Step by Step Process to Creating an Essay Outline

Academic papers, whether an essay, thesis, novel, coursework or novel, all have one thing in common; they a well-defined structure. Unlike the majority of the other papers, essays require an enormous amount of creativity. It can be challenging for students since the freedom enjoyed writing such pieces demand that they create the structure that works for their paper themselves. It makes devising the perfect structure among the most complex parts of the essay writing process. The outline will depend on the following factors:

  •  Goal,
  •  Type, and
  •  Form, of the composition
  •  Workload

The paper outline is a critical part of writing because it ensures that ideas penned down clearly and logically. There is a list of benefits to having a framework which will be discussed in the sections to follow.

Essay Outline

As mentioned before, the essay outline enables students to jot down their ideas in a clear and logical manner. In academic writing, papers often have a defined structure that will start from the title to the conclusion, and in some cases the bibliography or appendices. Research papers are an excellent example. The author’s ideas are divided into several sections using subheadings. Essay compositions are slightly different. They don't have sub-headings, and instead, every paragraph in the body will communicate a single idea that relates to the main thesis statement. In short, the essay outline is a paper ‘skeleton’ that disciplines and guides your thoughts. Benefits of having an outline include:

  •  It gives the composition organization since there is a flow of ideas.
  •  Ensures that you stay within the paper boundaries – disciplines your thoughts.
  •  Makes proofreading your article easy since it limits any chance of you having to rearrange the paragraphs. It saves quite an amount of time that could have been wasted doing so.
  •  Ensures that there is no confusion of concepts for both the author and reader, especially if it's in a relatively new or not well-known topic. It will help create some consistency.

Creating an Essay Outline

The essay outline is the plan students will follow in executing the essay, the “skeleton” of the paper that will require some “meat.” There is a step by step process to writing academic articles which students have to follow to the latter if they want well-written papers. Among the steps is creating an outline. The essay outline is divided into three main sections:

  •  The introduction
  •  Body, and
  •  Conclusion

To write a more elaborate framework, scholars can follow the step by step process discussed in the sections to follow.

Step 1: Understand Your Theme

To create an appropriate essay outline, it is critical that you first familiarize yourself with the theme. Get a sense of what your argument will be in the paper. It will entail exploring primary and secondary sources and recording ideas, notes and any quotes relevant to the thesis. At this juncture, all the student has is an idea of what they want the essay to look like or include. The notes you took during the research are still organized in the order in which you recorded them. The goal of the outline will be to consolidate these notes, quotes, and ideas which make up the raw data of the essay. Create a structure that supports your thesis, not one that you have seen in other papers. To do so, a student will group the short notes into groups and then arrange them in a logical order.

Step 2: Categorize the Information

Now that you have a thorough understanding of the thesis, the next step is to take the information collected during research and putting them into groups. Like the files in a database where every record falls into a specific category, the same principle applies when classifying the notes, ideas and possible quotes for the essay. Categorizing your ideas ensures that there is no repetition of the major points. Students are advised to reuse the categories as necessary; this is in a bid to limit the groups into a single page. Grouping ideas will also ensure points that are not as relevant to the thesis are removed. It is at this stage that the different groups will be given labels. Limit the tags to a maximum of three or four for a 7 to 10-page paper.

Step 3: Order Your Thoughts/Organizing

With your raw data now organized into categories and having labels, the next step is to order them. Begin with the most general groups to finally the ones that are specific. Arrange the labels in a manner that supports your main argument. You will create short sentences from the labels which will make up the outline for your essay.

In the introduction, you will be expected to write a sentence with the general ideas of the essay. They will constitute the essay sections and as such will be expected to follow the order which you followed them in the sentence.

It is evident that creating the perfect outline is a process which students must follow to write quality papers. From getting the raw data to finally put them in an order that supports the main argument, one has to invest some quality time onto the process. Note that, one has to start with the body of the text followed by the introduction and conclusion.

An Example of an Essay Outline

The example is a template that students can use to create their essay outline.

A. The Introduction

  1.  A sentence that will grab your reader's attention, and entice them to read on
  2.  State the thesis statement

B. The Body

  •  The first main point
  1.  Evidence supporting the main point
  2.  One or two other points with a shred of evidence supporting the key point
  •  The second main point
  1.  Evidence supporting the main point
  2.  One or two other points with a shred of evidence supporting the key point
  •  The third main point
  1.  Evidence supporting the main point
  2.  One or two other points with a shred of evidence supporting the key point

C. Conclusion

  1.  Reiterate the thesis statement
  2.  An insightful/thoughtful/perceptive sentence to conclude the essay


When creating an outline, it is easier and safer to start with the body. It forms the basis of the text and as such will inform the introduction and conclusion. It is critical that the essay has flow, and it can be done by logically organizing the theses. Recording the abstract, presenting several arguments for the thesis, and ordering them is necessary for designing the perfect outline. It is after doing so that students can expand on the framework to have a well-written essay. Practice is essential which students can get from accessing essay writing platforms and services online.

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