How to Write an Essay Outline


An outline is the graphic representation of the primary and secondary ideas and the details of an essay expressed in a synthesized way. In other words, an outline is a logical concept for your academic paper.

These two characteristics – “synthesized” and “logical concept” – are essential in making a good essay outline that meets the requirements it was designed for. 

What Is an Outline for Essay For?

First and foremost, an outline is a plan for your paper. It’s a barebones scheme that contains all the essential points of your future essay in a structured way. 

An outline helps you clearly understand what you have to write and why. In other words, it’s a way to organize your information to make your writing more accessible and consistent, whether it’s a scientific essay or a literary analysis.

There are three main requirements a good outline should follow:

  • Logical order. Broader ideas must be divided into more specific points.
  • Conciseness. An outline should be easily understandable but not contain all the information you plan to include in your essay
  • All elements must be interconnected. Relationships between different structural elements of your essay must be apparent. 

As you can see, the task of creating an outline for your essay is as important as writing an academic paper itself. 

How to Plan an Outline Format for Essay

The essay outline format can vary depending on the writer’s preferences. However, each outline will generally contain many of the same features. For example, the topic and thesis statement will be there, as well as general points for supporting paragraphs. 

The length and details included in the essay outline can vary as well. While more detail may be helpful to some writers, others may get bogged down or confused by too much information. A simple format will include a thesis statement, supporting paragraph points, and any sources from which the writer intends to draw information.

It’s often helpful to plan your essay outline as soon as you get your assignment and the topic for your essay. Here are the main steps you’d want to follow:

  • Study the essay topic carefully
  • Write it down in its entirety
  • Spend some time, at least half an hour, brainstorming the topic
  • Write down your thoughts on the topic, its scope, and various aspects
  • List any words or phrases that you think should be included
  • Write down the main points you think you must include.

What Is an Outline for an Essay Preparation Process?

If you want your paper to earn high grades, thorough preparation is required before you get to the writing process. Here are some essential steps you might want to follow:

  • Check your assignment requirements. Topic, type of essay (an argumentative, narrative, expository essay, etc.), size, formatting, and style are just a few things that can be included in your task. Read your assignment carefully to make sure you understand every detail.
  • Determine your focus. Narrow your topic down so that your essay has a clear focus. If the assignment doesn’t tell you precisely what your topic should be, take the time to think it through. Try to pick a specific topic that interests you and that you think will give you enough material to work with.
  • Find sources. Look for as many reliable sources as possible on the topic. Don’t forget to take careful notes. This applies to ideas that come to mind, questions you need to investigate further, and sources and references.
  • Figure out the research question for your essay. Choose a particular research question to answer or a problem to tackle. 
  • Formulate your central thesis. This sentence (or two or three) summarizes your main argument/statement. What helps here is to think about how your central thesis answers your research question and whether the rest of your essay can adequately justify this answer.

How to Create an Outline for an Essay

What you have to do now, when all that work is done, is make an overview to organize your arguments, your introduction, your research question, and your central thesis. This can look like this:


  • Research question

Main Body

  • Main thesis
  • An argument in support of your central thesis. Each argument and counterargument you list in this outline must be expressed through a sentence because it will be the main idea of ​​each paragraph of the main body.
  • The second argument in support of your central thesis
  • The third argument in support of your central thesis
  • Counterargument. You can investigate positions on your topic. Those that contradict yours can be used as a counterargument that, later, refuting will give strength to your text. 
  • Reject counterargument.


  • Short summary for the conclusion.

Example of an Outline for an Essay

Here’s a rough example of an outline for an academic paper.

Paragraph 1


  • Quote
  • Thesis statement

Paragraph 2

Main body

Argument 1: India is behind in terms of equality.  

Counterargument 1: Implementing integration initiatives is problematic because of the complex nature and diversity of disabilities.

Paragraph 3

Argument 2: The country’s authorities are reluctant to implement laws to provide the disabled with sufficient protection.  

Counterargument 2: The country’s leadership took measures to support the disabled financially.  

Paragraph 4

Argument 3: The government authorities’ laws are not being adequately enforced. 

Paragraph 5

Argument 4: Because many of the disabled are illiterate, the integration is slow and ineffective, and the economy suffers.

Counterargument 3: The government developed plans to integrate the disabled into society. 

Paragraph 6


  • Reiteration of the thesis.


How to write an outline for an argumentative essay?

Because an argumentative essay has such a distinct structure, writing an outline shouldn’t be difficult. Use the tips in the article, and don’t forget to include such elements as:

  • Introduction (with thesis statement)
  • Arguments and counterarguments (one per paragraph)
  • Conclusion

How to write an outline for a narrative essay?

A narrative essay is a story that still has a specific structure behind it. In this case, you’ll want your outline to look as follows::

Introduction (the main idea and why it’s important to you);

  • A setup
  • The story that reaches the climax
  • End of story
  • Conclusion. 

What does an outline for an essay look like?

The way an essay outline looks broadly depends on the writer. But in general, an outline is a plan that includes your paper’s main points and ideas without going into too much detail. Instead, you write a short description of what you want to include in each paragraph. 

Which statement explains the main reason to create an outline for an informative essay?

The main reason for preparing an outline for your academic paper is simple. First, it helps you understand how to approach the subject you were assigned, which gives you more confidence.

How to write a formal outline for an essay?

A formal outline is a visual representation of your essay structure. It takes your essay’s main ideas and displays them in order of importance. This means that the headings for this kind of outline will appear on different levels. Each sublevel is intended to show it’s a part of the higher-level idea. 

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