How do you write an outline for an essay: 'must do' tips

While many students may feel that writing an outline for an essay is a waste of time unless it’s been specifically assigned to them to do so, that’s typically because they aren’t writing quality outlines. A well planned, high quality outline can be an enormous help in writing a superior essay. The following tips can help any student write an outline that will not only please their instructors but will streamline the writing process, making writing an essay a faster and easier task.

  • Stay organized while researching.
  • During the research portion of the process, the student should remain organized. As they research, they will undoubtedly recognize several themes that they will use in the essay. Each of these themes should be given its own section in their notes, and as they gather material from sources, that material (along with the source it came from) should be listed in that section.

  • Determine the order of the body paragraphs first.
  • Once research is finished, the student will begin the process of structuring the outline by deciding on the order they will use for the body paragraphs. Each paragraph’s main idea should coincide with one of the themes they used to identify the sections of their notes. There are many different strategies to use when determining the order of paragraphs in the essay; these should be considered based on the essay’s topic: general to specific, specific to general, chronological, etc.

  • Outline the body paragraphs.
  • Once the order has been determined, the student should create an outline of the body paragraphs. Each paragraph’s outline should include an introductory sentence which complements the transition from the previous paragraph, the main idea that the paragraph will use as a theme, the supporting sources which will be used to illustrate this main idea, and a concluding sentence that aids in transitioning to the next paragraph.

  • Outline the introduction and conclusion paragraphs.
  • Once the body paragraphs are outlined, their main ideas can be summarized in the outlines of the introduction and conclusion paragraphs. These should each contain the student’s thesis statement, an overview of the themes covered in the body, and strong conclusion sentences. The student should take note of the fact that the concluding sentence in the introduction should provide a smooth transition to the first theme to be covered in the body paragraphs.

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