How to create a Flawless Essay Outline

author By Mary Boies

Let’s face it, you cannot write a perfect essay without an outline. Now, it is common for students to stare at white pages for long without writing anything. It is also common for them start writing an essay only to realize that they have either run out of ideas or taken the wrong approach. Often, such events lead to frustrations, procrastination, and sometimes panic. This is where the essay outline or essay plan comes in.

essay outlining guide

Outlining or planning an essay is an important skill that will assure you success in every essay, whether short or long. Although loathed by many students, essay outlining process should be fun because it gets you 30% of the essay done, depending on the depth of your outline or essay plan. If you are after improving your essay grades and want to write papers that score B+ northwards to A+, you do not have any shortcut other than creating an outline to organize your research and thoughts before writing.

Luckily, in this guide, we take you through understanding the academic essay outlining including the definition of an essay outline, steps to create one, examples and templates of essay outlines, and a checklist to countercheck if you have aced your outline.

And now that your reading appetite is on, lets begin the essay outlining process, won’t we?

What is an essay outline?

An essay outline is simply a plan detailing how you are going to write an essay. it entails the structure and organization of the main parts (introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion) of the essay and the main points to write in each paragraph, making it easier when researching and writing an essay. It is basically a step-by-step guide to help you write your essay or call it a short plan for an academic essay.

Before writing an essay, it is recommended that you write a detailed essay outline if you want a well-structured and coherent essay.

Some professors will also ask you to submit an essay outline before starting to work on the first draft of your academic essays. Mainly, they do this to check if what you want to write is on the right track.

In this post, we are going to show you how exactly to write an excellent essay outline for your own use or as a class requirement. The moment you are done reading this, you should be able to plan your essays nicely and get maximum points if asked for an outline.

Although you can skip the process and write an essay without outlining, you will probably face challenges along the way. But before we delve deeper, lets explore why we need an essay outline anyway.

Why you should always outline your essays

While it is possible to write an essay without using an outline, it is much easier to write one using an outline. Below are the three main benefits of writing essay outlines.

  1. The outlines make it easy to write essays. There are very few people who can write logical and coherent essays without using an outline. Most people struggle to write good essays without using an outline. Creating an outline is basically creating a writing plan to guide you throughout your essay. A good outline will make it very easy for you to write your essay.
  2. The essay outlines help with organization. When you get concepts, arguments, and key points from research, you can find it difficult to include all of them in a logical manner in your essay if you don’t create an outline. Creating an outline will allow you to arrange your research and key points so that everything is in the right place. It will make your work more logical and coherent.
  3. An essay outline enhances the flow of points. Essay outlines usually have an alphanumeric structure. This structure is designed to ensure main arguments and supporting arguments are well-arranged. In other words, it is designed to ensure points flow nicely throughout essays. So, if you have points and you want them to explain them nicely and coherently, you should certainly create an outline.

You may now be aware of what distinguishes the successful students from those who fail. The former spend time planning and then writing while the latter probably dive in and get lost along the process of writing. If you are more into getting help with your outline, you can skip reading this and get your outline written within a few hours.

Essay Plan vs. Essay Outline

There is no significant difference between an essay plan and an essay outline. An essay plan is simply a crude version of an essay outline. Many people create a rough plan to write their essays. However, only a few people take their time to create thorough and detailed essay outlines.

You will rarely be asked to create an essay plan because essay plans are very simple and straightforward. However, as an undergraduate, you will certainly be asked about to create an essay outline now and then. You will be asked to include all the key elements of an essay outline in your outline.

If you are asked to choose between creating an essay plan and an essay outline, you should choose to create an essay outline. Essay outlines are much more detailed. In other words, they are much more beneficial for writing essays than essay plans.

Essay Outline Template- The standard/General Essay Outline

The typical essay outline will include three parts–introduction, body, and conclusion. The introduction basically tells the reader what they are about to read, the body presents the information, and then the conclusion wraps up everything.

Below is an essay outline example or template that you can use to create an outline for a five-paragraph essay.

  1. Introduction paragraph
  1. First body paragraph
  1. Second body paragraph
  1. Third body paragraph
  1. Conclusion

Steps to Create an Essay Outline

In this section, you will learn how exactly to outline your essay. By outlining your essay using the steps below, you should be able to write a quality, logical, and coherent essay on any topic.

