Outlines are essential to academic essay writing because they add structure and format to any assignment. They should be used when writing each draft and should be revised as the assignment begins to take shape. Learning how to create a functional outline starts at the middle school level, but learning how to create an exceptional outline is something that should be improved upon throughout one’s academic life. Here are three steps for creating a great essay outline:
Make sure you read the essay assignment prompt carefully. Underline or highlight keywords that tell you what is being asked of you from your teacher. If you have any questions ask your teacher right away. It will help you correctly develop your outline. Next, choose a manageable essay topic. You likely will have a few days to conduct your research – but don’t make the assignment any harder than it absolutely has to be. Brainstorm several ideas and do a little background research to make sure resources are available that the library. When you start your research, make sure you take down several quotations, facts, and information that support your tentative thesis argument. Organize your research content into related ideas before starting the outline.
There are different outline styles you can choose from, but they all generally do the same thing. The most common style is alphanumeric which uses a combination of Roman numerals, capitalized letters, Arabic numerals, and lowercase letters. The top-level (Roman numerals) is used to designate a paragraph’s main topic. The second level (capitalized letters) designates each discussion point beneath the main topic. The next level (Arabic letters) should expand on each discussion point and the final level is for all evidence and examples. You can choose to write out full sentences or short phrases to guide your writing. If your teacher asks you to hand in your essay outline, then you should use full sentences to communicate your ideas.
Incorporate the content of the essay intro in the first part of the outline. This should include all background information and your thesis statement. An intro should include a sentence that hooks the reader, so if you know what you are going to use, put it in the outline at this point. Include the content of the essay body to the second part of the outline. This is the largest and most important part of the essay, so it should be the largest part of the outline. Each discussion point should relate to the thesis or central argument and each point should include supporting examples and evidence. Finally, incorporate the content of the conclusion to the final part of the outline.
Always confirm that the essay outline aligns with the assignment’s requirements. If possible use templates until you are comfortable creating outlines on your own. You can also hire a professional writing service to assist you with developing an outline, reviewing your paper, and even writing your assignment.