We use cookies and similar technologies to improve your website experience and help us understand how you use our website. By continuing to use this website, you consent to the usage of cookies. Learn more about our Privacy Statement and Cookie Policy .

  • Our Mission
  • Code of Conduct
  • The Consultants
  • Hours and Locations
  • Apply to Become a Consultant
  • Make an Appointment
  • Face-to-Face Appointments
  • Zoom Appointments
  • Written Feedback Appointments
  • Support for Writers with Disabilities
  • Policies and Restrictions
  • Upcoming Workshops
  • Class Workshops
  • Meet the Consultants
  • Writing Guides and Tools
  • Schedule an appointment! Login or Register
  • For Graduate Students
  • For ESOL Students
  • For Faculty

An outline is a map of your essay. It shows what information each section or paragraph will contain, and in what order. Most outlines use numbers and/or bullet points to arrange information and convey points.

Why create an outline?

Outlining is a tool we use in the writing process to help organize our ideas, visualize our paper’s potential structure, and to further flesh out and develop points. It allows the writer to understand how he or she will connect information to support the thesis statement and the claims of the paper. An outline provides the writer with a space to consider ideas easily without needing to write complete paragraphs or sentences.

Creating your outline:

Before beginning an outline, it is useful to have a clear thesis statement or clear purpose or argument, as everything else in the outline is going to work to support the thesis. Note: the outline might help inform the thesis, and therefore your thesis might change or develop within the outlining process.

Organize your outline in whatever format fits into the structure needed for the type of paper you are writing. One common outline format uses Roman numerals, letters, and numbers. Other outlines can use bullet points or other symbols. You can use whatever organizational patterns work best for you and your paper, as long as you understand your own organizational tools. Outlines can be written using complete sentences or fragments or a mix of the two.

Remember! After creating your outline, you may decide to reorganize your ideas by putting them in a different order. Furthermore, as you are writing you might make some discoveries and can, of course, always adjust or deviate from the outline as needed.

Sample Outlines:

As you can see in the outline below, the writer chose to separate the outline by topics, but could have utilized a different structure, organizing the outline by separate paragraphs, indicating what each paragraph will do or say.

  • Introduction A. Background information B. Thesis
  • Reason 1 A. Use quotes from x B. Use evidence from y
  • Reason 2 A. Counterargument     1. They might say…     2. But…
  • Conclusion A. Connect back to thesis B. Answer the “so what” or “what now” question C. End on a memorable note

Note: The sample outline above illustrates the structure of an outline, but it is quite vague. Your outline should be as specific as possible.

Proposal Outline:

  • Summary/ Synopsis of proposed project • Rationale • Specific aims and objectives • Experimental approaches to be used • The potential significance
  • Specific Aims • X • Y • Z
  • Background and Significance • Background • Significance to current project • Significance to long-term research objectives • Critical evaluations of existing knowledge • Forward progress
  • Preliminary Data • Description of prelim data to justify the rationale • Demonstrate feasibility of the project
  • Experimental Design and Methods • Details of design and procedures • Protocols • Means of data analysis and interpretation • New methodology and its advantages • Potential technical difficulties or limitations/ alternative approaches
  • References • Citations

Note: Outlines can look quite different. You might use Roman numerals to indicate the main point or function of that section, and then letters to indicate separate sub-points, and then even bullet points or numbers to indicate specific information, like using certain quotes, sources, evidence, or examples.

Adapted From: Los Angeles Valley College Writing Center, “How to Make an Outline” 2/2/15

Northwestern University Collaborative Learning and Integrated Mentoring in the Biosciences, “A Basic Proposal Outline”

San Jose State University Writing Center, “Essay Planning: Outlining with a Purpose” Spring 2014

George Mason University Logo

The Writing Center

4400 University Drive, 2G8 Fairfax, VA 22030

Quick Links

  • Register with us

© Copyright 2024 George Mason University . All Rights Reserved. Privacy Statement | Accessibility

Wyzant Logo

How to Write an Essay Outline

Have you ever tried writing an essay without an outline? If you have, chances are your ideas went all over the place even though you started out with a specific goal in mind. So when your professor reads the paper, they won’t know what points you’re trying to make or how those points support your thesis statement. If they can’t understand what they’re reading, there’s no way they’ll grade it an A+.

That’s why you should have an essay outline to organize your research or opinions in a way that makes sense for readers. An essay outline helps you structure your writing in a logical flow to get your ideas across more effectively, which also improves your overall writing quality . As such, it also ensures that you don’t accidentally leave out the most critical points you want to convey.

If you’re reading this, you probably don’t know how to write an outline for an essay (yet) or you want to get better at it. That’s exactly what this guide will help you with. You’ll discover what goes into an essay outline and how you can write one for your next paper. Let’s get started.

What is an outline?

An outline is an organization tool that helps authors plan their writing before they start. In other words, it’s a roadmap or a blueprint of your paper. It acts as the foundation of your piece, listing out the main ideas in a logical structure that flows well. Having a topical outline in place also makes it easier to remember all the points you need to form a strong argument or support your opinions.

Although an essay outline isn’t mandatory, it helps you get the job done faster and more easily. When you start writing without a proper plan in mind, however, there could be a lot of restructuring and rewriting. This not only takes time but can be mentally taxing, and you can’t afford that especially when you have other classes to catch up with.

Writing an essay outline involves a few steps – preparation, structuring, and organization. Since this can be a lot of work, it’s best to learn from a writing tutor who will guide you through the entire process and give you hands-on training. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to learn it on your own, and this guide will give you all the basic ideas you need to cover when creating an outline.

Key elements of an essay outline

Regardless of what type of essay you’re writing, a formal essay outline typically has three essential elements – the introduction, the body, and the conclusion. Let’s take a closer look at each of these components:

The introduction

This is the section where you’ll introduce readers to your topic and describe why you’re writing about it. It needs to be relevant and attention-grabbing. When writing a college research paper outline, be sure to mention the topic and the thesis statement in your introduction.

Starting your outline with a thesis statement will give you a better sense of how to support the ideas and arguments you present in the body.

This is the section that will contain the most information and it’s where you’ll present ideas and arguments to support your thesis. It should have a minimum of three paragraphs and your outline should touch on each of them.

For each paragraph, note the topic or idea you’ll be discussing. Don’t forget to include the supporting evidence such as data, examples, expert opinions, and facts you plan to use for each paragraph.

The conclusion

This is the section where you wrap up the essay and remind readers about the points you were trying to make. Start by paraphrasing your thesis statement and summarize the purpose of your paper.

Outline formatting

In general, most formal essay outlines use a linear formatting style. This involves ranking your points or arguments in order of importance. So for example, you’ll start by discussing the most important point at the top of your essay body and then gradually move downward.

Considering all these elements, your essay outline will typically look like this:

How to Write an Outline Example.PNG

3 Questions to ask before creating an outline

Before you’re ready to create your essay outline, ask yourself the following questions so you can start with a strong direction. Having all this information in place will make it easier to put together your outline:

1: What’s your goal?

What’s the purpose of writing this paper? Perhaps you want to inform your readers about a specific topic or maybe you want to persuade them to accept your argument. Identifying your goal will help you form a strong thesis statement as well.

2: Who will read it?

For whom are you writing your essay? Yes, you’ll consider writing for a professor when preparing a college research paper outline, but they aren’t your only target audience. Perhaps you’re writing for your classmates and peers, or you’re writing for experts in your field.

If you’re writing a college application essay, for instance, your target audience will be the members of the admissions committee. This means you should be writing for students, staff, and professors alike.

Identifying your target audience will help you understand how to form convincing arguments while considering their knowledge and points of view.

3: What’s your thesis statement?

Now based on the goal of your essay, come up with a strong thesis statement that details your argument and draws in the readers.

Structuring your outline

Once you have a goal and a thesis statement ready, it’s time to structure your essay outline. You can either use an alphanumeric outline structure like we’ve done in the above example, or you can also go for a decimal structure depending on what’s clearer to you.

Alphanumeric format:

Outline Example Alphanumeric.PNG

Decimal format:

How to Write an Outline in Decimal Format.PNG

Remember, this isn’t your full essay yet so feel free to briefly outline your ideas in fragmented sentences. However, a college research paper outline will most likely need complete sentences if your professor is going to review it. This will help them understand the ideas and arguments you plan on presenting in your essay.

Putting this all together

Now let’s get to the main event – organizing your essay outline. Follow the topical outline structure of your choice and begin by outlining the introduction. In a sentence, describe the topic you’re writing about. Then follow up with your thesis statement.

You might also want to include an essay hook to make your paper even more enticing for readers. An essay hook is the opening sentence of your introduction, which instantly draws in readers and makes them want to read the entire piece. It could be anything from a relevant quote or a common misconception to an anecdote or a personal story.

Next, outline the body of your essay by noting down the topic or argument for each paragraph. Include the supporting evidence you plan on using such as stats , facts, examples, and expert opinions. Don’t forget to mention how the evidence ties in with the topic and thesis statement.

It will help to include a transition sentence in each paragraph so you can quickly structure your arguments in a logical flow. When you add more details to your essay outline, you’ll find it much easier to organize all the info as you write.

Finally, end it with an outline of your essay conclusion. Make sure you restate your thesis statement to remind your readers of your argument. Then follow up with a concluding statement to validate your thesis and propose any solution or plan to address the issue discussed in your essay.

Outline examples for different types of essays

While it’s helpful to read articles that tell you what to do and how to do it, working with a personal English tutor can give you a much more practical experience in writing essay outlines. Another excellent solution is to learn from example . So we’ve put together outline examples for the most popular types of essays:

Argumentative essay outline example

An argumentative essay, also known as a persuasive essay, involves using logical arguments to support your opinion and persuade readers. This type of persuasive writing will require solid evidence to back up your theory or argument such as facts, research, and examples.

Writing an Outline.PNG

Narrative essay outline example

A narrative essay is a form of descriptive writing where you narrate a story based on your personal experience or point of view. This is the easiest type of essay because it doesn’t require any research or supporting evidence. However, the most challenging part is providing specific and sensory details that would help readers understand your point of view.

Outline Topic Sentence.PNG

Research essay outline example

A research essay is a form of academic writing which involves analyzing the works of other people on a certain topic and build on them using your own opinions or ideas. This is the most common type of essay you’ll have to write as a grad or post-grad student. It can be challenging as it requires plenty of research, coupled with original ideas and critical thinking.

Research Paper Outline Example.PNG

Get ready to write sensational essays

All the tips and examples we’ve provided above will help you understand how and where to begin your essay writing process . It all starts with a good essay outline to organize your thoughts and structure your writing flow. Otherwise, you’ll end up losing your train of thought while you’re in the middle of writing. So make the most of our guide to develop your essay and outline writing skills.

Jacqueline Zote

Jacqueline Zote is a copywriter with a passion for all things relating to the English language. Her interests range from pop culture and mythology to social activism. Her short fiction has appeared in anthologies published by HarperCollins Publishers and Zubaan Books.

Latest Posts

an outline help your essay to

Why Do Kanji Have Multiple Readings?

an outline help your essay to

How to Type Katakana

an outline help your essay to

Does Wyzant Have Japanese Tutors?

Get to know us

In the News

Learn with us

Find a Tutor

Request a Tutor

Online Tutoring

Get Math Help

Learning Resources

Work with us

Careers at Wyzant

Apply to Tutor

Tutor Job Board

Download our free app

Let’s keep in touch

Feeling a little lost?

Start here or give us a call: (312) 646-6365


Algebra Tutors

Calculus Tutors

Chemistry Tutors

Computer tutors

Elementary Tutors

English Tutors

Geometry Tutors

Language Tutors

Math Tutors

Music Lessons

Physics Tutors

Reading Tutors

Science Tutors

Spanish Tutors

Statistics Tutors

Test Prep Tutors

Writing Tutors


Atlanta Tutors

Boston Tutors

Brooklyn Tutors

Chicago Tutors

Dallas Tutors

Denver Tutors

Detroit Tutors

Houston Tutors

Los Angeles Tutors

Miami Tutors

New York City Tutors

Orange County Tutors

Philadelphia Tutors

Phoenix Tutors

San Francisco Tutors

Seattle Tutors

San Diego Tutors

Washington, DC Tutors

Making educational experiences better for everyone.

