How to write an essay outline

An essay outline is a strategy for structuring and organizing the key points of your essay into sections, making it easier for you to compose an essay.

Before you begin writing an essay, you might be asked to create an essay outline as a separate assignment. But, even if you aren’t required to do so, creating an outline as part of the writing process is a smart idea.

Here are few reasons why you should write an essay outline:

Essential parts of an essay

Your essay’s introduction and thesis statement will be stated here. As you may know, essays cannot exist without a thesis statement; thus, including a thesis statement in your outline will help you in supporting it in each paragraph of your essay’s body.

The body of your essay will generally include at least three paragraphs, and you need to include each one in the outline.

Write a topic sentence with a statement related to your thesis for each paragraph, along with all the supporting evidence: statistics, facts, explanations, and other evidence you’ll need to prove the topic sentence of this paragraph.

Don’t forget to make use of transition sentences and transition words, as well as suitable headings, and correct capitalization.

Here’s where you’ll put the final touches on your paper. Reaffirm your thesis and the purpose of your paper in your conclusion.

You need to include all these parts in your outline.


Essay outline example

This is how the structure of your outline is supposed to look. You need to multiply the steps in the body if you have more than one body paragraph.


Body Paragraphs


Now that we clearly know what to expect when we create an essay outline, we can continue with the steps for creating one. Before you start outlining, there are a few things you should do.

Steps on writing an outline

Step 1: Understand your assignment

First and foremost, thoroughly read your writing assignment. Make sure you know:

Step 2: Decide on the purpose of your essay

“What is the purpose of my essay?” is a question that needs to be answered. Do you want to educate, convince, or just entertain your readers?
You’ll know what thesis to suggest, what writing methods to use, and how to depict analysis in your paper based on the purpose.

Step 3: Identify the audience

Yes, your essay will be read and evaluated by a teacher; but, who do you actually choose to read your essay?

Answering these questions will help you form your toning in the essay.

Step 4: State your thesis statement

Present your thesis statement so that you can see what topic sentences to use in your essay’s outline.

You can begin structuring your essay outline after you’ve written your thesis statement.

Choose an outline structure

There are two main structures for an essay outline: alphanumeric and decimal structures.

In the example provided above, we have used the alphanumeric format since it is more common.

However, if you want to illustrate how your theories are connected, you can use a decimal structure for your outline. Let’s compare these two.

Alphanumeric structure

This is the most popular outline structure, and most people will recognize it right away. You apply the formatting in the following order:

Alphanumeric structure example

Decimal Structure

A decimal outline is a structure of outlining that indicates how each section of a paper connects to the others. Transition sentences are quite useful with this type.

A decimal outline is similar to an alphanumeric outline, but it varies in that it uses decimals to indicate headings and subheadings.

Decimal Structure Example

Organize your outline

It’s now time to fill in the sections on your essay outline.

Start by outlining your introduction

Outline the body of your essay

For each paragraph, include:

The more information you have in your outline, the easier it will be to form your thoughts when you write.

You should also compose a transition sentence for each paragraph to have a smooth structure and overview.

Outline your essay’s conclusion

In your conclusion, reaffirm your thesis statement.

Write a closing sentence, which is a sentence that discusses the significance of your thesis and offers answers to the issue you discussed in the essay.

Frequently Asked Questions

When you’re writing an outline for your academic essay, you need to underline the topics and subtopics in an orderly manner. You don’t need to write sentences, just write down the general topics of each part.

If you want to write a 5 paragraph essay outline, write down your thesis under the introduction, specify the issues to be discussed in the three body paragraphs, and organize your conclusion.

The basic outline of an essay includes the main point and supporting detail of a body paragraph. It also includes the topics and thesis for the introduction and the conclusion.

There are two prominent structures; alphanumeric and decimal. Alphanumeric grades the information to be presented whereas decimal connects each section to another.

Thank you for reading. If you need further information, feel free to have a look at our essay samples or contact us at live chat.

Ibrahim Akturk
Ibrahim Akturk
Content editor at Tamara Research. Translation major, huge coffee and baking nerd. Addicted to good music and great articles.

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