Essay Outline

Writing an essay should be a systematic process.  

Herein, organization is key to effective articulation of ideas.

Such organization can be realized through using an essay outline sample.

So, do you know how to write an essay outline?

What is an essay outline to begin with?

Per se, an outline is viewed as:

A short plan for an essay.

It is the blueprint for all the ideas and arguments you seek to incorporate in your essay.

In this, an academic essay outline sample should encompass the different points and sub-points that shape the essay’s arguments.

The Purpose of an Essay Outline

Just like a 10 research paper outline, an essay outline sample seeks to provide a map for your work.

Developing an essay outline is therefore one of the steps to essay writing.  

Usually, an essay outline serves the below purposes:

1. Enhancing coherence

A good outline should help you organize your ideas in a logical and fluid manner.

It can be used to assess the completeness of ideas and arguments by identifying potential gaps.

2. Making writing easy

An easy essay outline could help make writing more structured and therefore enjoyable.

Therefore, writing without an essay outline sample is likely to give you serious headache if not poor quality work.

3. Saving on time

Outlining is important in making writing more convenient.

One of the main reasons why you should learn how to write an essay outline is to save on time.

Note that a good academic essay outline saves time by minimizing incidences of unnecessary rewriting.

How to Write an Essay Outline

The process of writing an essay outline requires in-depth knowledge on the structure of an essay.

Although there are different types of essays, all usually have three key parts, including

1) introduction,

2) body, and

3) conclusion.

It is important to understand what to include in each part.

These parts are discussed below.

1. Introduction

This is a critical part of an academic essay outline sample. 

In the outline, introduction should encompass short sentences highlighting the topic being covered, the background of the essay, and the thesis statement.

2. Body

This is one of the most important parts in any essay outline sample.

It should entail short sentences on the points to be advanced in the essay.

Usually, the body should have 3 paragraphs (in a 5 paragraph essay).

The outline should stipulate each of the paragraph’s points, including the topic sentence and the supporting evidence.

Note that a short essay outline is the most preferable- where the sentences are as precise as possible.

3. Conclusion

Although overlooked, the conclusion is an essential part in an essay outline.

It should have short sentences on the thesis statement, summary of key points/arguments, and a summing up statement.

Essay Outline Sample

Generally, an easy essay outline sample should assume a particular structure.

This structure illustrates the different components of a good essay.

Such a structure is as illustrated below.


-Attention catcher/ Hook

-Topic introduction/short background

-Thesis statement

1st Body Paragraph

-Topic sentence

-Supporting evidence

-Relationship with the thesis statement

2nd Body Paragraph

-Topic sentence

-Supporting evidence

-Relationship with the thesis statement

3rd Body Paragraph

-Topic sentence

-Supporting evidence

-Relationship with the thesis statement


-Summary of points

-Recap of the thesis statement

-A call to action.

Order in the Essay Outline Sample

Order refers to the organization of points in an easy essay outline.

Such organization looks at how you should prioritize points an essay outline.

Usually, the best organization is realized using the linear style.

The linear style demands that a short essay outline should start with the strongest points.

Herein, the 1st body paragraph should contain the strongest arguments supported by the most solid evidence.

It should be followed by the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs in that sequence.

Essay Outline Template #1

Although essays could differ in their genre, it is possible to come up with an essay outline template that could be modified with ease to suit the different essay types.

Such a template is as illustrated below.


Topic question: Do unauthorized movie downloads amount to theft?

-Different people have advanced different arguments.

-Internet, downloading tools, video-file formats facilitate efficient sharing.

Thesis statement: Unauthorized movie downloads are outright theft.

1st Body Paragraph-Unauthorized downloads are illegal

-Stealing entails obtaining something without permission.

-Movies are owned by production houses.

-Movies are under copyright. They are intellectual property.

2nd Body Paragraph– Unauthorized downloads are unethical

-Morality and what is wrong from right.

-Unauthorized download is similar to unauthorized entry into a theater.

-Intangible intellectual property is equal to tangible property.

3rd Body Paragraph-Loss of income among production houses

-Production houses will be demotivated.

-Numerous people in the industry will be affected.

-Will hinder effective nurturing of talent.


-Unauthorized movie download is a moral and ethical wrong. It also deprives people they rightful income.

-Unauthorized movie download is tantamount to theft.

