How to write an effective outline for academic essays
Outlining can be, “Ugh, just another thing I need to do to get my essay done. ” or you can make it an easy and painless task that will help you get through your essay faster when you actually get down to writing it. If you want to learn more about outlines and how to create them, then this article is for you.
Full disclosure: at EssayJack we love outlines because not only are they time-savers but they can be used for virtually any type of communication – essays, speeches, presentations, blogs, letters, proposals, etc. So let’s get started.
Learn to understand the purpose of your essay in order to choose the order and structure of your outline. Includes a bonus tip on how to get an outline done quickly with EssayJack.
Okay, so what is an outline? In the context of an essay, an outline is basically a plan that you create to follow when you’re writing. You can see it as a contents page in a book giving you an overview of what the book covers and in what order.
Whether you’re writing a narrative, descriptive, five-paragraph essay or argumentative essay – you can write an outline for it. The advantages of writing an outline for any essay whether a short 500-word essay or a 10,000-word senior thesis are:
ii) Supporting points – in a five-paragraph essay you will need 3 supporting points while in a longer argumentative essay you might need three to five points with evidence as well. For a descriptive or narrative essay – you will also need points but these will be the various stages in your story that build suspense or move it forward.
iii) Conclusion – how do you want to end your essay? Rounding your essay off with a simple summary, clearly stating what message you wanted your audience to gain from your writing, or some thoughts about what can be further explored or researched in your topic area. Again, this will depend on the level you are writing at. A simple summary might suffice for a five-paragraph essay while a more thoughtful and reflective end might be required for a longer argumentative piece or research paper.
This really depends on the type of essay and the complexity of your arguments. Maybe you’re writing a simple five-paragraph essay. Well then, your outline can be a few lines as long as you include the main idea, supporting points, and a rough conclusion.
For an argumentative essay or an essay at the university level you’ll need to have a more detailed outline with the same components as a simpler outline but with more details that include evidence and explanation for your supporting points. This should be no longer than 1 to 2 pages.
Writing an outline isn’t a process that you need to do at a specific time during the writing process. It all depends on how much research is required, how familiar you might be with the topic, and if you have an idea of what you want to write about. So you might be able to sketch out a quick outline immediately after you’re given an essay question, or you might need to do some research to figure out a thesis or an angle to tackle the topic you’ve been given first.
The good thing about outlining is that it can help you figure out if you’ll need to do more research, refine your thesis, or learn more about topic. If you’re struggling to create an outline with supporting points, evidence, and explanation, then it’s likely that you need to do more reading to support your thesis or learn more about the topic to form an opinion on it.
Yes, of course! An outline among other things helps you think through the logic or flow of your essay. So changing your outline is definitely part of the process. Heck, when you share your outline with someone for a review or some feedback, you might have to add to it, edit or rearrange it.
You can also ask yourself if you have enough reliable sources for the evidence you present for your supporting points. This can also be something your educator can give you feedback on and they may even point you to more resources to include.
By the way, effective note-taking can make the process of outlining much easier. So check out the video below on how to take notes well when you’re researching and reading articles at university.
A topic outline basically means you’re giving each paragraph you’ll be writing a heading. For example, if you’re writing an essay about whether education institutions opening amidst a global pandemic your outline might look like this:
A sentence outline means that you’ll follow the same flow as the above but make sure that each heading then becomes a full sentence that clearly explains what you mean. For example:
Supporting idea 3: We understand more how Covid19 is spread and schools can prepare and take all the precautions needed to make sure the environment is safe for students to go back to classes.
Your introduction provides context to your readers to prepare them for your paper’s argument or purpose. An introduction should begin with discussion of your specific topic (not a broad background overview) and provide just enough context (definitions of key terms, for example) to prepare your readers for your thesis or purpose statement.
Sample Introduction/Context: If the topic of your paper is the link between educational attainment and health, your introduction might do the following: (a) establish the population you are discussing, (b) define key terms such as healthy and well-educated, or (c) justify the discussion of this topic by pointing out a connection to a current problem that your paper will help address.