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A comprehensive essay outline: Sufficient explanation and clear illustrations

Have you ever asked yourself how all the stories, novels, and even articles are written? Is it just the constant flow of ideas and thoughts in a writer’s head that makes him/her being able to write a good deal of a text or special training is required?

The truth is, no matter how gifted you are, but to write a good piece, you have to outline your thoughts in a logical way and create a plan or a carcass for your would-be text.

That is why, when you have an academic assignment to write an essay or a research paper, start with writing an outline for it. You will be surprised to see how much easier it is to fill in that carcass with text than just to write an unshaped train of thoughts on a blank page.

So, let’s get your train of thoughts outlined by the guidelines below.

List of contents:

  1. Definition and outline essay format
    1. Purpose of writing an outline for academic papers
  2. Essential parts of an essay outline
    1. Standard essay outline template
  3. Types of essay outlines in terms of structure
    1. Alphanumeric outline structure and examples
    2. Decimal outline structure with samples
    3. Main citation styles for the outline
  4. Tips for writing comprehensive outlines

Definition and outline essay format

As you can see above, even for this article, we’ve created an outline to organize the information accurately and, thus, make it digestible for the readers. Now let’s pass to the core point of this article and answer the main question here: “What is an essay outline?”

In simple words, an essay outline is a plan, which you create for an essay or a research paper in order to structure the information, arguments, and ideas inside a big text. Your plan items will be the source for making paragraphs in the course of writing.

Speaking of the outline essay format, here everything depends on the purpose of your outline – if you have to show your essay outline to the professor, write complete sentences and make your plan easy to understand.

In case you are creating such an outline for yourself, it may be enough to use phrases or shape your thoughts in any convenient way. Most important in this process is for you to understand and restore the information in your mind the moment you look at the plan items.

Purpose of writing an outline for academic papers

Simply imagine how much data, facts, statements you come across while gathering the information for your academic paper. Imagined? Now think how to comprise it all into your text or how to choose the most suitable points and not to forget about some pieces of information. To fulfill these functions, outlines have been invented.

To put it into practice, use the following tips on how to make an outline for your essay:

  1. Gather information from trustworthy sources.
  2. Highlight extracts of information you consider as suitable for your essay.
  3. Find a central idea in each extract and write it out.
  4. Organize the selected ideas in a logical structure to make your own text on its basis.
  5. Filter the ideas or arguments and get rid of redundant sentences.
  6. Read your outline for an essay again to make sure it is clear enough for another person to understand and for you to bring back to memory the necessary information.

Essential parts of an essay outline

Parts of your outline for essay correspond to the obligatory paragraphs, which are standard for most academic papers:

  • Introduction, where you provide an opening for your paper and state the thesis. In this part, you introduce the topic of your essay to the readers and intend to awake their interest. Therefore, you should indicate your topic idea and a thesis sentence as two outline items.
  • The main body usually consists of 2 or 3 paragraphs, which must be presented in your essay outline by relevant topic sentences, argument statements, and presumptive sentences to logically finish each paragraph.
  • The conclusion is the part where you come back to your thesis to stress its verity, as well as resume briefly the most important thoughts of your academic paper. Don’t forget to show these thoughts as points of your essay outline.

In total, you will normally have five paragraphs, which means five main parts of your outline. Further, they will be subdivided into additional plan items.

Standard essay outline template

Find below a most simple sketch for an outline, which you can use as a template to write an essay outline of your own:

  1. Introduction
    • Insight into a topic thesis sentence
  2. 1st Body paragraph
    • The argument for your thesis – 1
    • Argument proof
    • Initial resume for the 1st argument
  3. 2nd Body paragraph
    • The argument for your thesis – 2
    • Argument proof
    • Initial resume for the 2nd argument
  4. 3rd Body paragraph
    • The argument for your thesis – 3
    • Argument proof
    • Initial resume for the 3rd argument
  5. Conclusion
    • Verified thesis
    • Resume of main thoughts

Optionally you can include transitional sentences to finish each of your body paragraphs and show their connection with the other parts.

This short example of an outline structure can make it easier for you to get this academic assignment done. In case you feel that this task overburdens you, there is always an option to rely on our essay writing service.

Types of essay outlines in terms of structure

Of course, you can organize the points of your outline in the manner you feel right and easy to understand. Especially if we say that the core goal of outline writing is to help you restore the information from your research and properly organize the structure of your paper.

However, you need to know that there are two main types of essay outline structure which are officially accepted: Alphanumeric and Decimal structure. In general, they are very similar, but there are also differences in data submission. For some people, the Decimal type seems more logical to show the connection between the ideas, but alphanumeric is still more widely used as it seems easier to build.

So, let’s revise these outline structure types in more detail together with illustrative examples.

Alphanumeric outline structure and examples

In this outline, Roman type numbers, such as I, II. III, etc. are used to identify main essay parts, like introduction, body paragraphs (usually three headers for denoting each paragraph), and conclusion.

Capital letters, like A, B, C, etc. serve to represent core ideas inside every important essay part.

Arabic numbers, like 1, 2, 3, etc. represent other important points of each paragraph.

Lower case letters, like a, b, c, d, etc. can be used when there are some additional details, which should be highlighted.

Have a look at the essay outline template below to get a feel of it:

Topic: “Social being determines consciousness.”

