itself, and the teacher will require a specific format. Otherwise, if you make it for your own use only, you may choose one of the formats to train yourself in formatting.   

How to Write an Outline in MLA Format?

The structure of the outline includes several main headings, and each heading has its subheading. The minor subtitles can also have several subordinate meaningful parts, and each piece can be split too. There can be up to 5 levels of detailed elaboration in an average example of an essay outline, each with its own marker.

The below structure is the same for both MLA and APA formats:

  1. Level 1 – the main idea of the paper. The marker is the Roman number with a period;
  2. Level 2 – the clarification for the main idea. The marker is the capital letter with a period;
  3. Level 3 – additional explanations. The marker is the Arabic number with a period;
  4. Level 4 – more details. The marker is the letter in a lower case with a period;
  5. Level 5 – the lowest level of the elements. Its marker is the number in parenthesis. Unlike the “higher” levels, this marker does not have a period next to it.

The essay outline format must illustrate the hierarchy by switching the “subordinate” lines to the right:Main idea.A. Clarification of the main idea of the essay.B. One more example of clarification.

  1. Additional clarification
  2. More details for clarification with examples:
    1. Feature 1.
    2. Feature 2.
    3. Feature 3.

Useful references or other minor data you want to include

How to Make an APA Outline?

For the APA format, you can refer to the structure mentioned above and use it for your outline.

There is also the rarer decimal format, it can be even more convenient for you. First, it uses Arabic numbers only, and it is easy to track the subordinate fragments. Then, it is one of the default styles for Microsoft Word, and you can format the list with one click to see the strict hierarchy. Besides, it illustrates how exactly each subordinate item refers to the higher level.

The example of the decimal format is provided above, and in general, it looks like as follows:

  • Main Title.
    • Subtitle 1.
    • Subtitle 2.
      • Fact about the subtitle 2.
      • Fact about the subtitle 2.

What is Important to Remember when Grouping Ideas into an Outline?

  • Group your ideas according to their meaning and importance. The most obvious things should be at the top, and then you should add details, examples, and references;
  • use only the trustworthy sources for your research, and note their titles, the authors’ names, and details about publication. You will need this data to create the bibliography;
  • assure that the points have direct logical connections, and you can easily track them;
  • revise the outline! Some of the ideas may turn out unnecessary, or you can detect missing points and transitions.

Expert Help with Essay Writing

The essay outlines are excellent bases for excellent papers. It helps in many aspects and lets you understand your goal and the result you need to achieve. We hope this article helps you to understand how to write an outline for an essay.

However, if you are lack of time to do this on your own – you can refer to our professional academic essay writers for help. We at Essaywriterforyou.net are glad to assist you with the task, and we can create an outline for your essay, or compose any paper on your demand. You can contact our service at any time and we will immediately begin to work on your essay!