How to Write a Perfect Essay Outline Guide

How to Write a Perfect Essay Outline Guide

Before starting an essay, it is important to know what you are writing for. How can it be made easier for creative writers to come up with essays on different topics? Essay outlines answer that.

Essay outline serves as a spine for writing essays. It becomes a bit more complex when you have no structure to start writing an essay. Rather than wasting time writing an essay, with an outline, writing will flow more naturally and quickly.

If you want to write your best essay paper, no matter what type it would be, you should know how to deal with some typical essay outline. Here you have a few important steps you must follow while creating your essay outline.

Key parts of an essay - Start writing outline even when conducting research

The easiest way to write an effective outline that will serve you a reliable guide through the whole essay writing process is to start composing it when doing research. Sort out all the findings you obtain by their importance and topic relevance. Write them briefly down as long as you proceed with research.

Outline format - Stick to multi-level structure

Normally, an outline looks like an extended plan, arranged in sections. Each section stands for the name of the chapter. All-in-all there are as many sections as there are chapters in an essay. However, you can make your outline even more detailed by expanding sections with subsections. This way you can arrange your ideas or research results more precisely.

Structure of an Essay Outline

I. Introduction

  • Introductory statements
  • Thesis statement
  • Introduce supporting ideas (optional)

II. Body

  1. Transition, topic sentence
  2. Discussion, examples, and analysis
  3. Conclusion (optional)

III. Conclusion

  • Transition, statement reflecting back on thesis
  • Restate key points
  • Ending statement that provokes thought (optional)

How to make an outline - the process


Step 1. What to do before outlining - choose a topic

The main and very first thing is that you should choose a topic to write your essay outline. This will be your main focus. You should focus and pay attention to keep your thoughts gathered.

There is a chance to use some of the broad topics. You can be not trying to fit it into your specific thesis statement. Just don’t try to narrow it down. Don’t talk about France during World War II, for example. Instead, you should look at WWII in general.

Besides that, you can also create a paper outline for some bigger piece of reading. It can be a novel or a story. But, still, you always need to focus on your topic.

Step 2. Choose an essay outline structure and main goal

There is a task to determine and state the main goal and a persuasive purpose of your paper. It will give you the right topic direction, will help to come up with background information and will help you get some logical structure in your paper. You should write down your thesis statement if you are writing some kind of a formal essay. It will help you fulfill the statement and purpose.

Besides that, you can compare two different (or opposing) things. You should analyze two chunks of information using connections and various types of critical thinking. It is not only summarizing the process, you should also do some research in several ways.

Also, you can get a smooth cause and effect presentation. Your task is to show that something happened and identify its causes. Try to develop, analyze and explain every concept and terms you are giving in your academic paper.

There must be at least one part of an argument in at least one paragraph, but, for the better effect, you should also provide some claim - a counter-argument. Don’t forget to get some evidence and examples to do your conclusion. It is a must for you to provide backups (and sources) for your conclusions, statements, and facts. The article type does not matter.

Step 3. Gather all materials you may use to support your outline

At this point, you should start to gather all materials you may use for supporting your argument. What might it be? Your best-supporting subjects are different information, like images, quotes, theories, statistics, points and your personal experience. All these things should reflect your opinion and be related to what you are writing in your essay.  

You need to identify and then disable all spaces (real and potential) in your outline to prevent any troubles with your paper writing in the future. You may write not only an essay but even a novel. So for this type of work you should have information about the period you are writing about, about fashion, food, and habits of this period.

You must always note the information about data that you have found to use in your outline. Note down everything you may need to find this information again.

Step 4. Organize your outline

You also should make a decision about your paper outline type. For this purpose, you can use some short phrases of simple words to make your outline more general and flexible. Don’t forget to use full sentences and complete details.

Or you can start it with some flexible structure features as a topic essay outline. Then consider converting it into a sentence outline. The main difference between these two is that you can use complete sentences from the second variant later in the body of your article.

You must deal with ordering your supporting information. The main purpose of it is to support your main goal. You need to be sure that your order of the information is the most effective one and does its job perfectly. Consider starting with your best and strongest points. At this stage writers should be sure that all the evidence is related and well-organized flowing one into another.

