How to Write an Essay Outline: Tips and Examples

posted by Andy Preisler 03 Jan 2023
Table of contents:

Is another assignment giving you a splitting headache? Learn how to write an essay outline, and your problems will fade! Students tend to underestimate the importance of outlines, but those who figure out how helpful they are never regret it. An outline is your academic life preserver: it will guide you through every difficult process, showing you what to do and which points to focus on. Yes, you might feel reluctant to spend time on something that won’t result in a ready-made essay, but hear us out: if you write an outline, you’ll save hours working on your final paper. This guide is for you if you have doubts. It lists all the comprehensive steps you need to take, specifies their importance, and gives tips that you’ll find invaluable.

Tackling Definitions: What Is an Essay Outline?

Before you learn the steps to write an essay effectively, you must see what this fuss is about. Figuring out definitions is a good start. An outline is a visual image of your essay and its contents. It represents your ideas, main points, and even transitions between the paragraphs. The goal of an outline lies in putting your plans for a paper in one place — when you start writing, you can look there, making certain that you’re staying on the right track.

It might look like crafting an outline for essay takes even more of your time, but in reality, it’ll accelerate your writing process by a lot. When you have a guidebook, you already know what to research. It means you won’t spend extra hours mulling about what to put into your paragraphs. One look into your outline, and you’ll know.

Points to Consider Before You Start an Outline

Now that you know the definition of essay outline, learn what steps to take during the prewriting stage. An outline is useful when you know what to include, so first of all, you should research. Imagine that you’re supposed to craft a 1000-word essay on History. Explore your topic, find relevant sources, determine what side of argument you’re on. Organize information you collected into meaningful categories. For example, if you’re researching Alexander the Great, put ideas about his personal life in one group, thoughts about his accomplishments into another, and stuff about his failures into the third one. Such an organization will enhance your logic.

As you outline essay template, decide on the order of information there. It’s not vital, but it could help you gain more clarity. Following the example of Alexander the Great paper, break the events from his life in chronological order. Another option includes moving from big events toward smaller ones. Choose one type of format and keep following it throughout your essay. Create your outline to reflect your chosen approach.

How to Outline an Essay: Key Parts to Include

There is no difference between a college or university paper in terms of the format. Both have the same academic essay structure requirements, which makes your job easier. Show this structure in your outline. We prepared a template that can be applied to any topic or academic level: take a close look.

1. Introduction.

a) Hook: Intrigue your readers by thinking of a powerful first sentence that’s guaranteed to grab their attention.

b) Background: Discuss the basics of your topic.

c) Thesis: Create a strong statement that outlines your purpose for writing an essay at the end of essay outline introduction.

2. Body.

1st Paragraph

a) Opening sentence related to the first point from your thesis.

b) An example, quote, or fact from a source & explanation.

c) Closing sentence that summarizes this paragraph’s content.

2nd Paragraph and others:

Follow the same essay outline template.

3. Conclusion.

a) Restate your thesis.

b) Sum up essay content.

c) Reinforce relevance of your work/address limitations if it is a longer and more official research.

What You Must Remember about Format of Your Outline

If you looked at the template above and got chills, relax! When you’re writing an essay outline, you don’t need to use complete sentences. Just a couple of key phrases or even words would be enough. In most cases, an outline serves as your personal guide. You don’t need to submit it unless your professor demands it, so you can even draw pictures instead of using words — this is your business and no one else’s.

Your essay outline format could be linear, exploring one point after another, or it could regard several points in one paragraph. You could focus on points or on themes — again, structure with all its nuances is up to you. Some students end up putting half of their essays into their outlines. This is not a wrong approach, but it’s unnecessary. This part of work is supposed to be a result of your immediate brainstorming, not a finished or even half-finished project.

From Theory toward Practice: Essay Outline Example

Most students fall asleep when they are bombarded with layers and layers of theory. They prefer to see practical examples of 5 paragraph essay format for their outline, which is why we decided we’ll provide them. During your years in college, you will definitely have to write four major types of papers: we’ll cover them all while offering an example of a good outline on a random topic.

