Nova A.
Nova A.

Learn How to Create a Perfect Essay Outline

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Published on: Sep 28, 2017

Last updated on: Mar 16, 2023

writing an essay outline

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For an A+ grade paper, you need to create an outline and organize all your ideas first.

Effective essay writing needs organized ideas that can lead to a well-structured and impressive piece of writing. This includes making an essay outline.

The purpose of creating an outline is to give your essay a perspective. So that the reader can easily comprehend the main idea of the essay.

Lucky for you, you can learn everything in this blog.

Here is a complete guide for you to

  • Understand what is an essay outline?
  • Learn how to write an essay outline?
  • Get different downloadable sample outline templates for your own use

Refer to the following guide and create an awesome outline for your essay.

What is an Essay Outline?

An essay outline is a short plan of your essay or any other research paper. Here you list down all the ideas you need to cover in your essay. Structuring all the ideas and arguments from the start will make sure you cover all the things while writing.

You can write an essay without an outline. But it will be very challenging for you to come across all your ideas effectively. Chances are you might miss any important information, or your paper does not follow the smooth flow of information.

Resulting in difficulty for the reader to comprehend the main idea of the essay. So, it is always advisable to create an outline for writing a good essay.

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

The following are the benefits of creating an effective outline:

  • It will organize your ideas.
  • It will help you understand the information flow.
  • It will help you appropriately structure your information.
  • It will help you not to miss any important information while writing.
  • It will help you know where to find that piece of information you might need when presenting your ideas.
  • An outline will let you finish your work faster.

How to Write an Essay Outline?

Refer to the following section to find a detailed description of each step in writing an outline.

  1. Pick a Topic:

    On a piece of paper, write ideas that you want to write your essay before you formally start writing. Then pick a most interesting topic to base your essay upon.

    Related: 200+ Interesting Essay Topics To Ensure A Better Grade

  2. Research

    The topic of your essay defines the type of research, primary or secondary, you will use. The research identifies the gaps and the differences, which help in developing the outline. Similar to a research paper, performing in-depth research is part of the writing process.

  3. Audience

    The intended audience for the essay shall be kept in mind while you write an outline. For instance, you may use slang and informal language while drafting an outline for blogs, newspapers, and articles. A high level of subjective language is required for an academic audience.

  4. Determine the Type of Essay

    Different types of essays have different languages and structures. The narrative essay outline may differ from that of a comparative essay.

    Therefore, it is important to determine the type of high school or college essay before constructing an outline for it.

  5. Group Your Ideas

    You will compile your ideas and reflect upon the important ones. Dismiss the irrelevant details and only add significant and relevant details.

    The outline of the essay forms and groups ideas into different paragraphs. These paragraphs determine how many ideas will be discussed in an essay.

  6. Develop a Broader Spectrum for Your Idea

    The central idea is supported by the specific details of the theme. They are all associated with one another. It is important that you develop two to three main ideas and then associate details with them accordingly.

Key Parts of An Essay Outline

The most common essay format is the 5 paragraph essay outline. It will include the following elements:


The introduction is the first paragraph of an essay. It provides background information for the essay. It also contains a thesis statement that defines your essay's basic argument and the approach.

Related: Essay Introduction - Easy Guide Writing with Examples

Body Paragraphs

This section contains a minimum of three paragraphs. Each paragraph starts with a topic sentence that relates to your thesis.

Moving from one paragraph to another is difficult. Therefore, it is essential that transitional words and phrases are used to improve the quality of the essay.

Essay Conclusion

In this part of the writing process, restate your thesis statement and summarize the essay for the reader. For writing a conclusion, discuss the significance of solutions or bring other aspects that can relate to the thesis.

Essay Outline Format

The general essay outline structure uses the linear style. All the points are numbered in order of their importance, from major to minor roles. In order to rank, assign numbers to your ideas.

Here’s a general essay template for all essays that you can refer to structure your main ideas.