  1. Introduction
    1. We come to this world from different social conditions.
    2. People of diverse origins have a different mindset.
  2. Little things amuse little minds.
    1. People who have more opportunities have more significant demands.
      1. Buying brand clothes and original perfumes;
      2. Purchasing yachts and islands;
    2. Poorly educated people are not able to see beyond their nose.
      1. Living hand-to-mouth;
      2. Fearing to take a quantum leap.
  3. Country you live in determines who you are better that your motherland.
    1. People surrounded by beauty, create beauty themselves.
      1. Recalling Italian masters of the past;
        1. Leonardo da Vinci;
        2. Carlo Collodi;
      2. Referring to outstanding Italians of our age;
        1. Enzo Ferrari;
    2. Social well-being reduces the crime rate.
      1. Living in Switzerland;
      2. Reckoning Austria among most suited for life countries;
  4. There is always an exception from the rule.
    1. Cushy upbringing and troubled youth;
    2. Going from zero to hero;
  5. Conclusion
    1. Restating main points of the essay
    2. In most cases, we follow the behavior pattern of people who surround us. And only a few manage to move beyond.

If you’ve noticed, the points of our essay outline are written using the principles of parallel construction:

  • gerund phrases can be traced in all sections with Arabic numbers,
  • for other, major sections, we’ve used full sentences in the form of statements or idioms.

This is no coincidence – if your outline items are of similar grammatical form, tense, or structure, it is easier to comprehend such a roadmap, and it is more accurate.

Instead of gerund, you can use the infinitive or other forms and sentence types. The main idea is to adhere to a similar pattern when writing your outline headings and subheadings.

Decimal outline structure and examples

The decimal structure resembles the Alphanumeric. However, neither capital nor lower case letters are used here. Only combinations of numbers are applied to start each paragraph heading or subheading:

  • For major points of the text, use round numbers, like 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, etc.
  • For smaller points inside each big section, apply decimal numbers, where after a decimal point, you enumerate every new piece of information: For 1.0 internal points would be 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, etc. To develop part 2.0, you will use 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, etc.
  • If you need to expand information and indicate additional points, then inside each subsection with decimal numbers, use nested lists, like 1.1.1., 1.1.2. For 1.1. or 1.2.1, 1.2.2. For 2.2., etc.

Now, it may seem not very easy-to-understand. For clarity, look at the following essay outline template:

Topic: “Healthy lifestyle is the best remedy.”

  1. Introduction of the topic
    1. Nowadays the question of healthy food, proper daily schedule, and physical exercises are getting topical.
    2. A sound mind in a sound body.
  2. Body paragraph 1 – Healthy food and entropy are not always equal concepts.
    1. Organic food
      1. Food from a farm;
      2. Vegetarians vs. vegans;
      3. Raw food diet;
    2. Junk food
      1. Fast food and its origin;
      2. Examples of homemade junk food;
      3. Consequences of eating junk food;
    3. Differences between healthy food and healthy eating
      1. Dietary regimen;
      2. Fattiness and health;
  3. Body paragraph 2 – Physical activity should correspond to common sense.
    1. Morning exercises;
    2. Activities in the gym;
    3. Professional sport;
  4. Body paragraph 3 – Lack of sleep kills all the efforts.
    1. Importance of a good night's sleep;
    2. Sleep pattern for different age groups;
    3. Problems caused by permanent staying up late;
  5. Conclusion
    1. Summarizing the points
    2. Our lifestyle, eating habits, and daily routine affect physical and mental health

Main citation styles for the outline

Sometimes it is also required to specify the sources of citations at the end of the essay outline after the conclusion part. The style you use for the outline determines how to provide references and format your outline. The main formatting styles for the outline are MLA and APA.

The differences between these styles are not major. For example, for the MLA outline, you have to use sentence citations, while APA abstracts are needed. We mostly refer to MLA when dealing with the liberal arts. And for social sciences, APA is recommended.

Also, you don’t have to include the title page in the case of MLA. At the same time, the APA style demands it. Just for your reference, look at the following Title page example for the essay outline:

Title: Poisonous influence of ultraviolet radiation on the skin.

Student name: John Elliot

Professor’s name: Dr. Lewis Blake

Class: Class of 2018

As you can see, the difference between APA and MLA is slight, while the purpose of essay outline formats is shared – serve as a help for writers to organize their writings properly.

Is this topic still vague for you? Our essay writing service was created to help students make things clear. There is no time to spare when your deadline is approaching – request professional help and have your outline for an essay in the bag.

Tips for writing comprehensive outlines

Knowing the theory sometimes is not enough to write an essay outline. For someone, it may be an easy task; for others, it requires much time and effort to succeed.

So, we’ve tried to come up with a couple of tricks to coach you for this assignment:

  • Practice on ready texts> – before writing an outline for the future paper, start with practicing on the available articles or texts. Read them carefully and try to think of the headings for each major section and paragraphs. Mind the types of outline structure we described above and use our templates. As soon as you master writing outlines for existing texts, you will be able to do well with your essay outline too.
  • Mind your audience> – to make your outline not just correct in terms of language, but comprehensive too, think about who will be reading your essay. Is it only a teacher or your classmates, or maybe people who you want to reach with your ideas? This will define what arguments to provide and what resources to use.

We’ve done our best here to supply you with comprehensive information and guidelines. However, if you need hands-on assistance with writing an outline for your essay, you know where to find us.

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