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Essay Outline: Writing Tips

Essay Outline: Writing Tips

If you have a thesis statement, it doesn’t mean that you’re prepared to write your essay. You should clearly understand what this essay will look like and what are your key points. This is where an outline comes in handy. Outlining your essay can help you make sure that your writing will be logical and complete, with no repetition and gaps.

Another reason to write an outline is that it can help you manage your time efficiently. Just break down your essay into sections, and write a draft for every section within a certain period of time. Keep in mind that the introduction might take a lot of time to write, so we recommend that you write it when the rest of your essay is ready.


Planning and outlining are not the first steps of the writing process. First of all, you should decide on the length of your assignment. You may have many interesting ideas, but before you write an outline, you should decide how many ideas you’re going to include in your essay and which of them are the most important ones. For instance, if you need to write a 1,000-word essay and you have five main arguments, it means that you should cover every argument in 150 words. Think of whether this amount of words is enough to tell your readers everything that you consider important.

Your arguments should be equally relevant to your topic and equally developed. therefore if you feel that you will need 400 words for one argument but you won’t be able to write more than 150 words for another, we recommend that you get rid out the unnecessary argument.

To make sure that you’re ready to write your outline, take a look at this checklist. Do you have everything you need?

  • An interesting topic;
  • A thesis statement;
  • Arguments that will support your thesis. All the arguments are equally relevant and the length of your assignment allows you to address every point properly.

The Structure of an Outline

This is an example of an outline written using the linear style. Here, all the points are sorted by importance. You should consider your arguments in relation to your topic and write a bulleted or numbered list. You can check out a formal structure with numbers and letters, below.

As you can see, the subgroups are indented to the right. Therefore, as you move to the right, the ideas get more specific. This is an effective and easy way to organize your essay visually.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to write complete sentences at this stage. All you have to do is shut down your key ideas and plan the overall structure of your essay. The best outline is the one that allows you to read it and summarize your essay so that somebody who is completely unfamiliar with the topic can understand you.

If your audience can naturally follow your arguments, it means that you’ve created a successful outline and now you can start writing your first draft. If people have any questions, you may want to develop your outline. Perhaps, some of your arguments are not connected logically, or you may need to clarify something. Keep in mind that your audience may not be as familiar with your topic as you are, so make sure to provide the necessary background information.

  1. Introduction
    1. Your topic
    2. Attention-grabbing sentence
    3. Your thesis statement
  2. The first key idea
    1. Supporting argument
      1. Details
      2. Details
  3. The second key idea
    1. Supporting argument
      1. Details
      2. Details
  4. The third key idea
    1. Supporting argument
      1. Details
      2. Details
  5. Conclusion

A Sample Outline

We prepared an outline for a persuasive essay with a thesis statement, three main arguments, and supporting evidence. Every paragraph starts with a topic sentence to make sure that your readers will understand you clearly. You can also take a look at this outline and quickly understand what arguments have the most support, and what may need some development.

In the example below, you can see a common essay structure. There are three arguments that support the thesis with evidence. The structure moves from more general points to the more specific ones. However, some essays are written using different approaches. In addition, your essay may include more than three parts, depending on the type of assignment and the topic.

  1. Introduction
    The topic: is downloading music for free theft?

      1. There are different opinions on this matter.
      2. The internet and digital formats make downloading music easier than ever.

Thesis statement: Downloading music without permission is stealing.

  1. Key idea #1: Downloading music without permission is a legal issue.
    1. Supporting arguments:
      1. Taking something from someone without permission is theft.
      2. Artists and record labels own the rights to their music.
      3. Music is intellectual property so taking it must be considered a criminal act.
  2. Key idea #2: This is an ethical issue.
    1. Supporting arguments:
      1. Morality (the difference between right and wrong).
      2. There is no difference between downloading music for free and stealing a record from a store.
      3. Intangible property should be treated just like tangible property.
  3. Key idea #3: Free downloads cause a loss of income.
    1. Supporting arguments:
      1. Musicians make music because they love it but for them, the music is also a source of income. Free downloads make musicians and record labels lose money, having a significant negative impact on the whole industry.
      2. Therefore, such actions affect all the jobs related to the music industry.
      3. If musicians and record labels don’t profit off the music, the quality of the music will decrease and the record companies won’t bring talented musicians to the public.
  4. Conclusion
      1. Even though so many people download music for free, it must be considered a crime. This is wrong in both ethical and legal contexts, having a negative impact on the music industry.
      2. Restate your thesis statement: Downloading music without permission is theft.
Essay Outline: Writing Tips
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