Comprehensive K-12 personalized learning

Rosetta Stone

Immersive learning for 25 languages

Fun educational games for kids


Adaptive Learning for English vocabulary


35,000 worksheets, games, and lesson plans


Spanish-English dictionary, translator, and learning

  • Try for free

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!

Featured High School Resources

Vocabulary Building Activities and Templates

Related Resources

sandbbox logo

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

On this Page

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.

Essay Outliner

Easily Outline Your Essays In Seconds!

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.

Order Essay

Paper Due? Why Suffer? That's our Job!

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

Tough Essay Due? Hire Tough Writers!

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?  5StarEssays.com is here to help you. All your  do my essay for me  requests are managed by professional essay writers.

Place your order now, and our team of expert academic writers will help you.

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.

Was This Blog Helpful?

Keep reading.

  • How to Write an Essay - A Complete Guide with Examples

Essay Outline

  • The Art of Effective Writing: Thesis Statements Examples and Tips

Essay Outline

  • Writing a 500 Word Essay - Easy Guide

Essay Outline

  • What is a Topic Sentence - An Easy Guide with Writing Steps & Examples

Essay Outline

  • 220 Best Transition Words for Essays

Essay Outline

  • Essay Format: Detailed Writing Tips & Examples

Essay Outline

  • How to Write a Conclusion - Examples & Tips

Essay Outline

  • Essay Topics: 100+ Best Essay Topics for your Guidance

Essay Outline

  • How to Title an Essay: A Step-by-Step Guide for Effective Titles

Essay Outline

  • How to Write a Perfect 1000 Word Essay

Essay Outline

  • How To Make An Essay Longer - Easy Guide For Beginners

Essay Outline

  • Learn How to Start an Essay Effectively with Easy Guidelines

Essay Outline

  • Types of Sentences With Examples

Essay Outline

  • Hook Examples: How to Start Your Essay Effectively

Essay Outline

  • Essay Writing Tips - Essential Do’s and Don’ts to Craft Better Essays

Essay Outline

  • How To Write A Thesis Statement - A Step by Step Guide

Essay Outline

  • Art Topics - 200+ Brilliant Ideas to Begin With

Essay Outline

  • Writing Conventions and Tips for College Students

Essay Outline

People Also Read

  • exemplification essay
  • essay writing tips
  • how to write a rhetorical analysis essay
  • how to write a literature review
  • compare and contrast essay topics

Burdened With Assignments?

Bottom Slider


  • Homework Services: Essay Topics Generator

© 2024 - All rights reserved


95% Satisfaction RATE

30 Days Money-back GUARANTEE

95% Success RATE


Privacy Policy | Terms & Conditions | Contact Us

© 2024 5StarEssays.com. All rights reserved.


  • LOG IN Processing...


  • Your phone no.
  • Password Password must be minimum 8 characters.
  • Confirm Password
  •    I have read Privacy Policy and agree to the Terms and Conditions .
  • SIGN UP Processing...



How To Write An Essay Outline: Tips And Examples

  • What Is An Outline?
  • Why Are Outlines Helpful?
  • Parts Of An Outline

To outline or not to outline: that is the age-old question. For a lot of people, outlines are a way to organize thoughts and gather information before they start writing, which can often save valuable time later on. But some writers prefer to craft essays more loosely, adding material and shaping their supporting paragraphs as they go.

Whether you’re new to outlines (or writing, period) or you’re just looking to hone your skills at crafting the perfect essay outline, there are some important things to know about the process. Follow along as we break down the why and the how of writing an effective outline and provide a step-by-step guide that will make writing your next essay a total cinch.

What is an outline?

An outline is “a general sketch, account, or report, indicating only the main features, as of a book, subject, or project.” In other words, it’s like a brief summary of the topics you plan to cover in a longer piece of writing.

In writing an outline, you create the skeleton of your essay, which provides a supportive structure on which you can arrange and organize each of your paragraphs. This helps you clarify the points you intend to make in your writing and also gives you an opportunity to tailor your research, which can make the writing process much easier later on.

Why are outlines helpful?

If you aren’t typically an outline writer, you might be wondering if you really need to put in the extra work to create one. Ultimately, everyone has a different writing style, and only you know what’s going to work for you, but here are four major reasons why many people find the outlining process helpful:

1. Outlines are brief and concise.

Remember: an outline is not the same thing as a rough draft. In an outline, each section contains only a sentence or two, and each topic is distilled to a single main idea.

2. Outlines help you write more efficiently.

You don’t have to worry about rambling or repeating the same statistic several times. You decide exactly where information belongs before you start writing.

3. Outlines are easy to edit.

You can move facts, details, and even entire sentences around easily without needing to rewrite whole paragraphs.

4. Outlines ensure supporting details connect to the thesis.

Once you see all of your work laid out, you might realize that certain paragraphs can be combined or that your conclusion doesn’t actually tie back to your thesis. Isn’t it nice to notice these potential errors before you’ve finished a draft?

Writer’s block? It’s part of the process. Here are some tips to overcome it and get your words flowing again.

The parts of a standard essay outline

Now that you understand the “why” behind writing an essay outline, let’s talk about how to do it. Here are the main parts to include in any essay outline:


In an outline, your introduction consists of your thesis statement . This is a single sentence that states the subject, main idea, or main purpose of your essay.

When you write your essay, you will add a few sentences before and after your thesis statement to grab your reader’s interest and preview your essay’s main points. For the outline, you only need to narrow your point of view to a single, effective thesis that will inform the rest of the outline.

Body paragraphs

Body paragraphs are the parts of the essay in which you present information to back up your thesis. First, you’ll need to decide if you’re writing a three-paragraph essay or a five-paragraph essay . You may have anywhere from one to three body paragraphs, depending on what type you choose.

Each body paragraph in your outline should have:

  • A main idea that aligns with your thesis.
  • A topic sentence stating the main idea.
  • A bulleted list of relevant research, quotes, anecdotes, and/or statistics.

Much like the introduction, your outline’s conclusion is all about your thesis statement. Here, you should:

  • Restate your thesis
  • Summarize the main points that support your thesis.
  • Leave your reader with an impactful final thought or call to action.

Make Your Writing Shine!

  • By clicking "Sign Up", you are accepting Dictionary.com Terms & Conditions and Privacy policies.
  • Phone This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Example of a standard essay outline

Now that you know the parts of an essay outline, it might help to see them in action. Here’s an outline format you can use to plan your own essays, filled in with examples of a thesis statement, topic sentences for your body paragraphs, and the main parts of a strong conclusion.

  • Thesis statement: There’s a lot of debate about which food category hot dogs fit into, but it’s clear from the evidence that a hot dog is a type of sandwich.

Body paragraph #1

  • Topic sentence: To begin, hot dogs fit the dictionary definition of the word sandwich.
  • Supporting detail: Sandwich is defined as “two or more slices of bread with a layer of meat, fish, cheese, and whatever other filling you’d like between them.”
  • Supporting detail: A hot dog is a grilled or steamed sausage, usually made of pork or beef, which qualifies as a layer of meat.
  • Supporting detail: Hot dog buns are split rolls, similar to the ones used for deli sandwiches.

Body paragraph #2

  • Topic sentence: Secondly, hot dogs meet the legal definition of sandwiches in many places.
  • Supporting detail: Mark Wheeler, a food safety specialist with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), says the organization defines a sandwich as “a meat or poultry filling between two slices of bread, a bun, or a biscuit.”
  • Supporting detail: In New York state, tax law lists “hot dogs and sausages on buns” as types of sandwiches.
  • Supporting detail: Additionally, tax law in California clearly includes “hot dog and hamburger sandwiches” served from “sandwich stands or booths.”

Body paragraph #3

  • Topic sentence: Finally, most Americans agree that hot dogs are sandwiches.
  • Supporting detail: In a poll of 1,000 people conducted by RTA Outdoor Living, 56.8% of respondents agreed a hot dog is a sandwich.
  • Supporting detail: Many fast food chains that serve primarily burgers and sandwiches, like Five Guys burgers and Shake Shack, also sell hot dogs.
  • Supporting detail: Lexicographers at Dictionary.com have also declared that hot dogs officially meet the criteria to be included in the sandwich category. (Curious? Read the article here for this and other great food debates explained .)
  • Restatement of thesis: Hot dogs are a unique kind of food, but the evidence makes it clear that they are indeed a type of sandwich.

Now, get to planning that perfect essay! (But if you’re hungry for a snack first, we don’t blame you.)

Plan and write a five-paragraph essay that will earn your instructor's own five—high five, that is!

an outline help your essay to

Ways To Say

Synonym of the day

Pasco-Hernando State College

  • The Writing Process
  • Parts of an Academic Essay
  • Rhetorical Modes as Types of Essays
  • Stylistic Considerations
  • Literary Analysis Essay - Close Reading
  • Unity and Coherence in Essays
  • Proving the Thesis/Critical Thinking
  • Appropriate Language
  • Sample Essay - Fairies
  • Sample Outline - Modern Technology
  • Sample Outline - Physical Fitness

Related Pages

  • Paragraphs and Essays

What is an outline?

An outline of an academic essay contains the thesis and brief information about the proof paragraphs. .

The  proof paragraphs  are the paragraphs between the introduction paragraph and the concluding paragraph.  Proof paragraphs contain evidence, also called supporting details, that the thesis is accurate.

An outline  is like a skeleton of the essay.  Outlines for academic essays and research papers that are not reports on research or other specialized report have a very specific organization.  Here is a sample for a 500-word essay.  The number of body paragraphs will vary, generally from two to four, for a 500-word essay.

Thesis and Supporting Details (Body Paragraphs)

Thesis : A one-sentence answer taking a position on the research question or, if assigned a topic and not a question, the thesis is a one-sentence statement taking a position on a controversial aspect of the topic.  The thesis must be a statement, not a question.  The thesis must be a sentence, not a topic.  See Thesis in Related Links on the right sidebar..

I. One reason why your thesis is accurate.

A.  Supporting detail

B.  Supporting detail

II. Second reason why your thesis is accurate.

III.  Third reason why your thesis is accurate.

A. Supporting detail

B. Supporting detail

Concluding paragraph

  sums up proof and restates thesis and/or draws an implication from the information presented as to significance depending upon instructions..

For a shorter essay, possibly only two body paragraphs will be needed.  For a longer essay, you may need more proof paragraphs.  

Note that the outline begins with the thesis statement.  What you intend to put into the introduction paragraph as background information leading up the thesis is not part of the outline.

Note that I, II, and III represent what will go into the body (proof paragraphs).

Note that the outline does not ordinarily include a reference to the concluding paragraph even though we have listed it above, but all essays must have a concluding paragraph.

How outlining helps in writing an essay

There are three ways that an outline can help you in writing your essay..

It helps to organize your thought or research, if you are writing a research paper, into a writing plan.

It can also help you decide what information should be included and which information is not really needed.

Finally, it can also help you manage the large amount of information you need to sort in order to write a well supported paper.

Once you have an outline, you can actually write the essay from the outline.  Just open the file, delete the word Thesis and the paragraph numbering, add background information before the thesis, develop details for each proof paragraph, and write the concluding paragraph.

How to create an outline

An outline must start with a thesis statement: a one-sentence statement (not a question) taking a position answering a research question (if given a research question to answer) or taking a position on a controversial aspect of a topic (if given a topic on which to write a paper).

Sometimes, you know your position and can easily start with a thesis. If you also know your reasons why you are taking that position, you can simply list your reasons (I, II, …).

At other times, you may not be sure and have to do some thinking or research on the issue.   Let’s take the question “Why don’t some Americans vote?” If this is not a research paper, you might have to do some brainstorming before you can come up with a thesis: a one-sentence answer to the question.  If this is a research essay (research paper), you will do some research. Creating a working bibliography (a list of sources) or doing a synthesis activity can be very helpful for gathering ideas.

