Creating an Outline for an Essay in 4 Simple Steps

Creating an Outline for an Essay in 4 Simple Steps

An essay outline is similar to a skeleton for an essay in terms of structure. An essay’s thesis and key supporting points are represented in text form by a thesis statement.

It serves a variety of functions, including assisting the writer in organizing their thoughts before they begin writing, providing readers with a concise summary of the essay, and serving as a roadmap for the writer as they progress through their supporting paragraphs. Writing an essay outline is a relatively simple process, and we’ll walk you through it step by step in this post.

What is the purpose of an essay outline?

As previously stated, an essay outline is a visual representation of the content of an essay. Readers will be able to get a general idea of your essay by skimming it because it distills the essay’s paragraphs down to their most important points. However, an essay outline isn’t just for the benefit of your readers; it also serves to assist you in visualizing the finished essay before you begin writing it. This can make it easier for you to figure out the most effective way to transition between paragraphs and the best order to present your supporting paragraphs as a result of your analysis.

Outlining is a critical step in the beginning stages of the writing process. It is the place where you organize all of the thoughts and insights that you gained from your brainstorming session into a logical roadmap that you can follow as you write. If you find yourself getting stuck while writing your essay, your outline will serve as a guide to help you get back on track.

The requirement for students to submit essay outlines prior to beginning their essays is not uncommon among professors today. In most cases, this is done for the professor to ensure that each student is on the right track in terms of selecting an essay topic that has a sufficient number of sources to reference, that it fits the parameters of the assignment and that the student understands the assignment.

The fundamental components of an essay

However, despite each essay is unique, they all follow the same basic essay structure. Every essay begins with an introduction section, followed by at least one body paragraph that supports the points made in the introduction. It then concludes with a conclusion section that reiterates the author’s thesis and summarizes the points made in the body paragraphs, as described above.


The introduction is the first section of your essay that you will write. As the title suggests, this is the section of your essay in which you introduce the topics you’ll be covering. It is also the place where you state your thesis, the concluding sentence in which you make your point clear.

The introduction to your essay should be brief and effective in capturing the reader’s attention.

Sections of the body

It is possible that your essay will only require two supporting paragraphs or that it will require four or five (or more). The number of body paragraphs you write is entirely up to you unless your professor has specified a specific number for your essay in your syllabus.

A general rule to follow if you’re supporting your thesis with multiple sources is to write one body paragraph for each source that you cite. However, depending on the type of essay you’re writing, you may need to deviate from this rule. A compare and contrast essay, for example, will have a section (at least one paragraph long) for each comparison and contrast you make, and so on. Each point you make to support your thesis will be represented by a separate paragraph in the body of the essay.


You’ll be almost finished once you’ve reached your conclusion. This is the section of your essay in which you summarize the points you made in your body paragraphs and wrap up your argument. The conclusion of your essay is where you express any final thoughts or perspectives that you wish to leave an impression on your reader before they have finished reading your essay.

There are four steps to writing an outline for an essay.

Consequently, you’re sitting at your desk, preparing to write your outline. Great!

What is the best way to get started?

Simply following these four steps will help you create an outline that will make the rest of the writing process much easier.

Decide what you want to achieve.

Consider the thesis statement you’ve written. You might not have the exact words in mind at this point, but you should have a general idea of the point you’ll be making and defending in your essay at this point as well. You can work through your brainstorming notes and create an outline that covers all of the necessary points to support your objective if you have a clear objective in mind.

Remove all of the extraneous information.

When you brainstormed, you looked at every possible path you could take with your writing and every possible piece of information you could incorporate.

Once you’ve gone through your brainstorming notes, it’s time to pick out the points that will help you achieve your essay’s main objective the most effectively. Think about how each piece of information you’ve jotted down will help you prove your point. If you can provide a clear and thoughtful response to that question, you should include it on your list of points to discuss in your essay.

Create a list of the main points you’ll be making in each paragraph.

Make use of the list of points you jotted down to identify the main points you’ll be arguing for in your essay. These will be the sections of your body that you will be working with. Consider the following examples of points you might make in an argumentative essay about why your campus needs to install more water fountains:

The provision of water fountains aids student savings.

Fountains help to reduce the amount of plastic waste produced.

Heat exhaustion incidents can be reduced if there is readily available water.

Compile a list of the facts, anecdotes, and statistics that support each of these points of contention. For example, in your section on how water fountains help to reduce plastic waste, you might mention the number of disposable water bottles that were recovered from campus grounds last year as evidence of your point. Each of these supporting points is included in your essay outline.

