Outlining and Defining the Basics of An Essay Outline

  • Eduhelphub,
  • Aug 24, 2020

No matter what you are trying to build or create, a handy plan-of-action is your best bet towards accomplishing success. An architect gathers ideas and reference to build, suppose a house or any civic structure for that matter, from the blueprint of the plan he created. In a much similar way, while writing an essay, you are the architect and creating an essay outline will help you glide towards an easier, more efficient essay-writing process, just as the blueprint of an architect.

What is an Essay outline?

Irrespective of the type of essay you are writing, it is a structured piece and requires a lot of planning to ideate how to proceed with the starting, what to put in the body and how to conclude your piece and precisely say what you want to say at the same time. Sounds like a difficult task? Do not worry as we are here to simplify the process, rather, the function of an essay outline is to simplify the whole writing process for you.

An essay outline is the skeleton of the essay – on which you add blood, tissues and muscles to make it a living, breathing piece of art! In this context, the outline is the skeleton which you can further enhance with content, opinions, arguments, facts and statistics.

Structure of the essay is of little consequenceas the outline is meant to be a rough draft and irrespective of the essay format, the structural outline is similar for all kinds of essays.

Why Do We Use an Essay Outline?

Planning is a significant part before starting to write your assignment, if you want to score in the top percentile, planning carries a tonne of weightage that reflects on your completed paper. Thus, to transform the planning process into a practical, visual and chronological manner, an outline is created. An essay with a clear outline is bound to be well-constructed. Pre-planning is essential, a detailed outline serves precisely that purpose.

Basics of How to Create an Essay Outline

The best part about creating an outline is that it is supposed to be a rough draft, an objective pattern to help you visualise your essay, thus, unless you need to turn in an outline (which is rarely the case) you may feel free to experiment with it without the external pressure of trying to make complete sense, and being perfect in every manner.

  • A concrete idea of the content of your essay and its implications is mandatory to start creating an outline for your essay. The core ideas that you want to elaborate upon should be concisely jotted down in a structured manner. A college essay usually requires a basic essay outline for 5-paragraph essay structure upon which you may choose to elaborate and visit extensively; however, your outline will only show the core ideas in chronological order and not much more.
  • An essay outline is supposed to act as a guide to how your essay moves forward and what ideas can be linked with one another.
  • The thesis statement of your essay should be objective and based upon the same your whole outline should be created.
  • Introduction– For an essay in general, you may start with three or four lines of introduction, which induces a thought-provoking idea but gives away nothing more. The thesis statement should be clarified in the essay introduction section itself.
  • Body– Moving on to the body, it may contain three or more paragraphs depending on how long is your essay. Each body paragraph should contain at least one main idea and discussions related to the same idea, thus, in your outline you may put only the headings which encompasses the whole plot. The body carries the bulk of your information and it is to be carefully created so that the reader’s interest does not drop through while trying to cram information-heavy paragraphs all at once.
  • Conclusion – This section would typically tie all the loose ends of your arguments to support the thesis statement and other core ideas of the paper. One has to be mindful that no new concept can be introduced in the essay conclusion. An impactful closing sentence to solidify your stance on the topic is inadvertently anticipated.

Experts opine that the Introduction section of your essay should be drafted at the very last since it provides a clearer idea of the coherence of the whole composition and how one idea leads to another. Thus, it makes more sense to create the introduction, and the hook at the end of the outline process, when the creator has a much stratified and coherent idea of the totality of the essay in his mind.

How to Structure and Format Your Essay Outline?

CreatinCreating an outline is the first step towards realizing an idea on paper, thus an organised outline is expected to exert profound impact on the content of any type of essay and the general flow of the same. Here, the format of the essay outline comes to action. An outline structure can be segmented in the following ways:

Alphanumeric System : Here the different levels of headings are marked by different sets of markers. The primary headings are labelled with Roman numerals, secondary headings are marked with Capital letters, further sub-divisions are marked with Arabic numbers and furthermore stratification’s are pointed out using lower-case English alphabets. This is the most commonly used system by students.
Heading Level 1 – marked with Roman numerals, such as I, II, III, etc.
Heading Level 2 – marked with Capital letters such as, A, B, C… etc.
Heading Level 3 – marked with Arabic numerals such as 1, 2, 3… etc.
Heading Level 4 – marked with lower-case letter such as a, b, c… etc.

Decimal Structure System : In this system the various levels of headings are all formatted by assigning Arabic numerals exclusively with increasing decimal points as the levels keep bifurcating into sub-sections. The structure is similar to the alphanumeric system.

Heading Level 1 : 1.0, 2.0, 3.0… etc.
Heading Level 2: 1.1, 2.1, 3.1… etc.
Heading Level 3: 1.1.1, 1.1.2, 1.1.3… etc.

Sample Templates Of Various Types Of Essay Outlines:

Sample Template for Argumentative essay:

The argumentative essay is devised to establish an argument and supplement the said argument with credible statistics and facts to create a profound supposition

A sample template of the essay would roughly look like:

-An Introductory paragraph

-background to your core idea

– a thesis statement

-Body content

– Paragraph 1 – Argument in support of thesis statement

Complementary facts and figures

Complementary facts and figures

Complementary facts and figures

-Paragraph 2 – Argument in support of thesis statement

Complementary facts and figures

Complementary facts and figures

Complementary facts and figures

Paragraph 3 – Argument in support of thesis statement

Complementary facts and figures

Complementary facts and figures

Complementary facts and figures

-Reverse argument to your core idea and debunking those counter-arguments

Debunking counter-argument 1

Debunking counter-argument 1


Reinstate the core argument and tie all ends into one solid proponent of your idea

Sample Template for Expository Essay

Expository essays convey the writer’s opinions and inferences upon investigating an essay topic and presenting an argument in an unbiased manner, inadvertently arriving at a conclusion.


Foreword to your topic

Concrete thesis statement

-Body paragraphs

Topic 1

Complementary facts


Transition sentence

Topic 2

Complementary facts

Transition sentence

Topic 2

Complementary facts

Transition sentence


Reinstate major points with an overview.

Offer in-sight and recommend viable solutions.

Reflective Essay Outline Template

Reflective papers are a reflection of an experience or event on a personal level, usually written in the first-person speech. Reflective essays are comparatively less rigid in its structure and flow:


– Great hook to interest the readers

– A brief teaser of the components of the essay in 2-3 sentences


-First phase of your account and further details
-Second phase of your account and further details
-Third phase of your account and further details


Summary of happenings

Compare and Contrast Essay Sample Outline

A compare and contrast essay assists in explaining interrelation between two components, ideas of events and apply them in real-life scenarios. A typical template for compare and contrast essay outline would look somewhat like the following:


-Brief inception of the essay and defining the two points of comparison

-Thesis statement


-Topic 1 about first point (a)

-Assumption on first point (a)

-Topic 2 about second point (b)

-Assumption on second point (b)

-Topic 3 reconciliation of Point (a) and Point (b)

Draw similarity between the two points

Express the distinction between the two points

Draw comparison between the two points


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