An outline is a way to organize and structure your essay in a proper way. It's like a skeleton which should shortly summarize your content and organize it in a logical manner. Also, it will help you to have a better understanding of what you should write about. Keep reading our ultimate guide to write your winning essay and get yourself an A+!
Table Of Contents
What Is An Essay Outline
An essay outline is a structure, a bare bone view of upcoming work. It is one of the most useful preparatory tool, which allows you to organize main thoughts into single segments. To figure out the order in which information must be prepared. For example, usually, most academic essays are written in 5 paragraphs style, so it will contain 15-20 of the main points that will be addressed within your work. As an academic writer, you should use those points to construct a logical and coherent flow of ideas, from one to another and strengthen your overall argument.
The structure of an essay will vary depending on the type of article or academic work that is assigned. For example, a persuasive essay and a poetry analysis essay outline will have two very different segment pathways as well as overall text content. However, most academic tasks can be categorized within a simple essay structure that is not too time-consuming to craft. Generally speaking for most pieces of writing, the structure gives the main concept for 1-2 sentences per paragraph. So, if one was to create an introduction, their outline would look something like this:
Related post: How to Format an Essay.
- Introductory Statement About Essay (Hook Statement, Background History, Fun Fact)
- Briefly present the main arguments/topics of your body paragraph
- Introduce Body Paragraph 1
- Introduce Body Paragraph 2
- Introduce Body Paragraph 3
- Introduce Body Paragraph X
- Research Statement/Thesis Statement
Tip: Before crafting an outline it’s crucially important to create a good essay title that will grab your readers attention.
If the writer were to continue this template into the body paragraph section of the text, they would most likely have more segments within each body paragraph as the depth of content is far greater. For example, the 3 body paragraph essay outline would look like this:
- Topic Sentence (State the main point of the entire paragraph and what will be discussed) [1 Sentence]
- Argument (The presentation of the inference or theory that has been created; keep it logical and compatible) [1-2 Sentences]
- Evidence (After presenting the argument, one needs to prove its validity. Present proof from outside sources and show how this information can eliminate opposing bias) [1-3 Sentences]
- Concluding Statement (Explain the significance of the main argument within the overall borders of the essay. In other words, how is this 1 of 3 key points that prove your thesis) [1 Sentence]
As visible from the text, the essay body structure will have more segments, and each segment will generally have more information, thus increasing the length of the text and amount of sentences. When performing the actual task, avoid writing out the entire sentence. Think of the general point you want to make, and write it in a few words. You will notice that in writing, it will be hard to make preset sentences flow well together.
Lastly, we have the outline of the concluding paragraph. This paragraph’s general goal is to recap the main points of the body as well as provide an assertive conclusion to a proven thesis statement. The outline of the conclusion should look something like this.
- Rephrase Thesis Statement (Place your argument in the beginning of the conclusion and revert the reader’s focus onto its importance) [1 Sentence]
- Restate main body paragraph points in conclusion (Express their overall significance in terms of the value that they add to the thesis) [1-3] Sentences
- Overall Concluding Statement (Express the value of your thesis in terms of real-world application or its significance within your own existence) [1-2 Sentences]
If summed up, the introductory paragraph has 3 segments, the body has 12 (3 paragraphs x 4 segments) and the paper conclusion wraps up with 3 more, meaning that the entire outline consists of 18 main points. These 18 segments are enough to simplify the writing process and allow sentences to build up in a logical order and support one another.
For a practical application of how to structure an essay, EssayPro created a 5 paragraph outline example that will show you how it should look like. This real-world application is a compare and contrast essay outline of the pros and cons of legalizing marijuana.
The Fragile Balance For Marijuana Legalization
- Marijuana's legalization controversy.
- Brief history of the plant and its impact on society.
- Thesis Statement Example: Research has proven that although there are many pro’s and con’s on the governmental control of this product, societies cost-benefit analysis leads to its legalization.
Body Paragraph 1
- Topic sentence that explains pros of legalizing marijuana.
- Medicinal use for Parkinson's Disease and Terminally Ill patients.
- Can reduce spending related to the war on drugs.
