How to Write an Essay Outline

Close your eyes for a second and imagine that you have a life-important college assignment to accomplish. You have a lot of unknown pieces to unite, but you have no clue how to do this. However, you understand perfectly that everything must be timely done, and the problem is how it should be done.

That’s right, we are talking about the creation of your essay. Regardless of the fact that it is an essay for a high school, university application or any other purpose, the basic principle is the capability of the student to organize the thoughts, plans, ideas, and all the material that is in disposal in a logical sequence of actions by means of which the writer will write an informative and well-designed narrative.

Some serious efforts should be made before the person actually starts writing. The creation of an essay outline is the first and, probably, one of the most significant actions that are necessary at the prewriting stage. By when you have a ready outline, you will notice that your essay, written according to the outline, has become more effective in terms of style and more informative due to the structure. The outlining is available even for 5th-grade students who are working on Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn presentation letter.

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The Significance of an Outline

The first thing that any student should do is to understand the meaning of an outline for essay writing. Most writers start telling themselves that they have no time for writing and that there are more serious tasks to fulfill. However, all this is a fiction as the outline is an equal part of writing as writing an introduction, conclusion or body of the essay. The formal outline performs the following roles in the essay writing:

  • A well-thought analysis plan reflects the ideas of the writer on a paper so the risk to forget writing about something is reduced to the minimum.
  • The order of thoughts that is written in the outline will make the writing easier and smoother, and the text will look more organized.
  • A prepared outline will help you to write a decent thesis statement as the outline usually contains the most important aspects of the essay.
  • You will save time later on when there will be a necessity to remember what to write about next as the sequence of actions will be already placed in the outline.
  • It is very helpful when you need to perform the revisions of your text as you can split the editing process into several parts according to the plan you’ve got.

Now, when the importance of the outline is clear, we can proceed to the next steps of the informal outline writing enhancement.

Work with the Ideas

The outlining can seem a very simple task to accomplish even the MLA application style, but first, some analytical activity should be applied towards the ideas of writing and potential points of view for specific topics. Without a proper idea, it won’t be possible to design the outline in a nice way. That is why a writer needs to make some efforts to develop the ideas for work.

  • Listing of the ideas. If you have some potential topics for writing, list all of them down. There might be some related points of view which can be unified for a further writing. This method can help you detect the valuable ideas which can, later on, be transferred to the outline.
  • Chaotic writing. Write everything that comes to your head that is related to a given theme of writing. Such a stress to the brain cells will definitely stimulate ideas which will derive from the depth of your subconsciousness. Put aside all the written material and let your mind cleanse for a few hours. After you’ve got enough of rest you can proceed to look through the text in search of some worthy data.
  • Grouping and categorizing. While working with all your notes consider adding some categories or parameters, according to which you can structurize all the data that is in your possession. This will be the skeleton of your potential outline – a middle stage of work – that will be modified and shaped after you have a clearer idea of writing.
  • Monitoring the potential options. In some peculiar situations, you are not assigned the task, and you need to come up with a personal persuasive idea. It can be an interview or application essay so nobody is going to give you the topic. In this situation, the only way to cope with it is checking for either the samples or ask people you know for possible options that you can utilize in your essay.

With all the prepared ideas, you can proceed to the work on your outline that can be split into several activities.

Organizing the Outline

The first sentence of the outline should always be a topic of your essay. It should reflect the whole essay that was concentrated in a single sentence, and that makes a clear statement of what will be told in your essay. In terms of title consider the following aspects:

  • It should describe the whole text with simple yet contextually important sentences.
  • The title should be attractive to the reader.
  • Do not make the title either too long or too short – the number of words should be adequate to understand the topic of the text.
  • Use some hooks to drive readers’ attention to the text of yours.
  • Consider major and minor points in order to develop a complex outline with structures and sub-structures.

Defining the Priorities

You can work on either argumentative or an expository essay. There might be a requirement of describing a problem and solving it. Some essays might demand to create a situation based on your personal experience. These are called the goals of writing, and when we are talking about the goals of writing, we should remember that the look of the essay outline greatly depends on them.

In this aspect, there are three basic approaches to outline creation depending on the topic and writing goal.

  • Compare and contrast method. It is quite helpful when you need to describe some events or some problems. The outline, in this case, consists of an argument and a counter-argument which refer to the particular topic of writing. It requires some serious analytical skills from a word writer.
  • Cause and effect presentation method. This method is specifically effective when you need to present some important events and describe all things which were connected with it. This mean of organization requires the use of the most recent data that will reflect the present state of affairs.
  • Descriptive method. This method is probably the simplest one as it requires mainly the sequence of actions – what should be described at first. Perfect for reflexive essay writing.

The Creation Procedure

The writing of the outline requires some simple steps to perform and each of them makes the work on the outline rather easy.

  • State main points. The organization of every outline always starts with the selection of all the necessary arguments that will reveal the basic goal of writing. Organize the points in either meaning or chronological order and put some short notes regarding the role of this point or material that is related to them.
  • State subtopics. It is natural to assume that all your major topics can contain a series of sub-points. It means that each topic has some peculiarities which should be described in separate paragraphs.
  • Each paragraph should contain at least two sub-points – basically, the reminders of what should be included in the text of an essay.
  • Layering is a method of adding subtopics to some peculiar topics. This can make the outline look rather complicated, but it is worthy to mention that this method is applicable for some serious essay writing when the topic requires a lot of insight to be added to achieve the desired result.
  • You don’t have to write the conclusion in the outline, but still, you might want to check some major points of your writing and transfer them onto the outline. This will help you save some of the most memorable thoughts while they are still hot.
  • When you think that your outline is complete, review it once more and think what points are of a lesser importance and without which it would be possible to write the text.

You should never consider an outline a waste of time. This is an important part of writing as it shows the skills of the writer to check the most important elements of the assignment and write them in short blocks. Such format is excellent for getting orientation in the debris of information that is in your possession.

The best thing about outlining is that this is a truly universal means of systemizing all the data, and whenever you need to prepare some report, thesis statement or a brief account on the essay, it will be always at hand ready to provide you with all information that will occupy a single sheet of paper. That is why outlining should be the first thing to do when writing an essay.

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Angelina Bennett

Angelina Bennett is a college adventurer, shopaholic and dreamer. She has, perhaps, the widest circle of offline friends, but despises aggressive online presence. “Be true” is her motto. She explains her life philosophy in her personal blog at CheapEssay.net – a website for international students.

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