Essay Outline Template


  • Topic- Define
  • Background

Thesis statement

  • Define the approach towards the topic

Body Paragraph 1

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

Body Paragraph 2

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

Body paragraph 3

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


  • Reaffirming the thesis
  • Concluding statement

For most papers, it is always advisable to choose an alphanumeric outline format. In an alphanumeric structure, major sections are shown in roman numbers, then comes the capital letters, numbers, and lowercase letters.

Alphanumeric Essay Outline Format

  1. Introduction
  2. Body Section
    1. 1st Paragraph
    2. 2nd Paragraph
      1. 1st Argument
        1. 1st Sub-argument
        2. 2nd Sub-argument
        3. 3rd Sub-argument
        4. 4th Sub-argument
      2. 2nd Argument
    3. 3rd Paragraph
  3. Conclusion

Besides, you can also use the decimal essay outline format. It is a less common way of outlining an essay or a paper.

Decimal Essay Outline Format

  • 1.0. Introduction and Thesis Statement
  • 2.0. Body Section
    • 2.1. 1st Argument
    • 2.2. 2nd Argument
    • 2.3. 3rd Argument
      • 2.3.1. 1st Sub-argument
      • 2.3.2. 2nd Sub-argument
      • 2.3.3. 3rd Sub-argument
  • 3.0. Conclusion

Different Essay Outline Templates

Different templates can help you get a better idea of essay outlining. An outline is a great way to organize thoughts and decide the order in which you will present your ideas. So, it is better to create sections and fill them with appropriate information depending on your essay type.

Here are some essay outline examples for you to get a general idea for writing your outlines.

Informative Essay Outline

An informative essay writing is all about conveying information or educating readers about a particular topic.

Below you can find an informative essay outline template to brainstorm your own ideas.

Narrative Essay Outline

narrative essay is a type of paper in which you tell a story from your own perspective or personal experience. It provides specific details to get the readers involved in your story and understand your viewpoint.

Below is the narrative essay outline pdf that you can refer to for better understanding.

Argumentative Essay Outline

An argumentative essay is quite similar to a comparative essay in terms of developing arguments to support the claim. In this type of essay writing, you should provide solid arguments on both sides of the issue.

To achieve that, follow an argumentative essay outline to compose a great argumentative paper and score high grades.

The following is the argumentative essay outline template for your help.

Persuasive Essay Outline

In a persuasive essay, the author uses logic and solid arguments to convince the readers of a particular point of view.

To create an outline for a persuasive essay, consider the following template.

Related: Learn How To Create A Persuasive Essay Outline

Analytical Essay Outline

An analytical essay is usually written to analyze a text. It concentrates on how something is done. Writing an analytical essay involves breaking down the concept into parts to understand its meaning and what message it conveys.

Below is what the outline for an analytical essay should look like.

Descriptive Essay Outline

A descriptive essay is a type of paper in which the writer describes an object, person, process, or event. The main goal of writing a descriptive essay is to create a vivid picture in the reader’s mind.

For a perfect descriptive essay, remember that a well-structured outline is all you need. In this way, you can organize your thoughts and ideas to improve the information flow.

The following is a perfect descriptive essay outline that you can follow for a well-structured descriptive paper.

Compare And Contrast Essay Outline

A compare and contrast essay highlights the way in which two things are different and similar to each other. Writing a compare and contrast essay is a difficult task as it involves your critical thinking for an interesting analysis.

Below you can find the outline for writing a perfect compare and contrast essay.

Related:Compare And Contrast Essay Outline with Examples

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Outline

rhetorical analysis essay analyzes a piece of work in terms of rhetoric. The writer examines the work and explains how its different parts come together.

If you are working on your rhetorical analysis essay assignment, the following outline will help you organize all the ideas.

The rhetorical analysis essay outline will help your writing process, so make it and start writing.

Expository Essay Outline

An Expository essay is written to uncover something in a clear and straightforward manner. This type of essay presents a balanced analysis of a subject solely based on facts.