- Statistics from Article X prove that point 2 is an overall beneficial idea
- Statistics from Article Y show that point 3 has validity and will save “$100,000,000” (fictional number) towards border protection.
- Concluding statement about how some of the pros can bring positive draconian changes to many aspects of society.
Body Paragraph 2
- Topic sentence that explains cons of legalizing marijuana.
- Subconsciously promotes a culture of laziness towards youth because of “sloth-like stoner stereotype”
- Increase sense awareness risks such as DUI’s and Work-Related Disciplinary Actions
- Based on article X, over 70% of the adult population in the State of Pennsylvania believe that the legalization of marijuana will bring out lower work production from a large percentage of students.
- Article Z shows us DUI’s have increased 2x in states where marijuana is legalized.
- Concluding statement explaining the harmful side effects that occur from this drug's legalization.
Body Paragraph 3
- Topic sentence is expressing that the cost-benefit analysis brings about a result in favor of the drug’s legalization.
- Though DUI’s and Disciplinary actions may increase, A country's national security will be able to invest more into other more important internal issues such as violence and human trafficking.
- Present evidence for point 2: (Elimination of Gang Lords, Weed Related Crimes, etc.)
- Though the lazy stoner “vibe” is present, statistics presented from Article J show that marijuana intoxication boosted creativity and ideas that were revolutionary in today's society.
- Present Evidence for Point 4 (Research studies, correlation effect, etc.)
- Concluding Statement about how Pros outweigh Cons logically proving the overall point that legalization is a beneficial idea.
- Restatement of thesis: As shown through the evidence presented prior, Marijuana’s legalization will add to society’s success a lot more than to its failures.
- Restate Pro’s of marijuana legalization
- Restate Con’s of marijuana legalization
- Restate Cost-Benefit Analysis Result.
- The legalization will bring about many changes to society; some positive and some negative. Though this topic has been debated for a long time, overall research suggests that immediate governmental change is mandatory and to an overall healthier and happier society.
Essay Writing Advice From Our Professional Team
Dr. Joshua, essay writer from EssayPro
When you have an incredibly small amount of time, take 3-5 minutes to jot down an outline. You should quickly draft your thesis: the three most important points of your argument (as described in the article) and then separate your thesis into the main points of your essay.
Once it's done, you can quickly add a few sub-points under the main topic of the paragraph that you’re willing to address. Write everything that comes to mind and while writing the essay, omit or add as needed. Now, this process should take you a maximum of five minutes, especially on an AP English exam, where you would want to begin writing as soon as possible. In an IB examination, or depending on how much time your professor gives you to do an in-class exam, you will want to keep your outlining process to a minimum.
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Found yourself overwhelmed by complex papers and just can't find the chance to put together a convincing outline? Discover EssayPro’s “Write My Essay” feature and get in touch with an academic helper.
Sally Baggett holds a master’s in literature. She enjoys inspiring students, cooking with her family, and helping others achieve their dreams.
Just like there is more than one way to skin a cat (or so they say), there is more than one way to write an essay. One is not required to produce a perfectly formatted five-paragraph essay every time one composes a piece of writing. There is another type of essay you can write that may just be simpler than the traditional style: the three-paragraph essay. This type of essay might be beneficial for beginning writers as it offers the organizational structure of a longer essay without requiring the length. It also offers a challenge to more advanced writers to condense their points.
The Parts of the Essay and Its Benefits
As with most essays, the three-paragraph essay has three parts: an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Yet with this type of essay–unlike its five-paragraph counterpart–each one of these sections has only one paragraph. The three-paragraph essay, therefore, might be ideal for young writers or those who are currently mastering the English language.
Another benefit to the three-paragraph essay could be that it requires you to condense your supporting points into just one, which can be a good exercise. If you had to choose only one point to convince a reader to agree with you, what would it be?
After performing some light prewriting, such as brainstorming or writing an outline, students can move right into composing the essay. While this process is similar across the board for writing academic papers, the three-paragraph essay is unique in that the body will take up less space in the finished product.
