Learn How to Draft a Perfect Essay Outline With Examples

Written by

Nova Allison

10 mins read
essay outline

The first step of creating an A+ grade paper is to make sure you have organized your ideas and thoughts. Effective essay writing requires well-structured pieces of work, so it's important to spend some extra time on this!

It includes making sure everything has its place by creating an essay outline. The purpose of creating an essay outline is to give your writing a perspective so that the reader can easily comprehend what you're attempting to say.

It's not easy to write an essay, but you will find it easier if you have a clear plan of how your paper should look. Keep reading this blog to know what is an essay outline and how to write an essay outline.

Also, look at the essay outline template that will help you write your paper better and more organized way. So, let's get started!

What is an Essay Outline?

What does the essay outline mean?

An essay outline is a way to structure your ideas and arguments in an organized way for an academic paper. It will help you cover all the things while writing, so they must be put down clearly from start-to-finish.

It's a simple way to organize your thoughts and keep track of the different ideas that you need for an essay. It also helps when it comes time to put them all into writing in detail.

Not creating an outline for writing a paper can be challenging, as it is difficult to come across all ideas effectively. You might miss any important information, or your work does not follow the smooth flow of information.

So it's always recommended to create an outline before starting the writing process.

‘Why do I need an outline for my essay?’

The following are some of the advantages of making an essay outline:

  • You can complete your work more quickly if you follow an outline.
  • It helps you ensure that you do not overlook any important information while writing.
  • You can properly structure or organize your information, thoughts, and ideas.
  • You can easily comprehend the information flow.
  • You can know where to look for that piece of information you may require when presenting your ideas.

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Essay Outline - The Prewriting Process

There is a prewriting stage to the outline process that teachers sometimes ask students before the final paper. Also, It is important to know about the prewriting process of outlining starting any essay.

So, how do you start an outline for an essay?

  1. 1. Take Your Time to Read All Essay Guidelines
  2. Be sure to read the essay guidelines and details carefully before beginning your assignment. Understanding what kind of paper you need will help with how much time it takes, and make sure that every word counts!

    You must decide about the number of arguments and word count for your essay.

  3. 2. Know the Purpose of Your Essay
  4. There is a purpose for why you're writing an essay, and it's important to know what your intention entails before getting started. It could either be informative or entertaining your readership - whatever it is, you must be completely aware of it.

  5. 3. Determine Your Target Audience
  6. To be a successful essayist, you need to know who will read your work. Determining your target audience is integral for crafting compelling content. This will determine what aspects need more attention during the writing phase.

  7. 4. Take Notes of Important Information
  8. Be sure to use scholarly resources, such as databases and books. Collecting data and taking notes will help you analyze the material.

  9. 5. Select an Outline Structure
  10. When you're writing a paper, it's important to be strategic and plan out what your points will look like. There are two ways of structuring an outline: decimal outline structure or alphanumeric structure.

    Decide which essay format works better for your essay because this will make the writing process easier.

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How to Write an Essay Outline?

How do I write an outline for an essay?

The following is a detailed explanation of how to write an essay outline.

  1. 1. Select a Topic
  2. It's important to decide on a topic before you start writing. On paper, write down anything that interests or excites you enough for an essay- then select one most interesting of these topics!

  3. 2. Research
  4. The topic of your essay will determine the type of research you need to perform. There are two types of research: primary and secondary. Researching will help identify different viewpoints, which then help develop an outline for writing in-depth about it.

    It is the same as in research papers; conducting in-depth research is part of the writing process.

  5. 3. Audience
  6. When writing an outline for any type of essay, it is important to consider the audience. By this, you can understand what kind of language would motivate their decision.

  7. 4. Identify the Type of Essay
  8. It is important to determine the type of high school or college essay before constructing an outline. Different types, like narrative and comparative essays, will have their own unique language and structure. So, you should consider the type of essay before writing.

  9. 5. Organize Your Thoughts
  10. Compile your thoughts and reflect upon the important ones. Dismiss all other details that are not relevant and add significant information only.

  11. 6. Create a Broader Scope for Your Concept
  12. The central idea is supported by theme-specific details related to one another. It is important to develop two or three main ideas and then associate them with relevant details accordingly.

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Key Elements of An Essay Outline

What makes a good outline?

The five-paragraph essay outline is the most common essay format. To write a good essay, there are five elements that must be included.


The essay introduction is the first paragraph of an essay. It provides background information for your argument and establishes context. It also contains a thesis statement and approaches you're taking towards writing this paper.