Whether you are required to do research or not, the first step is determining a thesis statement.   From brainstorming and/or research, you may have identified the several reasons some people don’t vote as follows:

Age restrictions

Believe that the system is fixed

Believe nothing will ever change

Don’t know where to go to vote

Physically disabled

Don’t know where to register

Happy with the status quo

Believe their vote doesn’t count

Can’t vote because of incarceration

Don’t know when to vote

Not an important part of upbringing/culture

Felony conviction

Don’t know what identification is needed

Illegal status

Receiving false information about where to vote

Now, we have to cluster these points into categories so that they can be discussed in an organized way in the essay.  We can see that there are some general reasons such as legal barriers, confusion about how to register or where to vote, and lack of concern or interest where people just don’t think voting would change anything.

I.   Lack of concern or interest

II.  Confusion

III. Legal barriers

Looking over the notes that you made from your brainstorming or research, the next step is to eliminate duplications and group ideas under the categories.  Depending on the assignment length, you don’t necessarily have to include everything you find.

For example:

Age restrictions - proof paragraph   III

Believe that the system is fixed - proof paragraph I

Believe nothing will ever change - proof paragraph I

Don’t know where to go to vote - proof paragraph  II

Physically disabled - proof paragraph II

Don’t know where to register - proof paragraph  II

Happy with the status quo - proof paragraph I

Too young - proof paragraph - proof paragraph III

Believe their vote doesn’t count - proof paragraph  I

Can’t vote because of incarceration - proof paragraph III

Don’t know when to vote - proof paragraph II

Not an important part of upbringing/culture - proof paragraph I

Felony conviction - proof paragraph III

Don’t know what identification is needed - proof paragraph   II

Illegal status - proof paragraph III

Receiving false information about where to vote - proof paragraph II

Now you have a rough outline. You have your three major causes and some details that support each. The next step is to make a solid thesis.

The most important part of your paper is the thesis. A good thesis clearly answers your research question and will provide guidance to the reader about the direction and scope of your paper. Make sure that your thesis is a defensible point that others could reasonably disagree. For this paper a reasonable thesis could be: Three major reasons that Americans do not vote are apathy, confusion, and legal barriers.

Next it is time to think about the body of your essay. Since the thesis very clearly shows the three main points, you can use these along with the grouped details you sorted earlier. As you are making your outline you may discover that you have more ideas than you can fit into your paper’s length or that you have gone beyond the scope of your topic. If so, feel free to remove some ideas. For example, because you have many different types of ideas listed under legal barriers, you may wish to remove the weakest or least supported detail.

Some instructors also require that you include a concluding statement. Remember that this statement should simply be a restatement of your thesis and should never introduce new ideas or begin a new discussion. 

This is an acceptable outline to the research questions we’ve developed here:

Your Instructor’s Name

Course Title

Day Month Year

Thesis: Three major reasons that Americans do not vote are apathy, confusion, and legal barriers.

I.  Lack of concern or interest

A.  Disbelief in the system

1.  One vote doesn’t matter

2.  Voting is tampered with

B.  Social/culturally not valued

C.  Satisfaction with the status quo

A.  Location

1.  Where to register

2.  Where to vote

B.  When to vote

C.  What documents are needed

III.  Legal barriers

A.  Incarceration

B.   Conviction of a felony

C.  Immigration status

Concluding paragraph:  Sum up proof and restate thesis and/or draw an implication from the information presented showing the significance depending upon your instructions.

Note that this outline has three support details for each reason your thesis is right (each proof point – I, II, III).  Sections I, II, and III each represent one body (proof) paragraph.  Each body paragraph in the essay must begin with a topic sentence that is a reason your thesis is accurate.  This may vary from essay to essay.  What is described here is more like a scratch outline or topic outline which gives just the general ideas.  A formal outline would include detailed sentences and subsections. These are called  sentence outlines.   In a sentence outline, the sentence next to each I, II, and III must be a topic sentence which clearly expresses what point that shows the thesis is right will be shown in the paragraph.  

See Related Pages on the right sidebar for more information.

  • Printer-friendly version

Printer Friendly, PDF & Email

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.

A life lesson in Romeo and Juliet taught by death

A life lesson in Romeo and Juliet taught by death

Due to human nature, we draw conclusions only when life gives us a lesson since the experience of others is not so effective and powerful. Therefore, when analyzing and sorting out common problems we face, we may trace a parallel with well-known book characters or real historical figures. Moreover, we often compare our situations with […]

Ethical Research Paper Topics

Ethical Research Paper Topics

Writing a research paper on ethics is not an easy task, especially if you do not possess excellent writing skills and do not like to contemplate controversial questions. But an ethics course is obligatory in all higher education institutions, and students have to look for a way out and be creative. When you find an […]

Art Research Paper Topics

Art Research Paper Topics

Students obtaining degrees in fine art and art & design programs most commonly need to write a paper on art topics. However, this subject is becoming more popular in educational institutions for expanding students’ horizons. Thus, both groups of receivers of education: those who are into arts and those who only get acquainted with art […]

  • PRO Courses Guides New Tech Help Pro Expert Videos About wikiHow Pro Upgrade Sign In
  • EDIT Edit this Article
  • EXPLORE Tech Help Pro About Us Random Article Quizzes Request a New Article Community Dashboard This Or That Game Popular Categories Arts and Entertainment Artwork Books Movies Computers and Electronics Computers Phone Skills Technology Hacks Health Men's Health Mental Health Women's Health Relationships Dating Love Relationship Issues Hobbies and Crafts Crafts Drawing Games Education & Communication Communication Skills Personal Development Studying Personal Care and Style Fashion Hair Care Personal Hygiene Youth Personal Care School Stuff Dating All Categories Arts and Entertainment Finance and Business Home and Garden Relationship Quizzes Cars & Other Vehicles Food and Entertaining Personal Care and Style Sports and Fitness Computers and Electronics Health Pets and Animals Travel Education & Communication Hobbies and Crafts Philosophy and Religion Work World Family Life Holidays and Traditions Relationships Youth
  • Browse Articles
  • Learn Something New
  • Quizzes Hot
  • This Or That Game New
  • Train Your Brain
  • Explore More
  • Support wikiHow
  • About wikiHow
  • Log in / Sign up
  • Education and Communications
  • Writing Techniques
  • Planning Your Writing

How to Write an Outline

Last Updated: February 17, 2024 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Emily Listmann, MA and by wikiHow staff writer, Danielle Blinka, MA, MPA . Emily Listmann is a private tutor in San Carlos, California. She has worked as a Social Studies Teacher, Curriculum Coordinator, and an SAT Prep Teacher. She received her MA in Education from the Stanford Graduate School of Education in 2014. There are 8 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 3,945,478 times.

An outline is a great way to organize ideas and information for a speech, an essay, a novel, or a study guide based on your class notes. At first, writing an outline might seem complicated, but learning how to do it will give you an essential organizational skill! Start by planning your outline and choosing a structure for it. Then, you can organize your ideas into an easy to understand outline.

Quick Outline Slideshow

Sample outlines.

an outline help your essay to

Planning Your Outline

Step 1 Decide if you will write your outline by hand or type it.

  • Some people process their ideas better when they write them down. Additionally, you can easily draw diagrams or examples, which might help you conceptualize the subject. However, it might take longer to write out your outline, and it won't be as neat.
  • Typing your outline might be easier if your notes are already typed on the computer, as you can just copy and paste them into your outline. Copying and pasting also allows you to easily rearrange your sections, if necessary. Also, it will be easier to copy and paste information from your outline into your paper if you type your outline. On the other hand, it's harder to jot down notes in the margins or draw out organizational diagrams.

Step 2 Narrow down your topic.

  • If you’re working on a creative project, such as a novel, identify your concept, genre, or premise. Then, allow the outlining process to help you structure your work.
  • It’s okay if your topic is somewhat broad when you first start, but you should have a direction. For example, your history paper topic could be French life during the German occupation of France in World War II. As you write your outline, you might narrow this down to the resistance fighters called maquisards .

Step 3 Identify the purpose of your outline, such as inform, entertain or reflect.

  • For a school assignment, review the assignment sheet or talk to your instructor. If the outline is for work, use an existing outline as a model for yours.
  • If you are the only person who will see the outline, you can choose formatting that works for you. For example, you might write your outline in shorthand.

Step 5 Assemble your notes, research or supporting materials, if applicable.

  • Paraphrased ideas
  • Historical facts

Step 6 Brainstorm to identify your argument or main ideas.

  • Freewrite as ideas come to you.
  • Create a mind map .
  • Write your thoughts on index cards.

Step 7 Develop a thesis...

  • For example, you may be writing a paper about policy change. Your thesis might read, “Policy makers should take an incremental approach when making policy changes to reduce conflict, allow adjustments, and foster compromise.” Each of the 3 reasons listed in your thesis will become its own main point in your outline.

Structuring Your Outline

Step 1 Write an alphanumeric outline for the easy approach.

  • Roman Numerals - I, II, III, IV, V
  • Capitalized Letters - A, B, C
  • Arabic Numerals - 1, 2, 3
  • Lowercase Letters - a, b, c
  • Arabic Numerals in Parentheses - (1), (2), (3)

Step 2 Make a decimal outline to highlight the relationship between ideas.

  • 1.1.1 - Each side presents a case before the vote
  • 1.1.2 - Citizens voice their opinion
  • 1.2 - Neither side gets everything they want

Step 3 Decide if you want to write full sentences or short phrases.

  • You might use short phrases to quickly organize your ideas, to outline a speech, or to create an outline that’s just for you.
  • You might use full sentences to make it easier to write a final paper, to make a good study guide, or to fulfill the requirements of an assignment.

Organizing Your Ideas

Step 1 Group your ideas together.

  • If you jotted down your ideas or made a mind map, use different colored highlighters to identify ideas that belong in the same group.
  • Sort your index cards, if you used them to brainstorm. Put cards with related ideas together. For example, you can put them in stacks, or you can line your cards out in rows to make them easier to read.

Step 2 Put each group in order from broad ideas to specific details.

  • For example, your main point might be that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein champions emotion over reason. Your subpoints might be that Victor Frankenstein is restored by nature and that his scientific efforts create a monster. As supporting details, you might include quotes from the book.
  • If you're writing a story or presenting a historical argument, a chronological order makes sense. For an essay or speech, pick the subtopic with the most supporting materials, and lead with this argument. From there, order your major subtopics so each one naturally flows into the next.
  • Your broad ideas should connect back to your thesis or controlling idea. If they don’t, rewrite your thesis to reflect the main ideas you’re putting into your outline.

Step 3 Outline your introduction as the first main point for a speech or essay.

  • Hook to grab the audience
  • 1-2 general statements about your topic

Step 4 Create your body headings, if you haven’t already.

  • Phrase outline: II. Frankenstein champions emotion over reason
  • Full sentence outline: II. In Frankenstein , Mary Shelley champions the use of emotion over reason.

Step 5 Write at least 2 subpoints for each main idea.

  • Depending on the purpose of your outline, you might have more subpoints. For example, a novel may have many subpoints. Similarly, a study guide will likely have several subpoints, as well.

Step 6 Add at least 2 supporting details for each subpoint.

  • In an essay, this is often where you “prove” your argument.
  • For a creative work, you might include essential details you must include in that scene, such as an internal conflict in your main character.
  • Similar to subpoints, you may have more supporting details, depending on your purpose. A novel or study guide will likely have more supporting details.

Step 7 Include more layers of your outline, if necessary.

  • Roman Numeral
  • Capital Letter
  • Arabic Numeral
  • Lowercase Letter
  • Arabic Numeral in Parentheses

Step 8 Outline your conclusion, if you’re writing an essay or speech.

  • Restate your thesis.
  • 1-2 summarizing sentences.
  • Write a concluding statement.