Argumentative papers

This is the most common type of academic essay. In it, students should prove that their view on a topic is the best. They should provide strong arguments, address opposition and appeal to logic. This is a structure of an essay outline of this kind titled “Purity Movement Is Hindering the Development of Fiction.” Note that we used full sentences in some places while limiting ourselves to brief descriptions in others. You can repeat this pattern or tweak it as you see fit.

1. Introduction.

a) Hook: “When people start demanding that all fiction clearly separate good from evil, movies, books, and TV shows turn bland.”

b) Background: How and when this movement emerged; a line or two establishing positions against it.

c) Thesis: “Purity movement limits creativity and makes stories identical, and while it claims it fights for a healthy representation of the world, it causes more harm than good.”

2. Body.

1st Paragraph

a) Sentence about how this movement damages creativity.

b) Specific example: Hannibal fandom. Some fans think abusive relationships shouldn’t be shown; this kills the entire idea of the show. Quotes & elaborations.

c) Why antis are bad for creativity.

2nd Paragraph

a) Stories would be identical if antis had their way.

b) Specific example: Merlin fandom. When some people list the elements they find concerning, they remove mystery, angst, and tragedy from the central relationship, making it just like others. Elaborations & quotations.

c) Why stories would be the same.

3rd Paragraph

a) Contradictory sentence: antis’ position & rebuttal.

b) What do antis think vs. what do you think to counter their argument. Quotes.

c) Why your argument is stronger.

3. Conclusion.

a) Repeating thesis, in other words.

b) Restating points about why antis’ arguments about fictional stories are unsustainable.

c) Topic is relevant because some productions try being boring to please antis, which spells disaster for future fiction.

Expository essays

How to write an outline for an essay of expository nature? We’re about to demonstrate it. This time, we chose this topic: “Invention of electricity made people more vulnerable.” The goal of expository papers entails exploring a subject and informing people about it. Expository essay writing involves exploring a subject, informing people about it, and providing a clear and logical structure to convey the information effectively.

1. Introduction.

a) Hook: “87% of people have electricity, and this is the exact number that will face disaster if they ever find themselves without it.”

b) Background: Data on how electricity statistics changed over time and what people use it for.

c) Thesis: “People over-rely on electricity, which means that they risk becoming helpless in case it disappears for a lengthy period for any reason.”

2. Body.

1st Paragraph

a) Introducing the first way in which people use their electricity often.

b) Giving quotes or facts from relevant sources to illustrate the picture.

c) Underlining why people over-rely on this type of usage.

2nd Paragraph

a) Introducing the second common way in which people use their electricity.

b) Adding facts from sources to demonstrate what you mean.

c) Emphasize why this type of usage is potentially dangerous.

3rd Paragraph

a) Mentioning a possible disaster and hinting at the consequences people would have to face.

b) Elaborating on this by using quotes and precedents from the past, showing that people are addicted to electricity.

c) Summarize your key point from this paragraph: electricity might disappear, and it’ll be bad.

3. Conclusion.

a) Restating thesis.

b) Referencing the findings: electricity is too useful and people cannot imagine their lives without it anymore.

c) Mentioning that this topic has a profound meaning because the situation in the world is unstable, and everyone risks losing electricity for extended periods.

Narrative basic outline for an essay

Narrations are also common. Colleges love these tasks because they help disclose the personal qualities of a student. You don’t need to do any research here: the point is to tell a story that happened to you. It could be something you made up, but professors usually ask for a truthful account that affected you. We created an outline with the title “How Going to the Cinema Changed My Life.”

1. Introduction.

a) Hook: “When I entered the cinema, I never knew that I was going to come out of it as a person whose world had collapsed.”

b) Background: I had a grandfather who was sick for several years; there was a movie I wanted to see; right before it started, I got a phone call telling me that my grandfather is feeling ill.

c) Thesis: “My decision to ignore the phone call and assume that my grandfather would be fine because he always triumphed before led to the fact that I lost the two hours I had to see him for the last time, which changed me forever.”

