How to Create an Essay Outline

So many students plow ahead on their essay writing without an outline. You might think it’s a waste of time or it’s too much work when really it saves you both time and work later on. Writing an outline isn’t rocket science, and you can make one without using all your time or working too hard. Here are a few basic things that most outlines contain:

    The first paragraph, or introduction

  • Write briefly about how you want to start: with a quote or an interesting question or anecdote? Catch the reader’s attention.
  • How should you introduce both sides of the topic at hand?
  • Next, you have the body paragraphs, or arguments

  • Have a few sentences written about each one
  • What are the quotes, facts, and statistics you are going to need?
  • Explain why these arguments are relevant and remind yourself why you picked this topic. If your topic was assigned by the teacher, try to find something about it that interests you
  • For the conclusion, less is more

  • Briefly summarize everything above
  • Talk about why this is important
  • End off with a poignant statement or question that makes the reader think, “Gee what would I do if I had to make that decision?”

How to Use Your Outline

Start by gathering all of your materials together and staying organized. When you’re preparing to sit down and research or to start writing, make sure you have the teacher’s instructions and your outline next to you. This way, you don’t have to get up to find anything and interrupt your momentum or train of thought. During the first draft, remember to just write and get it all down without going back to edit or reread something you wrote yesterday. This is very important, because you can get hung up on making the introduction perfect while your middle sags and your ending is still in your head.

Once you get to the very end, that’s when you can go back, reread and edit. This is also an important stage because you can fix anything you neglected in the first draft; it doesn’t have to stay there. Your essay is only as good as your rewriting skills, because anyone can come up with a rough draft but only students that care about their grades and want to take the essay an extra mile for readability and interest, will be able to shape it into something beautiful.

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