Call to action: Production houses and webhosting companies should work together to curb unauthorized downloading websites.

Essay Outline Template #2

Title: The Federalist Papers’ Influence on the Ratification of the Constitution

Thesis: The Federalist Papers influenced the ratification of the Constitution by making some of their most important arguments, including the importance of being in a Union by having a Constitution, answering to the objections made by the Anti-federalists about separation of powers, and defending opposing arguments made against the characteristics of the executive and judicial branch as provided in the Constitution.

I. Introduction

a.      Describe The Federalist Papers are and when they started

b.     Thesis:  The Federalist influenced the ratification of the Constitution by making some of their most important arguments, including the importance of being in a Union by having a Constitution, answering to the objections made by the Anti-federalists about separation of powers, and defending opposing arguments made against the characteristics of the executive and judicial branch as provided in the Constitution.

II.     Background

a.      State when The Federalist was printed and published.

b.     Discuss the intentions and purposes of The Federalist.

III.     Argument for the benefit of a Union

a.      A Union would guard against external dangers

b.     A Union would guard against internal dangers

A.    The “extended sphere” argument about how it will control factions. (Federalist 10)

IV.     Argument of the problem with complete separation of powers

a.      Anti-federalists wanted a complete separation of the judicial, executive, and legislative branches

b.     The Federalist said the maxim of complete separation of powers is misunderstood. (Montesquieu)

c.      The branches need some limited power of the other branches to protect themselves from encroachment of the other branches (Federalist 51)

A.    The branches need to have the interests of maintaining their powers, and not letting the other branches take that away.

V.     Argument for a single executive, and against a plural executive

a.      Anti-federalists didn’t want a single executive, too much like a monarch

b.     The Federalist need the executive to be “energetic” and a plural executive would make this impossible (Federalist 70)

A.    It would take too long for the people in the executive position to make decision in an emergency, because they might disagree.

B.    In a plural executive, it is hard to tell who is responsible for a wrongdoing because they can all blame each other, so a single executive would lead to more responsible behavior

VI.     Argument in favor of judicial review and terms of good behavior for judges

a.      Anti-federalists didn’t like judicial review and the term of good behavior

b.     The Federalist argued that judicial review was necessary to protect the judicial branch from the Legislature.

c.      A term of good behavior was necessary to get qualified people for the positions; it would also give them time to develop knowledge.

VII.     Conclusion

a.      Thesis

b.     The dates of the ratification of the Constitution by the States

c.      The Federalist’s influence beyond the ratification

Source: Austin Community College

Steps on How to Write an Essay Outline

The process of writing an essay outline encompasses the steps below.

Step I: Dissecting the Essay Assignment

This step involves going through the essay instructions to find out what is expected of you.

It is critical to see to it that you understand what question(s) you are required to answer.

You must ensure that the instructions are not vague.

You should also understand that part of the instructions you should give adequate attention to is the required word count.

This is essential in determining the number of points to adequately cover within the given word count limit.

Step II: Determining your Objective

This is a critical step on how to write an essay outline.

It involves clearly identifying what you intend to accomplish with the essay.

It is the purpose of your writing and should be in line with the essay’s instructions.

Common objectives could include informing, entertaining, and persuading.

Determining the objective requires you identify the keywords that feature prominently in the essay’s instructions.

Step III: Identifying your Audience

Before you embark on developing the outline, you should clearly identify your target audience.

It is important to understand that different audiences have different needs.

As such, an outline for an essay meant for strangers or classmates could be different from that meant for your instructor.

The outline should highlight the ideas that resonate more with the specific target group.

You should assess what they understand about the essay topic and their potential reaction to your essay’s arguments.

Step IV: Developing the Thesis

This is a very important step. It reflects your level of skills on how to write an essay outline.

Developing the thesis entails establishing the key focus of your essay.

The step requires you to come up with the thesis statement.

Markedly, the thesis statement should be arguable and elaborate enough.

V: Choosing Outline Format

This step although basis, is quite important.

It entails deciding on the outline structure to use.

Such structures could include an alphanumeric structure or a decimal structure. It could also look into the use of complete sentences or short phrases.

Note that you should aim for a short essay outline to avoid complications and potential errors.

VI: Filling in the Outline

This is the last step on how to write an essay outline.

It involves placing respective sentences or phrases within the essay outline template.

In this, you should ensure the content used is accurate and appropriate.

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