Finalizing Your Outline

Step 1 Read over your outline to make sure you’ve achieved your purpose.

  • This also gives you a chance to look for missing parts or ideas that aren’t fully fleshed. If you see areas that leave questions unanswered, it’s best to fill in those gaps in information.

Step 2 Revise your outline if ideas are missing or not fleshed out.

  • If you are making an outline for yourself, you might not worry about this.

Step 3 Edit your outline if you’re turning it in for an assignment.

  • It’s a good idea to have someone else check it for errors, as it’s often hard to recognize errors in your own work.
  • While you edit your outline, refer back to your assignment sheet or rubric to make sure you've completely fulfilled the assignment. If not, go back and correct the areas that are lacking.

Step 4 Add layers if necessary.

  • You can use more layers if you want to include more information.
  • You might also include additional layers for a long creative work or a detailed study guide.

Expert Q&A

Emily Listmann, MA

  • Be concise and straightforward in your outline. This doesn't have to be perfectly polished writing; it just has to get your point across. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • Don't be afraid to eliminate irrelevant information as you conduct more research about your topic and narrow your focus. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • You can use outlines as a memorization tool . Choose concise words to trigger a concept. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

an outline help your essay to

  • Generally, you should avoid only having one point or sub-point on any outline level. If there is an A, either come up with a B or fold A's idea into the next level up. Thanks Helpful 3 Not Helpful 2
  • Your outline should not be your essay in a different form. Only write down the major assertions, not every single detail. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 1

You Might Also Like

Organize an Essay

  • ↑ https://www.iup.edu/writingcenter/writing-resources/organization-and-structure/creating-an-outline.html
  • ↑ https://academicguides.waldenu.edu/writingcenter/writingprocess/outlining
  • ↑ https://www.ndsu.edu/pubweb/~cinichol/271/OutlinesHowTo.htm
  • ↑ https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/544/02/
  • ↑ https://www.writersdigest.com/write-better-fiction/7-steps-to-creating-a-flexible-outline-for-any-story
  • ↑ https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/544/03/
  • ↑ https://writing2.richmond.edu/writing/wweb/outline.html

About This Article

Emily Listmann, MA

The easiest way to write an outline is to gather all of your supporting materials, like quotes, statistics, or ideas, before getting started. Next, go over your materials and take notes, grouping similar ideas together. Then, organize your ideas into subtopics and use your materials to provide at least two supporting points per subtopic. Be sure to keep your outline concise and clear, since you’ll have to refer to it later! For more help on how to plan and organize your outline, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

  • Send fan mail to authors

Reader Success Stories

Zoe Astra

Apr 22, 2018

Did this article help you?

an outline help your essay to

Kember Miller

Jan 14, 2018

S. Senpai

Oct 25, 2017


Sep 26, 2016

Ruth Ada

Apr 26, 2022

Am I a Narcissist or an Empath Quiz

Featured Articles

Arrange Furniture in a Small Bedroom

Trending Articles

What is Golden Child Syndrome? 7 Signs You Were the Golden Child

Watch Articles

Wrap a Round Gift

  • Terms of Use
  • Privacy Policy
  • Do Not Sell or Share My Info
  • Not Selling Info

Don’t miss out! Sign up for

wikiHow’s newsletter

Have a language expert improve your writing

Check your paper for plagiarism in 10 minutes, generate your apa citations for free.

  • Knowledge Base
  • College essay

How to Write a College Essay | A Complete Guide & Examples

The college essay can make or break your application. It’s your chance to provide personal context, communicate your values and qualities, and set yourself apart from other students.

A standout essay has a few key ingredients:

  • A unique, personal topic
  • A compelling, well-structured narrative
  • A clear, creative writing style
  • Evidence of self-reflection and insight

To achieve this, it’s crucial to give yourself enough time for brainstorming, writing, revision, and feedback.

In this comprehensive guide, we walk you through every step in the process of writing a college admissions essay.

Table of contents

Why do you need a standout essay, start organizing early, choose a unique topic, outline your essay, start with a memorable introduction, write like an artist, craft a strong conclusion, revise and receive feedback, frequently asked questions.

While most of your application lists your academic achievements, your college admissions essay is your opportunity to share who you are and why you’d be a good addition to the university.

Your college admissions essay accounts for about 25% of your application’s total weight一and may account for even more with some colleges making the SAT and ACT tests optional. The college admissions essay may be the deciding factor in your application, especially for competitive schools where most applicants have exceptional grades, test scores, and extracurriculars.

What do colleges look for in an essay?

Admissions officers want to understand your background, personality, and values to get a fuller picture of you beyond your test scores and grades. Here’s what colleges look for in an essay :

  • Demonstrated values and qualities
  • Vulnerability and authenticity
  • Self-reflection and insight
  • Creative, clear, and concise writing skills

Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.

It’s a good idea to start organizing your college application timeline in the summer of your junior year to make your application process easier. This will give you ample time for essay brainstorming, writing, revision, and feedback.

While timelines will vary for each student, aim to spend at least 1–3 weeks brainstorming and writing your first draft and at least 2–4 weeks revising across multiple drafts. Remember to leave enough time for breaks in between each writing and editing stage.

Create an essay tracker sheet

If you’re applying to multiple schools, you will have to juggle writing several essays for each one. We recommend using an essay tracker spreadsheet to help you visualize and organize the following:

  • Deadlines and number of essays needed
  • Prompt overlap, allowing you to write one essay for similar prompts

You can build your own essay tracker using our free Google Sheets template.

College essay tracker template

Ideally, you should start brainstorming college essay topics the summer before your senior year. Keep in mind that it’s easier to write a standout essay with a unique topic.

If you want to write about a common essay topic, such as a sports injury or volunteer work overseas, think carefully about how you can make it unique and personal. You’ll need to demonstrate deep insight and write your story in an original way to differentiate it from similar essays.

What makes a good topic?

  • Meaningful and personal to you
  • Uncommon or has an unusual angle
  • Reveals something different from the rest of your application

Brainstorming questions

You should do a comprehensive brainstorm before choosing your topic. Here are a few questions to get started:

  • What are your top five values? What lived experiences demonstrate these values?
  • What adjectives would your friends and family use to describe you?
  • What challenges or failures have you faced and overcome? What lessons did you learn from them?
  • What makes you different from your classmates?
  • What are some objects that represent your identity, your community, your relationships, your passions, or your goals?
  • Whom do you admire most? Why?
  • What three people have significantly impacted your life? How did they influence you?

How to identify your topic

Here are two strategies for identifying a topic that demonstrates your values:

  • Start with your qualities : First, identify positive qualities about yourself; then, brainstorm stories that demonstrate these qualities.
  • Start with a story : Brainstorm a list of memorable life moments; then, identify a value shown in each story.

After choosing your topic, organize your ideas in an essay outline , which will help keep you focused while writing. Unlike a five-paragraph academic essay, there’s no set structure for a college admissions essay. You can take a more creative approach, using storytelling techniques to shape your essay.

Two common approaches are to structure your essay as a series of vignettes or as a single narrative.

Vignettes structure

The vignette, or montage, structure weaves together several stories united by a common theme. Each story should demonstrate one of your values or qualities and conclude with an insight or future outlook.

This structure gives the admissions officer glimpses into your personality, background, and identity, and shows how your qualities appear in different areas of your life.

Topic: Museum with a “five senses” exhibit of my experiences

  • Introduction: Tour guide introduces my museum and my “Making Sense of My Heritage” exhibit
  • Story: Racial discrimination with my eyes
  • Lesson: Using my writing to document truth
  • Story: Broadway musical interests
  • Lesson: Finding my voice
  • Story: Smells from family dinner table
  • Lesson: Appreciating home and family
  • Story: Washing dishes
  • Lesson: Finding moments of peace in busy schedule
  • Story: Biking with Ava
  • Lesson: Finding pleasure in job well done
  • Conclusion: Tour guide concludes tour, invites guest to come back for “fall College Collection,” featuring my search for identity and learning.

Single story structure

The single story, or narrative, structure uses a chronological narrative to show a student’s character development over time. Some narrative essays detail moments in a relatively brief event, while others narrate a longer journey spanning months or years.

Single story essays are effective if you have overcome a significant challenge or want to demonstrate personal development.

Topic: Sports injury helps me learn to be a better student and person

  • Situation: Football injury
  • Challenge: Friends distant, teachers don’t know how to help, football is gone for me
  • Turning point: Starting to like learning in Ms. Brady’s history class; meeting Christina and her friends
  • My reactions: Reading poetry; finding shared interest in poetry with Christina; spending more time studying and with people different from me
  • Insight: They taught me compassion and opened my eyes to a different lifestyle; even though I still can’t play football, I’m starting a new game

Brainstorm creative insights or story arcs

Regardless of your essay’s structure, try to craft a surprising story arc or original insights, especially if you’re writing about a common topic.

Never exaggerate or fabricate facts about yourself to seem interesting. However, try finding connections in your life that deviate from cliché storylines and lessons.

Admissions officers read thousands of essays each year, and they typically spend only a few minutes reading each one. To get your message across, your introduction , or hook, needs to grab the reader’s attention and compel them to read more..

Avoid starting your introduction with a famous quote, cliché, or reference to the essay itself (“While I sat down to write this essay…”).

While you can sometimes use dialogue or a meaningful quotation from a close family member or friend, make sure it encapsulates your essay’s overall theme.

Find an original, creative way of starting your essay using the following two methods.

Option 1: Start with an intriguing hook

Begin your essay with an unexpected statement to pique the reader’s curiosity and compel them to carefully read your essay. A mysterious introduction disarms the reader’s expectations and introduces questions that can only be answered by reading more.

Option 2: Start with vivid imagery

Illustrate a clear, detailed image to immediately transport your reader into your memory. You can start in the middle of an important scene or describe an object that conveys your essay’s theme.

A college application essay allows you to be creative in your style and tone. As you draft your essay, try to use interesting language to enliven your story and stand out .

Show, don’t tell

“Tell” in writing means to simply state a fact: “I am a basketball player.” “ Show ” in writing means to use details, examples, and vivid imagery to help the reader easily visualize your memory: “My heart races as I set up to shoot一two seconds, one second一and score a three-pointer!”

First, reflect on every detail of a specific image or scene to recall the most memorable aspects.

  • What are the most prominent images?
  • Are there any particular sounds, smells, or tastes associated with this memory?
  • What emotion or physical feeling did you have at that time?

Be vulnerable to create an emotional response

You don’t have to share a huge secret or traumatic story, but you should dig deep to express your honest feelings, thoughts, and experiences to evoke an emotional response. Showing vulnerability demonstrates humility and maturity. However, don’t exaggerate to gain sympathy.

Use appropriate style and tone

Make sure your essay has the right style and tone by following these guidelines:

  • Use a conversational yet respectful tone: less formal than academic writing, but more formal than texting your friends.
  • Prioritize using “I” statements to highlight your perspective.
  • Write within your vocabulary range to maintain an authentic voice.
  • Write concisely, and use the active voice to keep a fast pace.
  • Follow grammar rules (unless you have valid stylistic reasons for breaking them).

You should end your college essay with a deep insight or creative ending to leave the reader with a strong final impression. Your college admissions essay should avoid the following:

  • Summarizing what you already wrote
  • Stating your hope of being accepted to the school
  • Mentioning character traits that should have been illustrated in the essay, such as “I’m a hard worker”

Here are two strategies to craft a strong conclusion.

Option 1: Full circle, sandwich structure

The full circle, or sandwich, structure concludes the essay with an image, idea, or story mentioned in the introduction. This strategy gives the reader a strong sense of closure.

In the example below, the essay concludes by returning to the “museum” metaphor that the writer opened with.

Option 2: Revealing your insight

You can use the conclusion to show the insight you gained as a result of the experiences you’ve described. Revealing your main message at the end creates suspense and keeps the takeaway at the forefront of your reader’s mind.

Revise your essay before submitting it to check its content, style, and grammar. Get feedback from no more than two or three people.