The following is an outline for an expository essay that you can refer to.

The expository essay outline give you a better idea of creating a well-written outline for your essay.

Synthesis Essay Outline

synthesis essay involves taking a unique viewpoint of a central idea and backing it up with different sources. Synthesis essay writing requires you to examine a variety of sources and identify their relationship to your thesis.

Need to submit a synthesis essay soon? Here is a synthesis essay outline template to specify all the main points first.

Literary Analysis Essay Outline

literary analysis essay is an important academic assignment that examines and evaluates a piece of literature work. If you have no idea how to structure this type of essay, here is a literary analysis essay outline for your help.

Reflective Essay Outline

In a reflective essay, you write about your own experience or thoughts regarding a specific topic. In this type of essay, a writer is required to analyze a past event from the present.

Get to know about this type of essay from the following reflective essay outline.

Cause and Effect Essay Outline

Cause and effect essays identify the reasons for something and then discuss the results. Writing a perfect cause and effect essay is not that difficult if you plan ahead and follow a proper structure.

The following cause and effect essay outline can help students understand and get into the writing process.

Scholarship Essay Outline

scholarship essay is an important part of the scholarship application process. This essay helps students to stand out and get the scholarship.

Here is an outline to help you understand how scholarship essays are different from other essay types.

Problem Solution Essay Outline

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

Learn more about the structure of a problem-solution essay with this outline.

Evaluation Essay Outline

The purpose of writing an evaluation essay is to judge a particular topic according to certain criteria.

In order to write a perfect evaluation essay, refer to the following outline.

Definition Essay Outline

definition essay explores a certain term and provides personal understanding of the term. This essay is more than a dictionary definition.

You can also check out the following definition essay outline for more help.

How to Make an Essay Outline?

To create an outline for an essay, you need to understand the assignment, how many arguments you will use, and the length of the essay. Once you have a good idea of what the essay will be like, it will be easier to draft an effective outline.

Here are some pre-outlining steps:

Know the Purpose: Before starting writing, you need to figure out your goal. Why are you writing this essay? Are you trying to inform the reader, persuade them, or just entertain them? Knowing the purpose will help you choose a thesis statement, research type, and writing technique.

Know the Audience: When writing an essay, it is important to think about who your audience is. This will help you structure your arguments and choose tone and wording accordingly.

Select the Essay Outline Structure: There are two ways to structure an outline: an alphanumeric structure or a decimal structure. Choose one that matches your needs.

Essay Outline Examples

The essay outline can be a great way to organize your thoughts when writing an essay. The following examples are for the help that gives you an idea of creating a perfect outline.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the 3 types of outlines?

Besides the alphanumeric and decimal essay outlines, the following are the 3 types of outlines.

  • Working outline
  • Full-sentence outline
  • Speaking outline

All of these are used for different purposes so be careful that you choose the right type of outline.

What is a topic outline?

A topic outline is a useful tool for organizing your thoughts while developing an argument and structuring the paper.

It helps in outlining the main ideas and arguments and presenting them in a coherent way. It also assists in building relationships between the entire assignment.

What is a full sentence outline?

The full sentence outline is a more detailed and structured way to create an essay. They are the same as the alphanumeric outlines.

These outlines use complete sentences at each level of the structure. This type of format can be used for any formal writing assignment where you need to provide detail about your thoughts.

It helps to write well-supported arguments or develop concrete ideas with evidence and outside sources.

Nova A.


Nova A. (Literature, Marketing)

Nova Allison is a Digital Content Strategist with over eight years of experience. Nova has also worked as a technical and scientific writer. She is majorly involved in developing and reviewing online content plans that engage and resonate with audiences. Nova has a passion for writing that engages and informs her readers.

Nova Allison is a Digital Content Strategist with over eight years of experience. Nova has also worked as a technical and scientific writer. She is majorly involved in developing and reviewing online content plans that engage and resonate with audiences. Nova has a passion for writing that engages and informs her readers.

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