This may be the chronological order, especially when it is some historically themed paper. You also may order your evidence by theme for some literature interpretation, for example. If you want to show both sides of the story before taking your way, you must present evidence from your side for the better effect and to hook a reader in general.

Essay outline templates


Persuasive essay outline example (with explanations)

  • Introduction (3-5 sentences)
  1. Hook: Grab the reader’s attention with a quote, scenario, question, vivid description, etc. Must be related to your topic. (1-2 sentences)
  2. Thesis statement: Simply and clearly state your position on the issue(1 sentence )
  3. Three arguments. Choose three arguments you can use to convince your reader of your position. Briefly state these arguments here. (1-3 sentences)
  • Paragraph 2 (5-8 sentences)
  1. Go back to paragraph one and find your first argument. Then write a paragraph about it.
  2. Use specific examples to support your argument
  3. Write a transition sentence.
  • Paragraph 3 (5-8 sentences)
  1. Go back to paragraph one and find your second argument. Write a paragraph about it .
  2. Use specific examples to support your argument. You should use authoritative websites to give facts, statistics, supporting quotations, studies, research, etc.
  3. Write a transition sentence.
  • Paragraph 4 (5-8 sentences)
  1. Go back to paragraph one and find your third argument. Write a paragraph about it.
  2. Use specific examples to support your argument
  3. Write a transition sentence.
  • Conclusion (3-5 sentences)
  1. Summarize—restate your thesis statement and three arguments in different words
  2. Make a closing statement. Tie your closing statement back to your opening hook.

Narrative essay outline example

Topic: An Event That Changed My Life

I. Introduction or Exposition includes:

  • Hook
  • Setting (Time and Place)
  • Character (Who is in the story?)
  • Situation (The situation the main character is in at the beginning of the story)

Example: My first day of school in the United States not only shocked me, but I was determined to never go back. It was 2010, and I had just started classes at Houston Community College. It had already started badly. I had missed my bus and this caused me to be late. Then I couldn’t find the classroom….

II. Inciting Incident

Something happens or some situation changes that causes a problem for the main character.

III. Conflict

It seems to the main character that the problem cannot be solved.

IV. Climax

Something happens that changes everything and the problem is on its way to a resolution.

V. Resolution: The problem is solved.


VI. Denouement:

  • Tying up of loose ends.
  • How things will be different.
  • What the main character has learned from the experience.

Expository essay outline example

I. Introduction Paragraph

  1. Attention Getter (Write the sentence(s) you will use to capture your reader’s attention)
  2. Detail – something to add to or support your attention getter
  3. Complete Thesis Statement

II. Body Paragraph 1 Topic Sentence (Write out the entire sentence)

  1. Supporting detail Give an explanation that supports your topic sentence
  2. Supporting Detail – Give an example that supports your topic sentence and explanation
  3. Give a statement that analytically summarizes your topic sentence and details

III. Body Paragraph 2 Topic Sentence (Write out the sentence)

1.Through 3. repeat the same process as above

IV. Body Paragraph 3 Topic Sentence (Write out the sentence)

1.Through 3. repeat the same process as above

V. Conclusion

  1. Restate the thesis ideas without repeating the thesis word for word
  2. Summarize and connect the main points of your essay with a universal idea/theme 

Research essay outline example

1. Introductory Paragraph 

  • The first few sentences of the research paper give the reader a clear idea of what the research paper is going to be about.
  • The introductory paragraph should contain the thesis statement. This is usually towards the end of the paragraph. The thesis will be the statement you are trying to prove. (Try making your research question into a statement to create your thesis.)
  • The introductory paragraph may also include the main ideas of your paper. These usually support your thesis statement.

2. Supporting Paragraphs make up the body of the research paper and they prove your thesis statement.

  • Each paragraph should develop one of the main ideas.

3. Concluding Paragraph

  • The concluding paragraph usually restates the thesis using different words.
  • The concluding paragraph often leaves the reader with something to consider….maybe a question or something that needs further research.


To sum it up - we hope this info will help you create a strong and reliable outline for your essay. Making an essay is not an easy task. You have to make sure that you are able to deliver a message rather than getting readers confused. 

But why is essay outline important? Essay outlines show you that even if you are not a professional writer, you can still make a good essay. Outlines are important to have a much-organized essay. It will keep the essay talk about a topic more specifically.

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