2. Body.

1st Paragraph

a) I had an ill grandfather but he was fighting his illness successfully for two years.

b) An example of me thinking he’s about to die and rushing to his side only to see that he started feeling better again.

c) These instances of luck made me careless.

2nd Paragraph

a) I wanted to see a movie & got a phone call.

b) I was told my grandfather is unwell, but I thought it was another fluke.

c) When the movie was ending, I was told he had died.

3rd Paragraph

a) I was shocked.

b) My grief and guilt haunted me for years.

c) I will never take my loved ones for granted again.

3. Conclusion.

a) Thesis restated.

b) Summarize the situation briefly.

c) Outlining lessons learned.

Persuasive college essay outline template

These papers should convince your audience of your opinion on something. Unlike argumentative essays, they don’t deal with arguments from the opposition — you simply need to share an opinion in a strong manner. The title for this outline is “The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon Is the Best Book of Stephen King.”

1. Introduction.

a) Hook: “King’s book that almost no one knows about is his best book.”

b) Background: Publication date; synopsis.

c) Thesis: “The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is the best King’s book because it is realistic and ambiguously terrifying.”

2. Body.

1st Paragraph

a) This book is realistic.

b) Exploring realism.

c) This makes the character more relatable.

2nd Paragraph

a) Book is ambiguously scary.

b) Explain how the character could be seeing a monster or a bear.

c) This ambiguity is compelling.

3. Conclusion.

a) Thesis restated.

b) Repeating summary info.

c) Underline how this is the best book.

Breathe Life into Your Essay by Creating an Outline

Since now you know how to create an essay outline, you’ll see how much more efficient your writing process has become. Pick a topic, break it into logical parts, and paint a picture by putting your thoughts into thesis. If you find this complicated, contact us with words, “Could you find me an expert who can write my essay for me on my topic?” We would be honored to help. Set up your terms, pay for assignments, and enjoy amazing results.


  • What are three basic parts of an essay outline?

This would be an introduction, body, and conclusion. Each has its unique aspects that students should know about.

  • What is the format of an outline?

It tends to be linear, spreading from larger to smaller points or vice versa. Sentences could be short and incomplete as long as they are comprehensive.

  • When do I need to write an essay outline?

Write it when you need to craft a paper with at least 4 paragraphs. Once you realize how to make an outline for an essay, you’ll complete everything with amazing speed.

  • Do I have to follow my essay outline as I write?

It’s preferable — that’s why you wrote an outline, to begin with. Your ideas might change but think carefully if it’s for the better.

Andy Preisler

Blog writer for GrabMyEssay

Andy Preisler


Hey there!

I’m Andy Preisler, and I’m super happy to be joining the blog team at!

While I hail from Fayetteville, Arkansas (I know, not the most progressive state!), I left the Southern life behind me many years ago when I went to college for my first degree. I’ve received it in University of Arkansas, Fayetteville and I’m really proud of this. Since then, I have studied in the U.S., and later on, continued my education in Loughborough University, UK, where I actually my second Bachelor’s Degree along the way.

With my perpetual studies (my parents wonder if it will ever stop), I have become a bit of an expert on college life – academic, social, and financial – and love sharing my experiences and my methods of “circumventing the system” with others.  I will be sharing all of these great tips and strategies with my readers, so stay tuned!

When I am not blogging or enrolling in some new course that interests me, I am backpacking through Europe and staying in hostels, working on my second novel (a riveting murder mystery), and pursuing my interest in music. Yes, I travel with my guitar, and you would be amazed at the amount of cash I can accumulate, just performing on the streets of European cities (they are so much more tolerant of vagabond musicians). 

My other passion is environmental. In my short 27 years of life on this planet, I have witnessed the extinction of species, the destruction of rain forests, and irreparable harm to our oceans. I contribute both time and money to several international environmental organizations, because we all must do our part to save Mother Earth.

But I digress! If you are interested in the “ins and outs” of college life, and want some great tales of navigating through the game of “degree attainment,” as well as tips for easing the pain of those pesky essay and paper assignments, follow my blog!

I would love to hear from you, to give you advice, and to lend a listening ear. You can contact me at [email protected] anytime! And follow my posts – you won’t be disappointed!

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