Body Paragraphs

This section should have at least three paragraphs, and each paragraph should begin a topic sentence that relates to your thesis.

Transitioning from one paragraph to another can be challenging, and this is where transitional words or phrases come in handy. These little additions help introduce variety into your work, so you must use them.

Essay Conclusion

To finish off, summarize an essay and restate your thesis statement. In conclusion, it is important to discuss the significance of solutions or other aspects related to your thesis.

Related: How to Write a Conclusion - A Step By Step Guide & Examples

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Standard Essay Outline Structure

The general essay outline structure uses an easy-to-follow linear style. Your points are numbered according to their importance, from major to minor. To rank these ideas, you can use numbers or letters for more flexibility.

For many papers, it's always wise to use an alphanumeric outline. Major sections are denoted as Roman numbers. Then, it should be followed by capital letters, numbers, and lowercase letters.

Here's a general essay template for all essays that you can use to organize your main points.


  • Topic- Define
  • Background

Thesis statement

  • Define your approach to the topic.

Body Paragraph 1

  • Define Idea-1
  • Supporting evidence
  • Relevance to the main topic

Body Paragraph 2

  • Define Idea-2
  • Supporting evidence
  • Relevance to the main topic

Body Paragraph 3

  • Define Idea-3
  • Supporting evidence
  • Relevance to the main topic


  • Reaffirming the thesis
  • Concluding statement

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Essay Outline Sample Templates

By using different templates, you can get a better idea of how essays should be organized. Having an effective outline helps because it organizes the information and decides what will go where in your paper - all without having too many general ideas jumbled together!

What are the different types of essay outlines? What is an example of an outline?

Here are some essay outline examples to help you get started on your outlines.

Argumentative Essay Outline

In an argumentative essay, you should provide solid arguments on both sides of the issue. To do this effectively and write a great paper that will score high grades!

Descriptive Essay Outline

Create a perfect image in the reader's mind of what you are trying to describe to them. A good descriptive essay should be vivid, creative, and engaging.

A well-structured outline can help with the organization throughout your thoughts. By outlining, avoid any confusion about what information goes where or how it all fits together.

Informative Essay Outline

Informative essays are often needed to impart information or educate readers about a particular topic.

Below is an outline template that will help you brainstorm your own ideas for this type of writing assignment!

Narrative Essay Outline

In this narrative essay, you will be telling a story from your perspective or personal experience. You’ll provide specific details to get the readers involved in what happened to you.

The following outline can help with understanding:

Persuasive Essay Outline

When writing a persuasive essay, it is important to use logical and sound arguments to convince readers of your particular viewpoint. To create an outline for one, look at this template:

Evaluation Essay Outline

The goal of writing an evaluation essay is to judge a specific topic based on a set of criteria. This can be difficult, but with the help of this useful outline, you'll have no trouble.

Compare And Contrast Essay Outline

When writing a compare and contrast essay, your task is to identify how two things are similar and different from one another.

Below you can find an outline to write this type of paper effectively:

Cause and Effect Essay Outline

Cause and effect essays explore how one thing happens due to another. This type of essay is a great way to demonstrate your understanding of the causes behind something.

Here is an outline for structuring such an essay:

Expository Essay Outline

Expository essays are a great way to present new information in an engaging and understandable manner. This type of paper presents the reader with a balanced analysis based only on facts. The following outline can be used as guidance in writing one:

Definition Essay Outline

In a definition essay, the writer uses various techniques to show what something means. Here is an example to better understand these types of essays:

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Outline

The main goal of a rhetorical analysis essay is to convince readers of the author's viewpoint. In this essay, the authors provide strong reasoning and research that backs up their claims!

Here is an example that will help give some insights into writing one:

Synthesis Essay Outline

Synthesis essays put the focus on different sources that back up your argument. This means you need to take a unique viewpoint and examine them closely. Then, identify how these viewpoints relate or conflict with what we're trying to say.

Problem Solution Essay Outline

A problem-solution essay identifies a problem and provides one or more solutions to it. It usually consists of the introduction, body paragraph, and conclusion.

If you are working on this type of assignment, follow this outline for organization and clarity:

Literary Analysis Essay Outline

The purpose of a literary analysis essay is to analyze and evaluate a piece of work. Look at this example. if you don't have any idea how to write one.

Reflective Essay Outline

In a reflective essay, you analyze your own thoughts or experiences regarding the topic. The following outline will make you understand the process the crafting a perfect reflective essay.

Scholarship Essay Outline

A scholarship essay is an award-winning way to stand out and get scholarships. The outline below will help you understand what makes these pieces of writing different from others.

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