It’s normal to go through several rounds of revision, but take breaks between each editing stage.

Also check out our college essay examples to see what does and doesn’t work in an essay and the kinds of changes you can make to improve yours.

Respect the word count

Most schools specify a word count for each essay , and you should stay within 10% of the upper limit.

Remain under the specified word count limit to show you can write concisely and follow directions. However, don’t write too little, which may imply that you are unwilling or unable to write a thoughtful and developed essay.

Check your content, style, and grammar

  • First, check big-picture issues of message, flow, and clarity.
  • Then, check for style and tone issues.
  • Finally, focus on eliminating grammar and punctuation errors.

Get feedback

Get feedback from 2–3 people who know you well, have good writing skills, and are familiar with college essays.

  • Teachers and guidance counselors can help you check your content, language, and tone.
  • Friends and family can check for authenticity.
  • An essay coach or editor has specialized knowledge of college admissions essays and can give objective expert feedback.

The checklist below helps you make sure your essay ticks all the boxes.

College admissions essay checklist

I’ve organized my essay prompts and created an essay writing schedule.

I’ve done a comprehensive brainstorm for essay topics.

I’ve selected a topic that’s meaningful to me and reveals something different from the rest of my application.

I’ve created an outline to guide my structure.

I’ve crafted an introduction containing vivid imagery or an intriguing hook that grabs the reader’s attention.

I’ve written my essay in a way that shows instead of telling.

I’ve shown positive traits and values in my essay.

I’ve demonstrated self-reflection and insight in my essay.

I’ve used appropriate style and tone .

I’ve concluded with an insight or a creative ending.

I’ve revised my essay , checking my overall message, flow, clarity, and grammar.

I’ve respected the word count , remaining within 10% of the upper word limit.


It looks like your essay ticks all the boxes. A second pair of eyes can help you take it to the next level – Scribbr's essay coaches can help.

Colleges want to be able to differentiate students who seem similar on paper. In the college application essay , they’re looking for a way to understand each applicant’s unique personality and experiences.

Your college essay accounts for about 25% of your application’s weight. It may be the deciding factor in whether you’re accepted, especially for competitive schools where most applicants have exceptional grades, test scores, and extracurricular track records.

A standout college essay has several key ingredients:

  • A unique, personally meaningful topic
  • A memorable introduction with vivid imagery or an intriguing hook
  • Specific stories and language that show instead of telling
  • Vulnerability that’s authentic but not aimed at soliciting sympathy
  • Clear writing in an appropriate style and tone
  • A conclusion that offers deep insight or a creative ending

While timelines will differ depending on the student, plan on spending at least 1–3 weeks brainstorming and writing the first draft of your college admissions essay , and at least 2–4 weeks revising across multiple drafts. Don’t forget to save enough time for breaks between each writing and editing stage.

You should already begin thinking about your essay the summer before your senior year so that you have plenty of time to try out different topics and get feedback on what works.

Most college application portals specify a word count range for your essay, and you should stay within 10% of the upper limit to write a developed and thoughtful essay.

You should aim to stay under the specified word count limit to show you can follow directions and write concisely. However, don’t write too little, as it may seem like you are unwilling or unable to write a detailed and insightful narrative about yourself.

If no word count is specified, we advise keeping your essay between 400 and 600 words.

Is this article helpful?

Other students also liked.

  • What Do Colleges Look For in an Essay? | Examples & Tips
  • College Essay Format & Structure | Example Outlines
  • How to Revise Your College Admissions Essay | Examples

More interesting articles

  • Choosing Your College Essay Topic | Ideas & Examples
  • College Essay Examples | What Works and What Doesn't
  • Common App Essays | 7 Strong Examples with Commentary
  • How Long Should a College Essay Be? | Word Count Tips
  • How to Apply for College | Timeline, Templates & Checklist
  • How to End a College Admissions Essay | 4 Winning Strategies
  • How to Make Your College Essay Stand Out | Tips & Examples
  • How to Research and Write a "Why This College?" Essay
  • How to Write a College Essay Fast | Tips & Examples
  • How to Write a Diversity Essay | Tips & Examples
  • How to Write a Great College Essay Introduction | Examples
  • How to Write a Scholarship Essay | Template & Example
  • How to Write About Yourself in a College Essay | Examples
  • Style and Tone Tips for Your College Essay | Examples
  • US College Essay Tips for International Students

BibGuru Blog

Be more productive in school

  • Citation Styles

How to write an outline for an essay

How to write a college essay outline

Whether you’re a researcher, an academic, or a student, knowing how to write an outline for an essay will be an essential skill.

Despite how important it is, there are all too many individuals out there carrying on with the writing process without knowing how to write effectively. Creating an outline for your next essay can help you to structure your thoughts more clearly before you put them down on paper.

The advantages of working on a paper outline first are numerous; besides planning your answers, you’ll be able to organize them for better flow and ensure you haven’t missed anything important. An organized outline leads to an organized paper, which will have a better chance of being published or getting a good grade.

We’ve put together all the basics behind writing an outline for an essay in this easy guide:

Before writing your outline

You’ve been assigned a topic or you have a thesis statement that needs to be put onto paper. Before you jump into writing the final essay, you’ll want to create an outline that you can work from. The problem is there are a few things that need to be done before you can start essay writing.

It’s essential to look at the writing assignment carefully. If you’re a student, pay attention to the marking rubric and try to get a good idea of what your teacher or lecturer is looking for.

To write a strong outline, you'll ultimately need to make sure you've reviewed all the resources given and that you are approaching it from the right angle.

The basic parts of essay outlines

Every essay or research paper has to have a structure, and this is what you should also attempt to do in your essay outline. Broken down into the most basic parts, every essay outline should have:

  • A strong introduction or thesis statement
  • A body , or arguments and counterarguments
  • A conclusion that reiterates the thesis statement and summarizes key thoughts

Your outline should ideally be structured so that your arguments are ranked in terms of their importance. You can imagine your outline having four layers of organization - the first two layers are the more general, and the following layers go into more detailed information from there.

Since you’re working on an outline first, you can easily shift around arguments and supporting statements to make sure the final project will be suitable for publishing or marking.

Remember to check carefully for any repetitive ideas or statements and to think about the audience you are writing for. More than a basic essay that follows the assignment prompt, you want to try and use different writing techniques to make the paper an interesting read and cater your writing to your audience.

Language in outlines

Even though you’ll be working on a rough outline, it will be important to focus on the language you’re using from the beginning. Paying attention to language now will get you in the right headspace for writing your full essay and help you avoid mistakes that can affect your essay later on.

Ask yourself, is my outline grammatically correct and consistent? Are my headings correct? Typically, your main headings should be more general with each sub-heading becoming more specific as it explains your answers.

Even within the basic structure of your outline, you want to make sure that you are using complete sentences while in the process of writing. Use the outline to make note of interesting terminology and theories you want to add to the final essay.

Formatting your essay outline

Your essay outline should adhere to the requirements provided along with the essay topic - this is what makes taking that first step to evaluate everything so important

The majority of essays are structured using an alphanumeric structure, but there are other options like the decimal outline structure. It all comes down to what the teacher or lecturer has asked for.

If there is no prior requirement, you can use the system of your choosing. In this case, just be sure to remember that consistency is key - you want to use the same system all throughout your outline and eventual essay.

The alphanumeric structure is a common type of outline formatting system that uses the following characters for headings:

  • Roman numerals
  • Capital letters
  • Arabic numerals
  • Lowercase letters

The decimal system on the other hand is similar but has the additional purpose of showing how every part of the outline relates to the rest of the essay. Instead of numerals and letters, a decimal outline uses decimals when formatting headings and sub-headings.

Formatting will be especially important when it comes to doing your references. You can have all the credible sources in the world in your paper, but if they aren't formatted in the proper reference style they may affect your overall score. This can be crippling when you're handing in an academic paper or another essay type that requires a common structure and some critical thinking.

Writing your essay outline

When you’re ready to start writing your essay outline, it’s best to take a step by step approach.

The first thing you want to do is to carefully consider the subject. Is the essay meant to be argumentative, narrative, or expository? Different categories will require different types of outlines -  narrative essays for example will have a structure that is unlike the format used in an analysis essay.

It may be worthwhile to take some time to brainstorm all of the topics or ideas you want to write about and to choose the one you feel has the most potential from the shortlist. This is also a good opportunity to connect related ideas and strengthen your paper even further.

The next step is to take your list of organized ideas and structure them into an essay outline. When working on this part, you should organize your ideas by the level of importance. Think about how you can introduce these topics, give an explanation for them, and what conclusions can be drawn from them as an ending to your essay. Don't go into too much detail.

From there, you’ll want to write headings and subheadings based on the ideas you have gathered. Headings are one of the most underrated parts of writing an essay, but they too play a huge role in the success of a paper.

The secret to writing great headings is to make sure that everyone you put down adheres to the following guidelines:

  • Does the reader understand the essay content?
  • Is each content section clear?
  • How does each section relate to the other sections?

If you’re unable to say “yes” to all the above, your headings will need some additional work.

When all of the above has been completed, you can start to fill in the body of your outline with your ideas and some rough sentences that you can build on in the final version.

Essay outline example

As mentioned above, your outline is essentially broken down into multiple layers of organization. Let's take a closer look at how this will work in practice.

Layer one is the most generalized section of the outline and will contain an introduction to the ideas you'll be discussing in the paper, and the conclusion. Think of this as the elevator pitch of your research. You can expect layer one to look like the following:

From the above, you can see that the main points of the example outline are separated into their own sections. Every main idea you introduce should have at least one or two supporting statements before you add another main idea.

Final thoughts

The chances are good that you will write many essays in your life, and hopefully, with the knowledge in this guide in hand, the process of outlining them will be easier each time.

Writing an outline might be a bit more time-consuming than jumping into the full paper immediately, but the final product is much more likely to excel. By taking the time to prepare a strong outline, you’ll be ensuring that you can create a better paper much faster.

Frequently Asked Questions about Writing an outline for an essay

Creating an outline for your essay will help you structure what you want to write, and usually contains a few bullet points under each section you plan to add. An outline is just a very rough plan for the paper you plan to write.

Perfecting your essay will come down to understanding the relevant literature, offering a fresh take with a strong opening hook, and keeping to the rubric set for the assignment. Once you've finished your first draft, try to read it objectively and improve any of the weak points you spot.

The four types are expository, descriptive, narrative, and argumentative. An expository essay is an essay that takes a closer look at an idea and evaluates the relevant evidence, while a descriptive essay describes an experience with a person, a place, or situation.

Narrative essays tell a story - anecdotal or personal experiences that are written creatively. Lastly, an argumentative essay tries to prove a point by investigating a topic and the evidence related to it.

This will highly depend on the type of assignment. If no specification is given, try to start with five paragraphs on the main topics and expand on sub-topics as needed. Prioritize your strongest points and only add supplemental ones to support them.

Give yourself a refresher on grammar and vocabulary rules, plan a solid outline and make sure you have carefully analyzed your research sources. Reading more papers will also help you improve your writing skills.

How to write an argumentative essay

Make your life easier with our productivity and writing resources.

For students and teachers.

Library homepage

  • school Campus Bookshelves
  • menu_book Bookshelves
  • perm_media Learning Objects
  • login Login
  • how_to_reg Request Instructor Account
  • hub Instructor Commons
  • Download Page (PDF)
  • Download Full Book (PDF)
  • Periodic Table
  • Physics Constants
  • Scientific Calculator
  • Reference & Cite
  • Tools expand_more
  • Readability

selected template will load here

This action is not available.

Humanities LibreTexts

2.2: Outlining

  • Last updated
  • Save as PDF
  • Page ID 6712

  • Kathryn Crowther et al.
  • Georgia Perimeter College via GALILEO Open Learning Materials

Purpose of an Outline

Once your topic has been chosen, your ideas have been generated through brainstorming techniques, and you’ve developed a working thesis, the next step in the prewriting stage is to create an outline. Sometimes called a “blueprint,” or “plan” for your paper, an outline helps writers organize their thoughts and categorize the main points they wish to make in an order that makes sense.