An outline for this essay might look like this:
- Introduction Paragraph
- Background Points
- Thesis Statement
- Body Paragraph
- Topic Sentence
- Supporting fact 1
- Supporting fact 2
- Transition Sentence
- Topic Sentence
- Conclusion Paragraph
- Re-statement of Thesis
- Summary of Main Point
- Challenge to the Reader
Paragraph One: Introduction
As with most formal essays, the three-paragraph essay begins with an introduction paragraph. Such paragraphs must, obviously, introduce the reader to your idea and, in most cases, convince the reader that this essay is worth reading. To craft a strong introduction, be sure to open with a solid hook. You want to draw in readers so they are compelled to engage with your writing.
A hook can be something compelling such as a question, a powerful quote, or an interesting fact. Introduction paragraphs also usually contain background information that assists the reader in understanding your topic, perhaps defining it or explaining an important part. Finally, you want to include a thesis statement. Even though your essay only has three paragraphs, there still needs to be a purpose to the writing.
You could structure your introduction paragraph according to this outline:
- Introduction Paragraph
- Hook: Is there no solution for dumping waste in the ocean?
- Background Points
- Explain why trash is dumped in the ocean
- Statistics about dumping trash in the ocean
- Thesis Statement: Dumping waste in the ocean is a problem because it spells disaster for the ecosystem, leading to problems on land.
This structure is not mandatory, though it might be useful in the long run for organizing your thoughts.
Paragraph Two: Body
The second paragraph, as we have discussed, is the one and only body paragraph. This paragraph bears the burden of communicating support for the thesis statement all on its own. As such, it may take more than one rough draft to get this paragraph to communicate everything you want it to.
Your body paragraph needs to underscore the thesis statement. Create a topic sentence for this body paragraph that communicates this and also transitions from the introduction into the body. For example, your body paragraph topic sentence based on the outline above could be:
One of those problems might play itself out as food scarcity where humans live.
This topic sentence reiterates the thesis and moves the reader into a body paragraph that contains a supporting point: that damage to the ocean’s ecosystem could lead to food scarcity. Within the body paragraph, you can quote different sources that support this point.
Again, this paragraph does not have room to contain everything that a full five-paragraph essay might. But that doesn’t mean you can’t fit in some strong evidence to convince your reader to see your perspective, such as is accomplished through quotes and analysis. Don’t forget to end with a strong transition sentence to move the reader seamlessly into the conclusion.
Paragraph Three: Conclusion
The final paragraph in an essay is usually the conclusion. The three-paragraph essay is no exception. In this essay, the conclusion can be just as long as the other two paragraphs, and it can drive home the point made in the thesis statement and body paragraph. As with most conclusion paragraphs, this paragraph ought to restate the thesis in different words. It should then summarize what was stated in the body paragraph before challenging the reader in some way, whether in thought or action.
Editing Before Turning It In
One thing to be sure of in this type of essay (as in any other) is to polish it. Make it flow well. In other words, revise it!
Before beginning the revision process, take a break from your writing so that you can look at it with fresh eyes. Once you start revising, hunt not only for grammar and punctuation errors but for ways to make the writing flow better. Take a look at the sentences at the beginning and end of each paragraph. Do these sentences contain transition words? Do these paragraphs link to each other? Transition words or phrases like “Likewise,” “In spite of,” or “In addition to” can ensure that your paragraphs are coherent. There are also other services that will automatically proofread you paper.
If you used any sources (i.e. websites, books, videos, etc.) to help support your points and write your paper, you need to cite them! Most teachers will ask you to create a bibliography in MLA format. Others may have you one in APA format, or create references in Chicago style. Ask your teacher for guidance on what citation style they prefer.
Don’t forget that you aren’t limited to using this type of essay for just persuasion. You can also use it to relate a narrative tale, using the three parts as the beginning, middle, and end of a story. You can use this to craft an informative essay. See if other types of essays–such as a process analysis or an evaluation–will fit inside the three-paragraph essay format.
In many ways, the three-paragraph essay is similar to the five-paragraph essay. They both make a solid point using an introduction, body, and conclusion. This simpler essay only requires that you condense your points into one body paragraph, perhaps only one supporting point, before reaching a conclusion. Again, this can make a good exercise for beginning English writers, but can also make a challenge for a more advanced writer to select their strongest supporting points.