Complete Writing Guide on Academic Essay Outline for Students

Complete Writing Guide on Academic Essay Outline  for Students

Essays are among the most common and frequent tasks every high school, college and university student gets from teachers and professors. Although many students prefer ordering their essays online, there are certain situations able to make you try completing this academic assignment on your own. When this happens, you can’t go far without an essay outline. 

What is an Outline

In general, an outline for an essay is its plan that presents the essay main ideas. It is the short and bulleted skeleton draft where you set up a structure, think over the key points and ideas, plan their places and roles in the text, etc. Properly done outline shows you where and how to tell particular things to make the essay writing process easy and natural, just as breathing. 

Students frequently strive towards saving their time (and postponing that boring essay writing) and try completing an assignment without spending enough time on creating an outline. They consider an outline to be a waste of time.  Here is a short and most critical tip by professionals: don’t do that. But we consider it very helpful, as after completing an outline, you do not need to think about the order of your ideas and when to say what. You just develop the ideas you have laid down in your outline. Writing an essay without outlining it is a mistake if you want to get a text worth highest grades. Organization is the key to everything here.

This guide is here to help you:

  • Know what an essay outline is;
  • Find out how to write it correctly
  • Show helpful examples to let you craft your outline easily. 

Come on, let’s roll! Essay writing can be fun. 

Types of outlines

We’ll be short here. Below, you’ll find two paragraphs describing two main essay outline types. Think them over and pick the one most suitable to you. 

  • Sentence Outline. In this case, you write down the thesis and every supporting paragraph topic sentence fully in its place. In fact, you get the essay partially written before even getting the first draft ready.  
  • Topic Outline. This provides a quick look over topics and subtopics you need to include in your text to complete it. A topic outline is a broader approach suitable when you want to have more space to maneuver while drafting your future essay out. 

Why to write an Outline

The purpose of the outline is to help you with ideas: their generation, organization, and development. While writing it, you see if your concepts do interconnect and how. Additionally, you’ll find out gaps in your knowledge of the topic, which require more focus. The main advantage of writing an outline is that you get the opportunity to notice all that before you actually start writing an essay itself. 

Five Parts of an Essay 

Come on, that’s pure classics. Still, despite every student knowing that, it is always useful to repeat something that is fundamental. So, here are five critical parts of every essay:

  1. Introduction + Thesis Statement. Here, you introduce the topic to the reader. Describe what the text is about and express your point of view. A thesis statement is the idea you are going to build the arguments around. 
  2. Main body (a minimum of three paragraphs). The main body is the very essence of every academic writing task. Here you present your main arguments and support them with evidence. Please note that each paragraph should contain the main idea supporting the thesis statement and proving its correctness with expanded arguments. A widely accepted standard tells of three worthy paragraphs contained in the main body. Try keeping up with that.
  3. Conclusion. Contrary to the common opinion, the essay conclusion should not repeat your main body arguments in short. It should summarize them and tie the entire essay together once more. Also, make sure to restate your thesis statement in the conclusion part and provide the general summary of the essay. Making the summary strong and remarkable is the solid way to craft a worthy A+ essay.

Essay outline format 

A regular essay outline format is bound to keep up with the standard structure of this academic task. This means, it is your short list of key points to mention and expand while writing a draft. Keeping that in mind, here below is the format.

Let’s suppose that you write an argumentative essay on democracy. Regarding the topic, your outline might look like the following:

1. Intro: the definition of democracy. 
-Thesis statement: democracy is the best form of government. 
2. Main Body: three arguments explained
- Democracy means freedom to choose and be chosen.
- It provides equal possibilities for every citizen to influence the decisions. 
- It is the only way for everyone to vote for what they think is right. 
3. Conclusion: the progress of freedoms connected with the overall development of democratic countries compared to non-democratic ones.

How to Write an Essay Outline? 

We’ll be clear and short here. The best way to explain essay outline writing is to set up a step-by-step guide. So, here it is.

Step 1: Read the Assignment Attentively

In some cases, it is even worth rereading it two or three times to understand what exactly the professor wants you to write. Check the requirements, make sure you understand them clearly. Ask the teacher for the consultation to clarify certain moments if necessary.

Step 2: Determine Essay Topic and Type

Most likely, the assignment itself will make it clear about these two critical points. However, if you can pick an essay topic by yourself (and sometimes teachers even allow choosing the essay type as well), it is crucial to know it before you even start outlining a text.