Creating an outline is an important step in the writing process!

The purpose of an outline is to help you organize your paper by checking to see if and how your ideas connect to each other, or whether you need to flesh out a point or two.

No matter the length of the paper, from a three-page weekly assignment to a 50-page senior thesis, outlines can help you see the overall picture.

Having an outline also helps prevent writers from “getting stuck” when writing the first draft of an essay.

A well-developed outline will show the essential elements of an essay:

  • thesis of essay
  • main idea of each body paragraph
  • evidence/support offered in each paragraph to substantiate the main points

A well-developed outline breaks down the parts of your thesis in a clear, hierarchical manner. Writing an outline before beginning an essay helps the writer organize ideas generated through brainstorming and/or research. In short, a well-developed outline makes your paper easier to write.

The formatting of any outline is not arbitrary; the system of formatting and number/letter designations creates a visual hierarchy of the ideas, or points, being made in the essay.

Major points, in other words, should not be buried in subtopic levels.

Types of Outlines

Alphanumeric outlines.

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

Level 1: Roman Numerals (I, II, III, IV, V, etc.)

Level 2: Capitalized Letters (A, B, C, D, E, etc.)

Level 3: Arabic Numerals (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.)

Level 4: Lowercase Letters (a, b, c, d, e, etc.)

Example \(\PageIndex{1}\):

  • (Additional explanation/support for supporting detail) Each 5 mph driven over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.21 per gallon for gas (at $3.00 per gallon).

If the outline needs to subdivide beyond these divisions, use Arabic numerals inside parentheses and then lowercase letters inside parentheses.

Decimal Outlines

The decimal outline follows the same levels of indentation when formatting to indicate the hierarchy of ideas/points as the alphanumeric outline. The added benefit of decimal notation, however, is that it clearly shows, through the decimal breakdown, how each progressive level relates to the larger whole.

Example \(\PageIndex{2}\):

  • (Additional explanation/support for supporting detail) According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), “as a rule of thumb, each 5 mph driven over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.21 per gallon for gas (at $3.00 per gallon).”

Micro and Macro Outlines

The indentation/formatting of a micro (full sentence) or macro (topic) outline is essentially the same as alphanumeric/decimal outlines. The difference between micro and macro outlines lies in the specificity and depth of the content.

Micro outlines focus on the “micro,” the drilled-down specific details of the essay’s content. They are particularly useful when the topic you are discussing is complex in nature. When creating a micro outline, it can also be useful to insert the quotations you plan to include in the essay (with citations) and subsequent analyses of quotes. Taking this extra step helps ensure that you have enough support for your ideas, as well as reminding writers to actually analyze and discuss quotations, rather than simply inserting quotes and moving on. While time-consuming to create, micro outlines can be seen as basically creating the first rough draft of an essay.

Macro outlines, in contrast, focus on the “big picture” of an essay’s main points and support by using short phrases or keywords to indicate the focus and content at each level of the essay’s development. A macro outline is useful when writing about a variety of ideas and issues where the ordering of points is more flexible. Macro outlines are also especially helpful when writing timed essays, or essay exam questions--or any rhetorical situation where writers need to quickly get their ideas down in an organized essay format.

Example \(\PageIndex{3}\): Micro/Full-Sentence Outline

  • (Additional explanation/support for supporting detail) According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), “as a rule of thumb, each 5 mph driven over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.21 per gallon for gas (at $3.00 per gallon)”.

Example \(\PageIndex{4}\): Macro/Topic Outline

  • (Additional explanation/support for supporting detail) Amount of money saved

Creating an Outline

Identify your topic : Put the topic in your own words in with a single sentence or phrase to help you stay on topic.

Determine your main points . What are the main points you want to make to convince your audience? Refer back to the prewriting/brainstorming exercise of answering 5WH questions: "why or how is the main topic important?" Using your brainstorming notes, you should be able to create a working thesis.

List your main points/ideas in a logical order . You can always change the order later as you evaluate your outline.

Create sub-points for each major idea . Typically, each time you have a new number or letter, there need to be at least two points (i.e. if you have an A, you need a B; if you have a 1, you need a 2; etc.). Though perhaps frustrating at first, it is indeed useful because it forces you to think hard about each point; if you can’t create two points, then reconsider including the first in your paper, as it may be extraneous information that may detract from your argument.

Evaluate : Review your organizational plan, your blueprint for your paper. Does each paragraph have a controlling idea/topic sentence? Is each point adequately supported? Look over what you have written. Does it make logical sense? Is each point suitably fleshed out? Is there anything included that is unnecessary?

Overview : View the YouTube video on “Outlining” from the University of North Carolina’s Online Writing Lab:

  • Create a sentence outline from the following introductory paragraph in alphanumeric format:

The popularity of knitting is cyclical, rising and falling according to the prevailing opinion of women’s places in society. Though internationally a unisex hobby, knitting is pervasively thought of as a woman’s hobby in the United States. Knitting is currently enjoying a boost in popularity as traditionally minded women pick up the craft while women who enjoy subverting traditional gender roles have also picked up the needles to reclaim “the lost domestic arts” and give traditionally feminine crafts the proper respect. American men are also picking up the needles in greater numbers, with men’s knitting guilds and retreats nationwide. This rise in popularity has made the receiving of hand-knit items special, and many people enjoy receiving these long-lasting, painstakingly crafted items. For any knitters, the perfect gift starts by choosing the perfect yarn. Choosing the perfect yarn for a knitting project relies on the preferences of the person for whom the project is being made, the availability of the yarn, and the type of yarn recommended by the pattern.

What is the thesis? How is the topic introduced? Is there a hierarchy of supporting points?

  • Now create your own outline based on the topic you developed in Exercise 3.

Example \(\PageIndex{5}\): 3-Level Alphanumeric Outline

Thesis: Making the perfect egg omelet requires proper preparation and skillful cooking technique.

  • A heavy, Teflon-coated frying pan gives even heat and prevents burning.
  • A plastic spatula prevents the cook from scratching the frying pan.
  • Fresh eggs make a fluffier omelet than eggs that have aged.
  • Sweet milk blends into the egg batter more evenly than sour milk.
  • Fresh vegetable oil is necessary to avoid giving the omelet a greasy flavor and texture.
  • Newly cracked pepper and sea salt add extra zest to the egg batter.
  • The eggs must be beaten with a whisk until they are fluffy.
  • The milk and seasonings must be whisked into the egg batter before the eggs go flat.
  • The egg batter must be poured into the frying pan as soon as the oil is hot.
  • The omelet must be turned in the pan only once as soon as the batter sets on top.

'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?

ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.

When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.

ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form .

How to use Copilot Pro to write, edit, and analyze your Word documents


Microsoft's Copilot Pro AI offers a few benefits for $20 per month. But the most helpful one is the AI-powered integration with the different Microsoft 365 apps. For those of you who use Microsoft Word, for instance, Copilot Pro can help you write and revise your text, provide summaries of your documents, and answer questions about any document.

First, you'll need a subscription to either Microsoft 365 Personal or Family . Priced at $70 per year, the Personal edition is geared for one individual signed into as many as five devices. At $100 per year, the Family edition is aimed at up to six people on as many as five devices. The core apps in the suite include Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote.

Also: Microsoft Copilot vs. Copilot Pro: Is the subscription fee worth it?

Second, you'll need the subscription to Copilot Pro if you don't already have one. To sign up, head to the Copilot Pro website . Click the Get Copilot Pro button. Confirm the subscription and the payment. The next time you use Copilot on the website, in Windows, or with the mobile apps, the Pro version will be in effect.

How to use Copilot Pro in Word

1. open word.

Launch Microsoft Word and open a blank document. Let's say you need help writing a particular type of document and want Copilot to create a draft. 

Also: Microsoft Copilot Pro vs. OpenAI's ChatGPT Plus: Which is worth your $20 a month?

A small "Draft with Copilot" window appears on the screen. If you don't see it, click the tiny "Draft with Copilot icon in the left margin."


2. Submit your request

At the text field in the window, type a description of the text you need and click the "Generate" button.


Submit your request.

3. Review the response and your options

Copilot generates and displays its response. After reading the response, you're presented with a few different options.


Review the response and your options.

4. Keep, regenerate, or remove the draft

If you like the draft, click "Keep it." The draft is then inserted into your document where you can work with it. If you don't like the draft, click the "Regenerate" button, and a new draft is created. 

Also: What is Copilot (formerly Bing Chat)? Here's everything you need to know

If you'd prefer to throw out the entire draft and start from scratch, click the trash can icon.


Keep, regenerate, or remove the draft.

5. Alter the draft

Alternatively, you can try to modify the draft by typing a specific request in the text field, such as "Make it more formal," "Make it shorter," or "Make it more casual."


Alter the draft.

6. Review the different versions

If you opt to regenerate the draft, you can switch between the different versions by clicking the left or right arrow next to the number. You can then choose to keep the draft you prefer.


7. Revise existing text

Copilot will also help you fine-tune existing text. Select the text you want to revise. Click the Copilot icon in the left margin and select "Rewrite with Copilot."


Revise existing text.

8. Review the different versions

Copilot creates a few different versions of the text. Click the arrow keys to view each version.


Review the different versions.

9. Replace or Insert

If you find one you like, click "Replace" to replace the text you selected. 

Also: ChatGPT vs. Microsoft Copilot vs. Gemini: Which is the best AI chatbot?

Click "Insert below" to insert the new draft below the existing words so you can compare the two.


Replace or Insert.

10. Adjust the tone

Click "Regenerate" to ask Copilot to try again. Click the "Adjust Tone" button and select a different tone to generate another draft.


Adjust the tone.

11. Turn text into a table

Sometimes you have text that would look and work better as a table. Copilot can help. Select the text you wish to turn into a table. Click the Copilot icon and select "Visualize as a Table."


Turn text into a table.

12. Respond to the table

In response, click "Keep it" to retain the table. Click "Regenerate" to try again. Click the trash can icon to delete it. Otherwise, type a request in the text field, such as "remove the second row" or "make the last column wider."


Respond to the table.

13. Summarize a document

Copilot Pro can provide a summary of a document with its key points. To try this, open the document you want to summarize and then click the Copilot icon on the Ribbon. 

Also: The best AI chatbots

The right sidebar displays several prompts you can use to start your question. Click the one for "Summarize this doc."


Summarize a document.

14. Review the summary

View the generated summary in the sidebar. If you like it as is, click the "Copy" button to copy the summary and paste it elsewhere.


Review the summary.

15. Revise the summary

Otherwise, choose one of the suggested questions or ask your own question to revise the summary. For example, you could tell Copilot to make the summary longer, shorter, more formal, or less formal. 

Also: The best AI image generators

You could also ask it to expand on one of the points in the summary or provide more details on a certain point. A specific response is then generated based on your request.


Revise the summary.

16. Ask questions about a document

Next, you can ask specific questions about any of the content in a document. Again, click the Copilot icon to display the sidebar. In the prompt area, type and submit your question. Copilot displays the response in the sidebar. You can then ask follow-up questions as needed.


Ask questions about a document.

More how-tos


I've tried Vision Pro and other top XR headsets and here's the one most people should buy


The best AI image generators to try right now


The best TVs of 2024: Expert tested

Politics latest: Starmer mocks Sunak over Truss's Farage comments in fiery PMQs

Sir Keir Starmer has spent PMQs focused on Rishi Sunak's predecessor, attacking comments made by Liz Truss during a recent visit to the US. The prime minister is facing calls to suspend her from the Tory party.

Wednesday 28 February 2024 13:22, UK

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

  • Sunak refuses to rule out Farage return at PMQs
  • Starmer compares Tories to 'flat Earth society' in attack on Truss
  • Analysis:  Truss an easy target - but Sunak had a comeback primed
  • Beth Rigby: Under-pressure Speaker unusually quiet in spiky PMQs
  • Troubles immunity plans 'breach human rights law'
  • Home sec sends message to pro-Palestine protesters
  • Minister calls on Anderson to apologise for Khan remarks
  • Post Office scandal: Minister rejects ex-chair's bombshell allegation
  • Live reporting by  Ben Bloch  and (earlier)  Jess Sharp   and Faye Brown

We've got an update on the number of MPs who have backed a no confidence motion in Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle.

