How do you write an outline for an essay?

A skill that will help you write your essays faster and more effectively is writing an outline. This will form the basic structure and direction your essay will take when you fill in your content. Here’s how to you can write an effective one.

Decide on your argument

The first step to writing an outline is to establish what your main argument will be. This will form the basic purpose of your essay.

Come up with three subheadings

Three paragraphs will form the body of your essay in addition to your introduction and conclusion. Come up with headings for each paragraph by defining the basic flow of your argument; i.e. the direction it will take.

Make a list of points

The parts that form an essay outline are basic categories that you can use on any topic. You can use each respective category as many times as you want, and the ones that aren’t relevant can be left out. Both narrative and non-narrative topics can benefit from this type of system. Copy the following list and use it to jot down valid points for your essay outline:

  • A question
  • Ask questions about your topic (or subheading). This will prompt you to answer the question when you fill in your content.

  • An observation
  • If something is obvious (or not so obvious), mention it and explain its relevance to your main argument.

  • A list
  • Adding a list to your essay can be a great way to explain the steps or features of your theory.

  • A symbol
  • When something is a picture of something else, it’s important to make it known to your reader.

  • A reaction
  • If there’s a ripple effect to be discussed, write this down as a valid point.

  • A test
  • Did you perform some experiment or interview? If so, jot this down as a point to be elaborated on later.

  • A theory
  • Theories—whether yours or someone else’s—form an integral part of any essay.

  • A fact
  • When an already established fact can help bolster your argument, use it!

  • A quote
  • Not to be overused, but a good quote is always a welcome addition to any essay—but only if it’s relevant to your cause.

You can now use various points to form a basic structure for your essay. Elaborate on each one during your writing process and fill in your content.