Step 3: Write an Outline

At least start doing that. Try keeping up with the required essay type, and obviously, the chosen topic. Check the text below in this article to see separate guides for various types of assignments.

Step 4: Develop the Key Points

The early outline contains the focus ideas, milestones of your future essay. It’s a skeleton. Now, you should add enough muscle mass to it: facts, suggestions, predictions, opinions and other thoughts depending on the ideas you just outlined.

Step 5: Edit and Rewrite

It is better to proofread, edit and change the outline on the go than to be stuck with an essay few hours before the deadline. See if your writing functions properly together. Don’t hesitate to cut the unnecessary “water” off, or to add something if you find it suitable. In the end, your outline will turn into a perfect essay worth the highest grade. 

What is Reverse Outline

Have you ever heard of a reverse outlining? A reverse outline is a technique multiple pro writers apply when they need to check the text they have just written. During this process, you put all the backup writing and research materials to stay one-on-one with the key points of the text. The reverse outline is the bullet list of the entire writing structure. So, you can see whether or not the focus concepts of the written text correlate with things you wanted to include in the essay.

A reverse outline can help you:
  • Make sure of an essay meeting its purpose; 
  • Reveal weaknesses or points requiring additional evidence;
  • Notice the parts of the text potentially able to confuse the reader with structure or organization.

Essay Outline Examples

Essays are different. Their outlines should be different, too. Here below you’ll find the samples of possible outline structures for various papers.

Argumentative essay outline sample

An argumentative writing is obviously focused on arguments. So, your outline might look like the following: 

1. Intro – the topic & controversy description
- hook
- general info on the topic
- thesis statement expressing your viewpoint

2. Main Body – at least three arguments
- A relatively strong argument
- A bit weaker argument
- The strongest argument you’ve got

3. Conclusion – tying up the arguments and a thesis once more.

Persuasive essay outline sample

Here, you use logic and arguments to convince readers of your point of view. It may seem similar to an argumentative text, but persuasive writing is usually more insisting and even a bit more biased.

1. Introduction of the topic
- hook
- background informaiton on the topic
- clear thesis statement revealing the author’s position

2. Main Body – working with arguments and counterarguments
- Argument 1
- Discussing the counterargument 1
- Argument 2
- Discussing the counterargument 2
- Argument 3 
- Discussing the counterargument 3

3. Conclusion
- summing up things to persuade the readers why your viewpoint is right. 

Expository essay outline sample

In an expository essay, you provide an investigation of the particular topic through the evaluation of evidence. The goal is to provide the reader with relevant information, to describe and explain it to them. 

1. Intro 
- general view of the topic
- background information
- thesis statement

2. Main body 
- Evidence 1
- Evidence 2
- Evidence 3

3. Conclusion
- restatement of thesis statement
- summarizing the topic’s meaning and explanation
- general conclusion

Research essay outlines

In this kind of writing, you provide analysis of someone else’s topical works and then combine their conclusions with your concepts. Here, you argue their points and show up your ideas based on that data. -

1. Introduction
- provide the topic and say why it is important for you to research it
- add strong and debatabkle thesis statement

2. Main Body – a set of milestones and ideas combined;
- Key research conclusion by the author 1;
- Your ideas and concepts on its development;
- Key research conclusion by the author 2;
- Your ideas and concepts on its development;
- Key research conclusion by the author 3;
- Your ideas and concepts on its development;

3. Conclusion 
-  restatement of the thesis statement
- the summary of the topic’s importance and ways your ideas are supposed to open in further exploration
-  general conclusion and recommendations

Tips for creating effective outline 

The writing process can be stressful, especially when you don’t know where to start. Here are five steps to a strong outline.

  • Choose Your Topic and Purpose;
  • Get the List of Focus Concepts;
  • Organize Ideas on the Paper;
  • Expand Main Points;
  • Proofread, Edit, Adjust.

Yes, it can be that easy. 


So, after reading this text, you probably understood why an essay outline is important and how it can help with crafting a worthy assignment. Keep up with the guideline above, and let all your essays get A+.

In case you feel not too confident about completing an essay task well on your own, there is another option to consider. Try asking pro writers for help. They know the deal, and are ready to provide support for you whenever you need it.