He broke convention last Wednesday to allow Labour to table an amendment to an SNP motion calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war.

Coupled with the government's amendment, it could have led to the SNP not getting a vote on their motion on their own opposition day.

The Speaker's decision led to abject fury from the SNP and Tory benches, which resulted in senior Tory MP William Wragg tabling an early day motion declaring no confidence in his leadership.

As of a few moments ago, the  total now stands at 92 signatories .

It should be noted that the motion has been losing momentum since Wednesday and Thursday, and the initial danger to the Speaker's position appears to have subsided.

It's also important to note this early day motion won't necessarily force Sir Lindsay out - he is  not bound to resign  if a certain number of MPs back it - and there is unlikely to be a debate on it.

Rather, the EDM is being used as a mechanism by his critics to show the strength of feeling in parliament after what happened with the Gaza ceasefire votes.

However, the Speaker appeared reticent to intervene during a raucous edition of PMQs a short while ago, with our political editor Beth Rigby  saying he was "cowed in his chair".

As we reported this morning, Prince Harry lost his High Court challenge against the Home Office over its decision to change the level of his personal security - funded by the taxpayer - when he visits the UK ( more here ).

However, a spokesperson for the Duke of Sussex has now said that he will seek to appeal the ruling.

A legal spokesperson for the duke said he is "not asking for preferential treatment", but rather for"a fair and lawful application" of the rules around who receives taxpayer-funded security.

"The Duke of Sussex hopes he will obtain justice from the Court of Appeal, and makes no further comment while the case is ongoing," the spokesperson added.

Read the full story here:

Our  political editor Beth Rigby has been reacting to what we heard throughout PMQs, describing Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer as "really spiky" and "ill-tempered". 

"I mean both men were really going at each other," she says, adding the speaker "cowed in his chair". 

"Normally he would intervene and calm it down a bit, but he remained pretty mute," she adds. 

More than 90 MPs have signed a no confidence motion in Sir Lindsay Hoyle in recent days, following angry scenes in Westminster over his handling of a Gaza ceasefire vote last week. 

In terms of the substance of the PMQ exchanges, Beth says the prime minister and the Labour leader were "pretty evenly matched". 

"Sir Keir Starmer was armed with material from Liz Truss's foray to the US last week, just mocking the former prime minister," she adds. 

"Labour clearly know that this is fertile ground for them." 

Business minister Kevin Hollinrake has just answered an Urgent Question in the House of Commons on the governance of the Post Office.

It comes after the ousted Post Office chair, Henry Staunton - sacked by Kemi Badenoch - insisted it was the company's current chief executive who was the subject of an internal investigation, not him, in a fiery hearing ( more here ).

Here's what he said, as he said it:

  • The minister says he listened to all the evidence given to the business select committee yesterday;
  • He says "several serious allegations" have been made against the government by the former chair, Henry Staunton, including "his most recent revelation" that there is "an ongoing HR investigation that involves both him and the Post Office CEO, Nick Read";
  • He found the statement "highly unprofessional";
  • The news of the investigation "is evidence that no one is untouchable and that Post Office culture is changing", noting that an investigation is not evidence of misconduct;
  • Mr Hollinrake says Nick Read has cooperated fully, while Mr Staunton "tried to block the investigation that was looking at his conduct";
  • That action, he says, "led the secretary of state to lose confidence" in him;
  • He says ministers "strongly reject" Mr Staunton's allegations, accusing him of "using the Nick Read investigation to divert attention from the issues that the select committee were discussing about his dismissal";
  • He notes that no other witnesses supported Mr Staunton's claim that ministers were asked to slow-walk paying compensation to victims of the Horizon IT scandal;
  • Compensation needs to be delivered "at pace" and there is work under way to make cultural changes within the Post Office, and governance is "a priority";
  • He says he will ask the Post Office for the findings of the investigation into the leadership "once it is completed".

Next up in the Commons is an Urgent Question from SNP MP Marion Fellows.

She is asking the business secretary "what steps are being taken to restore public confidence in the Post Office board and governance following evidence taken at yesterday’s Business and Trade select committee".

It comes after the ousted Post Office chair - sacked by Kemi Badenoch - insisted it was the company's current chief executive who was the subject of an internal investigation, not him, in a fiery hearing ( more here ).

Follow live updates here in the Politics Hub.

This week's session of questions to the prime minister has now concluded.

Scroll down to read and watch all the key moments and highlights.

Labour MP Dame Angela Eagle asks Mr Sunak if he is "content" with how Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch behaved after allegations from the former Post Office chairman that he was told to stall compensation for Horizon scandal victims. 

Ms Badenoch refuted the claims in an explosive post on X in which she also claimed the former chairman, Henry Staunton, was sacked because of his conduct. 

Mr Sunak said during an earlier question that it was "inappropriate" to comment on bullying allegations at the Post Office. 

Asked if he was "content with her activities in this respect", he tells Dame Angela that Ms Badenoch set out her position "clearly" in the Commons. 

He adds: "Our focus is on justice and compensation."

Political correspondent Matthew Thompson writes:  There were two questions from the backbenches today on the ongoing controversy surrounding the Post Office. And right afterwards, that will be followed by a third, when an Urgent Question is set to be asked and debated.

It emerged at a dramatic select committee hearing yesterday that the head of the Post Office, Nick Read, is under investigation for his conduct. Investigations and Inquiries are useful for governments, in that they allow ministers to avoid answering any substantive questions, sometimes for several months while they take their course. An option exercised by the prime minister this afternoon.

But, as Dame Angela rightly pointed out, Ms Badenoch doesn't seem to have found ongoing investigations much of an obstacle in her very public spat with former Post Office chair Henry Staunton…

Labour's Sarah Owen is next to ask a question, and she opens by saying the UK is "the only Western G7 power in recession".

She says we have seen "seven consecutive quarters of no growth", which is "the worst since records began in 1955".

She asks if the PM can tell struggling businesses and families "why this recession - which has his name written all over it - is a good thing for our country".

Rishi Sunak says Ms Owen "might want to check some of the facts that she just outlined for the House" which "aren't quite right".

He goes on: "Perhaps she would like to explain to the country why it is that her party is stuck with a completely incoherent energy policy that will saddle working families with £28bn of higher taxes rises and higher energy bills."

The PM is referring to Labour's pledge to spend up to £28bn a year on the green transition - that it formally ditched earlier this month . 

The prime minister is asked about the leadership of the Post Office, with Labour's Kevan Jones asking if he has confidence in Nick Read as its boss. 

Mr Read is under investigation over claims made in an 80-page HR document.

Rishi Sunak says it would be "inappropriate to comment" while the investigation is ongoing. 

But he adds the government is focused on working closely with the Post Office to deliver justice to sub-postmasters caught up in the scandal.

Labour's Dame Diana Johnson rises to ask the PM about the infected blood scandal.

She tells the PM that a further 80 victims have died since the chair of the public inquiry delivered his final recommendations on compensation in April last year.

She asks: "Will the prime minister join families who are lobbying members of parliament here today to explain why his government has failed to implement any of those recommendations 11 months on?"

Rishi Sunak says he is "acutely aware of the strength of feeling on this issue, and the suffering of all those impacted by this dreadful scandal".

But he says the government has "consistently acknowledged that justice should be delivered", and the government has "accepted the moral case for compensation".

He says the government is bringing through amendments to a separate bill "with the intention of speeding up the implementation of our response" to the inquiry.

Dame Diana shakes her head as the PM concludes his response.

Be the first to get Breaking News

Install the Sky News app for free

an outline help your essay to

Things you buy through our links may earn  Vox Media  a commission.

Do I Really Need to Op-Ed to Sell Books?

an outline help your essay to

In the months leading up to the April 2022 hardcover release of my book, Some of My Best Friends , I tended dutifully to the rituals of prepublication. I sent a gamely cheerful email blast to my contacts asking them to please preorder copies. I plastered my website and social feeds with graphics of the cover art. I retweeted, with genuine glee, every photo of a galley copy spotted in the wild. I was going to be a model citizen of self-promotion, giving my debut a fighting shot at selling well.

But there was one directive from my publishing team that brought me up short: to brainstorm essays related to themes in my book, ideally keyed to the news, which could then be pitched to various outlets to coincide with publication. I took the instruction as I had all the others — if it helped the book, then of course I would do it. But after losing several Sundays to a blank document, I realized that mining for soundbites felt deeply at odds with the work I wanted to put into the world. I’ve seen fellow writers nail this task, and I admire my peers who seem to have a knack for it. But of the many challenges involved in producing and marketing a book, the one I find most intractable is the idea that writing promotional essays is always an effective way to support your book.

I understand how we’ve arrived at this point. In principle, the idea makes sense: If a writer has just churned out tens of thousands of words on a subject, surely they can cough up a few thousand more in order to reach a broad audience, establish authority, and sprinkle a trail that leads readers straight to the preorder button. Recent examples from the New York Times opinion section — perhaps the grail for promo essays — include an essay on Biden’s cognitive abilities , by the author of a forthcoming book on memory, and “ My Father, Ronald Reagan, Would Weep for America ” (Patti Davis, who just published a book about her parents called Dear Mom and Dad ), both of which offer a preview and a primer on the issues their books explore.

But in practice, such essays can make for a tricky genre, which embodies an expectation that shapes other parts of the promo process, from interviews to personal branding: that writers be ambassadors or educators for their books’ issues, even if those issues are incidental to the work. Reducing something to its buzziest takeaways is part of selling anything, and for subject-matter experts writing on topical issues, this distillation is more straightforward. But for a sizable cross-section of others — including essayists, memoirists, and fiction writers — the role of ambassador is an awkward fit.

Rainesford Stauffer is the author of An Ordinary Age and, more recently, All the Gold Stars . In promoting the former, a book on the cultural pressures that shape young adulthood, she was thrust into the role of “spokesperson on all things millennial.” As she explained to me, “Because millennial has become such a headline-y buzzword, it felt like everything could be spun through [that] angle.” Editors wanted her to pen essays with a generation-wars slant. Interviewers asked her why millennials are so slow to grow up. She hadn’t anticipated this pressure to be an “Author with a capital A,” performing total confidence in anything vaguely related to her book — a reported look at how milestones such as college and internships have become so prized that they’ve turned young adulthood into a “competitive sport.”

“For a long time, I felt like I was letting everyone down,” she added. “I couldn’t get to that place where I was ready to step up and say, ‘I am an authority on everything in [my book], from perfectionism, to work and burnout, to unpaid internships,’ when I am not any of these things.”

Lilly Dancyger, author of the forthcoming essay collection First Love , faced similar expectations while promoting her 2021 memoir Negative Space . The memoir centers on Dancyger’s childhood and the impact of her parents’ struggles with heroin addiction. But while doing press, interviewers would pose policy questions. “There was this assumption that because addiction was part of the story I was writing,” she said, “I should have deeply held and informed opinions about how society should handle addiction [and] treatment.” When planning the essays she’d pitch, Dancyger considered trying for a big, timely op-ed. “If I really wanted to get into some of the top-tier general interest publications, a topical, opinionated piece on that subject probably would have been the way to go.” But she ultimately decided that being a commentator would’ve felt disingenuous and — more importantly — was irrelevant to the book. Her priority was to give people a sense of who she was and what she cared about as a writer, which in turn provided a better glimpse of what her memoir had to offer.

Predictably, your risk of being cast as spokesperson increases if you’re writing on a subject (or from a perspective) that the publishing industry hasn’t previously given much space. Angela Chen, author of Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex , knew that she’d become an ambassador when her book came out. “There just aren’t that many trade books about asexuality, which means there’s more scrutiny and more pressure,” she said. Though Chen is a subject-matter expert, she notes that she “didn’t want to be only talking to an audience as an educator. I wanted to be talking to the people who are affected and to my own community.”