Using a standard outline template, create your outline.

It is now time to write your outline, now that you have clearly defined your key topics and supporting points. Utilizing an essay-specific template (more on that in the following section), organize your key points into a clear, organized frame that you’ll fill in with content when writing your first draft of your essay.

Examples of an outline for an essay

When it comes to outlining different types of essays, even though they all follow the same general structure, there are a few key differences to keep in mind. Check out some of the similarities and differences between these example outlines for different essay types:

Essays that make a point

The following is an example of an outline for an argumentative essay:

Italian Ice is a superior dessert to ice cream, according to the author.


Introduce the differences between Italian Ice and ice cream, and discuss how popular each is in your country or region.

According to the thesis, Italian Ice is a more nutritious, more refreshing, and more environmentally friendly dessert than ice cream.

The calories in Italian Ice are lower than those in ice cream.

In comparison to ice cream, what is the average amount of calories in one serving of Italian Ice?

Cite how Italian Ice is more easily incorporated into the daily caloric intake of the majority of consumers.

Italian Ice is suitable for vegans.

Discuss the advantages of consuming vegan products instead of products derived from animals.

Discuss how Italian Ice is vegan, making it accessible to both vegans and non-vegans alike, as well as a healthier, more environmentally conscious option for everyone in the group to enjoy.

When it’s hot outside, Italian Ice is more refreshing than ice cream.

On a hot day, Italian Ice is a more refreshing treat than ice cream because it does not contain any dairy products.

Discuss anecdotes about how dairy products make people feel hotter rather than refreshed.


Continue to explain why Italian Ice is a superior dessert to ice cream and summarize supporting arguments. c)

Essays for college admissions

Take a look at this example of an admissions essay structure:

Sato Sensei, I extend my heartfelt greetings.


Because she taught me more than just a language, she was the most influential teacher I had in high school because she taught me how perspective is shaped by language.

Studying Japanese in high school changed my perspective on myself, my community, and my role in society. This is my thesis.

Japanese is a difficult language for English speakers to learn because of its complex grammar.

Talk about how I struggled in Japanese class and felt like giving up a few times.

Describe how Sato Sensei encouraged me to persevere rather than give up and learn another language.

Language is imbued with cultural connotations.

Learning Japanese was more than just memorizing vocabulary and copying hiragana and katakana; it was also about understanding Japanese cultural perspectives and concepts as opposed to Western ones, as I discovered while studying in Japan.

This is how I made the most of my summer in Japan.

How my Japanese language abilities helped me to succeed during my summer internship in Japan

I was able to comprehend cultural nuances because I had a good command of the language.


I’m well-prepared to succeed as an international business major because of the perspective I gained as an American student who studied Japanese.

Essays that persuade

A sample outline for a persuasive essay is provided below.

We require more security cameras in the student parking deck, as stated in the title.


Criminal activity involving vehicle break-ins is far too common on campus.

The current level of parking deck security is insufficient, according to the thesis.

Every day, vehicles belonging to students are targeted for theft.

Inform the public about car break-in statistics and other relevant figures such as the average cost of repairs to broken-in vehicles and the value of goods taken.

Improved community well-being is a result of increased security.

With the help of quotes and anecdotes, discuss the intangible value of increased security.

The costs are justified by the results.

Provide statistics on how other campuses have reduced break-ins by increasing the number of security cameras on campus.

Provide an estimate of the actual cost of putting inadequate security.


Summarize the points raised and emphasize the importance of community safety as a top priority for campus administration and faculty. After that, emphasize how adding more security cameras to the parking deck would improve overall safety.

Essays are written by the author.

The following is an example of an outline for a personal essay:

The two most memorable birthdays of my life are described in the title.


Introduce yourself and your thoughts on birthdays, as well as how you prefer to celebrate your own.

Thesis: My seventeenth and twenty-second birthdays were the two most memorable days of my life.

My seventeenth birthday

With my newly acquired driver’s license, I drove to my first concert with my best friends.

The ticket stub and wristband from that night are still in my possession.

My 22nd birthday has come and gone.

At first, I was under the impression that everyone had forgotten about my birthday. I was in a state of shock.

Then, my siblings surprised me by driving six hours to pick me up and take me to an art exhibit that I’d been looking forward to seeing for a long time.


Because of the factors discussed above, my 17th and 22nd birthdays were particularly memorable.

Perhaps conclude with a thought about looking forward to more wonderful birthday celebrations in the future.

Outlining is only one step in the process of producing excellent writing.

Once you’ve finished writing your outline, you can proceed to the next writing process to finish your essay.

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