What Is an Essay Outline? 

An essay outline is a skeletal structure or list that is used to plan an essay before writing it. It is an effective strategy designed to organize one’s thoughts and ensure a concise writing process and thought flow.  

In an article published by Seattlepi, university educators use essay writing as a metric for critical thinking, writing skills, and overall comprehension of a lesson or subject material. 

Types of Essays

Outlining an essay is much easier when you know what type of essay you want to write. Deciding on the type of essay is critical because it can help you stick to a common theme and maintain a consistent tone all throughout. There are many forms of essays; but these are some of the common ones:

Persuasive/Argumentative Essay: This type of essay aims to persuade the reader to consider the point of view of the writer, then lead him to agree with his argument. The objective of an argumentative essay is to present your views in the most convincing way by backing up your claims with hard facts and statistics. Narrative Essay: This is a popular form of essay. Storytelling is an effective way to get your point across. Majority of people appreciate well-written stories, especially ones that carry messages or impart lessons. Narrative essays often involve a beginning, a problem, then ends with a resolution. Descriptive Essay: Another common type of essay is the descriptive essay. Language is key here. Using descriptive words and visual speech allows the reader to picture out what the author is trying to convey. Many works of fiction are descriptive in nature and give the reader the freedom to interpret and imagine. Critical Essay: This type of essay scrutinizes a given notion and backs its up with supporting evidence. It starts with a thesis statement, then dedicates a large part of the essay to disagreeing with the given thesis. To support your critique, state reasons why a subject is wrong and provide alternative explanations and options for the reader to consider. Process Essay: This type of essay is often instructional. A process essay explains the mechanics or flow of a particular topic. It is usually formal and may contain technical concepts and terms. It can also give a step-by-step guide to help the reader understand and grasp a topic better.

How To Create an Essay Outline

Now that you’ve learned the various types of essay formats, you can proceed with outlining your thoughts and points. Pick a sample from the templates above and note these important steps as you outline your essay.  

Step 1: Topic and Title

In most cases, a topic is either given or chosen by a student. After establishing your topic, decide what type of angle you want to use in your writing. What type of essay will best drive your point home? You can choose from the examples above or research on more essay types to find what works for you. Your title will be determined by how you frame your topic.  

Step 2: Introduction 

The way you introduce your topic is critical in capturing and sustaining the reader’s interest. One option is to outline your introduction by stating your main point and providing a couple of supporting details that reinforce your main point. A paragraph or two would be enough. An introduction should not be too lengthy but it should give the reader enough to want to learn more. Be creative so you will be able to hook the reader’s attention. 

Step 3: Body

When structuring your essay, keep in mind the body is the meat of your essay. The body usually contains two or more main ideas. The writer then explores, explains, and connects these ideas together. Facts, opinions, and examples are commonly used to support the main points. Divide your body into easy to digest parts and paragraphs so as not to overwhelm your reader.  

Step 4: Conclusion   

Your conclusion can also be subdivided into smaller parts. Like the introduction, keep it at a minimum. You can summarize the main points mentioned in your body or reiterate your key ideas. Another option is linking your introduction and conclusion by relating the two parts and tying up any loose ends. 


What are parts of an essay?

A typical essay would consist of an introduction, body, and conclusion. Each part can be further divided into subsections. Depending on the writer, the introduction may contain his or her thesis statement along with either one or two supporting statements. Key points and important arguments make up the main body of the essay. These main points should be divided and arranged with a clear logical flow. Lastly, the essay’s conclusion can either summarize the ideas in the introduction and body; or contain a new idea backed with secondary supporting ideas.

How do I write an outline for an essay?

Start with a topic in mind and organize your ideas into parts. Provide a thought-provoking introduction, a concise body and end with a strong conclusion. For each part, you can list your ideas in bullet points. The outline can serve as your guide when you start to build your argument.

What is the essay format?

Essays are normally constructed in paragraphs. One popular format is the MLA Essay format. It follows specific rules on title, headers, margins, alignment, indentation, and spacing. On the other hand, you could also make use of the available templates above to guide you.

Keeping in mind the basic rules and structure of essay writing will definitely help organize your thoughts better. The goal for all writers, after all, is communicating clear and concise work. Whether you are an English high school student or a professional writer, everyone should know how to create and convey effective essays. Outline your essay now and start writing!