I felt a similar expectation to educate. My book is an essay collection about how institutions have learned to parrot the language of social justice even (or especially) when it isn’t sincere. That meant the news pegs on which I could hang my hat on were grim: public failures of diversity. Literary figures who were ripe for cancellation. The proverbial “racial divide,” a phrase that makes me think of nothing other than, reliably and inexplicably, an image of the Grand Canyon. I wanted to do whatever I could for my book, and I knew tackling these issues could be a shortcut to grabbing thousands of readers by the collar and teaching them my name.

But they were also subjects I found intellectually dull, creatively deadening, and artistically demoralizing. Again, I get the principle, even respect its mercenary logic: If I could make myself a mouthpiece for the biggest issues tangentially related to my book, people would be more likely to care. If I proved myself nimble enough to chase the ambulance, they would know to call my number. The problem was that none of these ideas felt faithful to the work I’d done or the kind of thinker I am — and I was horrified by the implication that they might be. If you stripped everything else away — the research, the jokes, the painstaking revision — was this really what my creative labor boiled down to? That we should cancel Joan Didion?

None of this is to say that the promotional essay is all schlock and mirrors. An essay can be deeply aligned with the concerns of a writer’s book, get published around the same time, and still be searing: Nicole Chung on the untenable financial costs of choosing the writing life ; Zadie Smith on thinking she’d never write a historical novel ; Stauffer on the perils of our ambition narratives . The writers I spoke to for this piece all developed ways to approach the task that felt authentic. Before his novel Appleseed came out, Matt Bell sent a list of essay ideas to his editors to make sure he was pitching things he felt both keen and equipped to address, like his book’s genre-fiction elements. “As much as possible, I wanted to be proactive in what that part of the pitch would look like,” he said, rather than letting others decide for him.

Setting limits can help ensure that a writer isn’t pushed into mining their work in uncomfortable ways. Taylor Harris, whose memoir This Boy We Made explores medical racism, disability, and genetics, published one essay about being a BRCA2-mutation carrier and then gave herself permission to step back. “After that piece ran,” she said, “I just had to remind myself that I don’t have to take on every opportunity related to breast cancer or genetic mutations.”

The balance is one I’m still figuring out. I know there are prospective buyers who long for an intrepid expert to lead them out into the racial divide — and I know I risk sounding precious when I try to describe why this isn’t the book I wrote, or how I want to sell the one I did. There’s so much creative potential in writers returning to the subjects of their books to drill down or build on their themes. But so much can get lost when the sole approach is to find the snappiest topical takeaway in a clear grab for attention.

Besides, how much difference does a media hit like this really make to a book’s fate? “It’s my sneaking suspicion that it does very little,” Bell said. Katie Gutierrez, author of the novel More Than You’ll Ever Know , also went into the process with eyes open, as published friends had advised her there’s not much an author can do to move the dial on sales. (That sound you just heard was a thousand publicists screaming.) Like Bell, Gutierrez was proactive about the essay-writing process, but recognizes that a title’s ultimate success is determined by other factors. “It depends on how much support you’re getting from the publisher versus how much you’re expected to do yourself,” she added. For someone with a slimmer marketing budget or less institutional backing, there may be more pressure to land that op-ed. Or, as the release of their paperback nears, to write the sort of essay they were meant to be writing when their book originally came out — even if that essay is a rebuttal of this whole exercise.

  • self-promotion
  • promotional essays
  • book publishing

Most Viewed Stories

  • Cinematrix No. 3: Feb 28, 2024
  • Anatomy of a Fail
  • Diddy Accused of Sexual Assault by Producer Lil Rod
  • Why The Iron Claw Never Became an Oscars Heavyweight
  • The Internet Has Theories About Kate Middleton’s Whereabouts
  • The Bachelor Recap: Queen Behavior

Editor’s Picks

an outline help your essay to

Most Popular

What is your email.

This email will be used to sign into all New York sites. By submitting your email, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy and to receive email correspondence from us.

Sign In To Continue Reading

Create your free account.

Password must be at least 8 characters and contain:

  • Lower case letters (a-z)
  • Upper case letters (A-Z)
  • Numbers (0-9)
  • Special Characters (!@#$%^&*)

As part of your account, you’ll receive occasional updates and offers from New York , which you can opt out of anytime.


  1. Essay Outline Example

    an outline help your essay to

  2. 37 Outstanding Essay Outline Templates (Argumentative, Narrative

    an outline help your essay to

  3. Perfect essay outline. How To Make A Perfect Essay Outline?. 2022-10-14

    an outline help your essay to

  4. 💌 Summary essay outline. How to Write an Effective Outline for Essays

    an outline help your essay to

  5. Obese Child Outline

    an outline help your essay to

  6. How to Write an Essay Outline [21 Examples

    an outline help your essay to




  3. 3 Tips for Writing your Essay

  4. Essay Writing

  5. How to Write Outline For English Essay

  6. Instructions for Essay #3


  1. How to Write an Essay Outline

    An essay outline is a way of planning the structure of your essay before you start writing. It involves writing quick summary sentences or phrases for every point you will cover in each paragraph, giving you a picture of how your argument will unfold.

  2. How to Write an Outline in 5 Steps, with Examples

    Write with Grammarly What is an outline in writing? An outline is like a blueprint for writing. Simple outlines list the topics you plan to cover and the order they will go in. Outlines are usually broken up by paragraphs along with their supporting details like statistical data or logical evidence.

  3. How to Write an Essay Outline in 4 Steps

    An essay outline serves multiple purposes, including helping its writer organize their thoughts before they start writing, giving readers a quick synopsis of the essay, and acting as a roadmap for the writer to follow as they work through their supporting paragraphs.

  4. The Writing Center

    An outline provides the writer with a space to consider ideas easily without needing to write complete paragraphs or sentences. Creating your outline: Before beginning an outline, it is useful to have a clear thesis statement or clear purpose or argument, as everything else in the outline is going to work to support the thesis.

  5. How to Outline an Essay: Basic Essay Outline Template

    Written by MasterClass Last updated: Jun 7, 2021 • 3 min read Essay outlines are excellent tools for organizing your writing. A strong outline can turn a meandering essay into a focused, persuasive piece of writing. Essay outlines are excellent tools for organizing your writing.

  6. Outlining: Create a Useful Outline for Your Writing

    No matter what you're writing, outlining is a crucial early step in the writing process. An outline provides the framework upon which your finished piece of writing is built; it provides the template to fill in with your unique insights and ideas. Of the five steps of the writing process, outlining is part of the second: preparing.

  7. How to Create a Clearly Structured Essay Outline

    An essay outline is a way of planning the structure of your essay before you start writing. In just 3 minutes, this video will show you how to organize your ...

  8. How to Write an Essay Outline

    An essay outline helps you structure your writing in a logical flow to get your ideas across more effectively, which also improves your overall writing quality. As such, it also ensures that you don't accidentally leave out the most critical points you want to convey.

  9. 3 Ways to Write an Essay Outline

    You will typically have three for an essay outline: one for your introduction, one for your body, and one for your conclusion. Capitalized letters (A,B,C, etc.) mark each primary point within a major section. Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, etc.) are used to flesh out primary points.

  10. How to Structure an Essay

    This article provides useful templates and tips to help you outline your essay, make decisions about your structure, and organize your text logically. Instantly correct all language mistakes in your text Be assured that you'll submit flawless writing. Upload your document to correct all your mistakes. Table of contents The basics of essay structure

  11. How to Write an Essay Outline

    An essay outline will help you organize your main ideas and determine the order in which you are going to write about them. In some cases, a decimal outline may allow you to organize your details better.

  12. How to Write an 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.

  13. How To Write An Essay Outline: Tips And Examples

    Organize your ideas and gather information for your essays by learning to write a proper essay outline. You'll save time and present a polished piece!

  14. Outlining

    Structure A. Introduction with Thesis: A thesis statement that indicates the topic and the main points of discussion that will be included. B. First body paragraph: The first main point of discussion. 1. Supporting evidence: Information from at least one source along with the in-text citation (s).

  15. Outlining

    An outline of an academic essay contains the thesis and brief information about the proof paragraphs. The proof paragraphs are the paragraphs between the introduction paragraph and the concluding paragraph. Proof paragraphs contain evidence, also called supporting details, that the thesis is accurate. An outline is like a skeleton of the essay.

  16. How to Write 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.

  17. How to Write an Outline (with Pictures)

    An outline is a great way to organize ideas and information for a speech, an essay, a novel, or a study guide based on your class notes. At first, writing an outline might seem complicated, but learning how to do it will give you an essential organizational skill! Start by planning your outline and choosing a structure for it.

  18. Writing an Outline for your essay

    Writing an outline will also help you focus on the task at hand and avoid unnecessary distractions and underdeveloped paragraphs. Identify the research problem. The research problem is the focal point from which the rest of the outline flows. Try to sum up the point of your paper in one sentence or phrase. This is your thesis statement.

  19. How to Write an Essay Outline: 5 Examples & Free Template

    An essay outline not only gives structure to your essay but also helps effectively link its parts. It helps create a logical flow for your essay and also helps identify its primary components. Let's take a look at this in detail. 1. Sets a logical order. To create a well-structured and impactful essay, the arrangement of information is key.

  20. How to Write a College Essay

    Outline your essay. After choosing your topic, organize your ideas in an essay outline, which will help keep you focused while writing. Unlike a five-paragraph academic essay, there's no set structure for a college admissions essay. You can take a more creative approach, using storytelling techniques to shape your essay.

  21. How to write an outline for an essay

    The basic parts of essay outlines. Every essay or research paper has to have a structure, and this is what you should also attempt to do in your essay outline. Broken down into the most basic parts, every essay outline should have: A strong introduction or thesis statement. A body, or arguments and counterarguments.

  22. 2.2: Outlining

    The purpose of an outline is to help you organize your paper by checking to see if and how your ideas connect to each other, or whether you need to flesh out a point or two. ... Writing an outline before beginning an essay helps the writer organize ideas generated through brainstorming and/or research. In short, a well-developed outline makes ...

  23. PDF Strategies for Essay Writing

    Your thesis is the central claim in your essay—your main insight or idea about your source or topic. Your thesis should appear early in an academic essay, followed by a logically constructed argument that supports this central claim. A strong thesis is arguable, which means a thoughtful reader could disagree with it and therefore needs

  24. How to use Copilot Pro to write, edit, and analyze your Word ...

    For those of you who use Microsoft Word, for instance, Copilot Pro can help you write and revise your text, provide summaries of your documents, and answer questions about any document.

  25. Essay outline

    Browse 30 Essay outline. Comprehensive database of AIs available for any use case. Use AI to find the best AI tools for your task. ... Data Scribe - Essay Outline Maker is a GPT which aims to help with the creation of essay outlines. U... 8. Free. Share; Essay Outline Generator.

  26. How to Form an Argumentative Essay Outline

    No matter the format or topic, a strong argumentative essay outline makes it easier to organize your thoughts and present your case in the best possible way. So before you get down to the actual essay writing, take a little time to prepare what you want to say in an outline. How to create an argumentative essay outline

  27. Politics latest: James Cleverly sends message to pro-Palestine

    Home Secretary James Cleverly tells pro-Palestine demonstrators they have "made their point" as he considers a change to the rules around organising protests. He is also unveiling a new security ...

  28. Do I Really Need to Op-Ed to Sell Books?

    Promotional-book essays can make for a tricky genre, which embodies an expectation that shapes other parts of the promo process: that writers be ambassadors and educators for their books' issues ...

  29. 8 Tips for Developing Your Leadership Skills

    Understanding your leadership strengths and weaknesses can help you identify the leadership skills you want to develop and improve. Universities and organizations offer a variety of free and paid inventories that can help you figure out your leadership style, strengths, and areas of improvement. You can find many of these tools online. 2.