Step 1: Read and re-read the essay requirements

You cannot create a fantastic outline if you do not fully understand the essay question and the requirements. So read and re-read the question and make sure you understand it. Make sure what you are about to research is exactly what your teacher or professor wants to see.

You should particularly look at the key terms in the essay instructions to make sure you understand what is expected of you. When you are sure you have understood the essay instructions, you should rewrite the essay question as a simple research topic.

Step 2: Do a thorough research

After completing Step 1 above, you should start researching the topic you want to write about. You should begin by doing a general Google search to find out general information about the topic. You should note all the important things you discover when reviewing general information about the topic.

You should then proceed to research the topic on scholarly and reliable resources such as your college’s library database, scholarly publications, books, news publications, and so on. This research will most likely give you all the information you need to write your essay.

After skimming all the important resources, you found relating to your topic, you should have an idea of the resources that will really help you to write your essay. Narrow down the resources based on relevance.

Step 3: Organize your arguments

It is at this point that you begin writing the plan for your essay outline. Of course, all quality essays are based on a thesis statement or major argument. So come up with a thesis or main argument based on the resources you have identified. Your thesis is what you will be supporting when you are writing the essay so make sure it is relevant and it is exactly what is needed in the essay prompt.

Remember, an essay is basically an article so it must flow. Your ideas must tell a story that is logical and goes from introduction to conclusion. So, after noting down a relevant central argument, you should find about three supporting arguments in your resources. Not them down as supporting arguments. Make sure you also note where you get them from plus all the explanations, data, and elaborations on each argument that you can get. You must cite these later when you are done writing your essay.

Next, number the supporting arguments in terms of strength or logic.

Step 4: Write an outline

It is at this stage that you commence writing your essay outline. Simply use the template above to write your essay outline. Your outline will have three sections – introduction, body, and conclusion. The introduction is one paragraph, the body is three paragraphs, and the conclusion is one paragraph.

The introduction part of your essay outline should include the hook, background information, and the thesis. Each body paragraph in your outline should simply include the topic sentence/main supporting argument, the main supporting information or evidence, the summary sentence, and the transitioning sentence. Lastly, the conclusion part of your outline should include a short summary of your essay and your closing statement.

After writing the conclusion part of your outline, you should proofread your outline to make sure it is logical and coherent. Your work is done.

Writing your essay outline following the four steps above will help you to come up with an excellent outline that will make it very easy for you to write your essay.

Examples of Essay Outline

Let’s explore the essay outlines for different types of essays using examples to clarify everything you need to know about essay outlines.

Sample Persuasive Essay Outline

Topic: Football is the best sport for children under 18

  1. Introduction
  1. Body Paragraph 1
  1. Body Paragraph 2
  1. Conclusion

Sample Expository Essay Outline

Here is a sample outline for an explanatory or expository essay.

Topic:  Why the U.S. defense budget should be reduced

  1. Introduction
  1. Body Paragraph 1
  1. Body Paragraph 2
  1. Body Paragraph 3
  1. Conclusion

Sample Argumentative Essay Outline

Topic: The impact of social media on education

  1. Introduction
  1. Body Paragraph 1
  1. Body Paragraph 2
  1. Body Paragraph 3
  1. Conclusion

Research Essay Sample Outline (For Elementary School)

Topic: The invention of electricity

  1. Background information
  1. How electricity was invented
  1. How the invention of electricity revolutionized the world

Classification Essay Sample Outline

Topic: Movie genres in the USA

  1. Introduction
  1. First Category (Body paragraph 1)
  1. Second Category (Body paragraph 2)
  1. Third Category (Body paragraph 3)
  1. Conclusion

Essay outline formats

When you are asked by your professor for an essay outline, you must write your essay outline in one of the two accepted formats – decimal or alphanumeric. The most popular format is the alphanumeric formula. Here is an example of an alphanumeric format outline.

Alphanumeric format essay outline

  1. Example sentence
  2. Example sentence
  3. Example sentence
  4. Example sentence
  5. Example sentence
  6. Example sentence
  7. Example sentence
  8. Example sentence
  9. a) Example sentence
  10. b) Example sentence
  11. Example sentence
  12. Example sentence

Now you know how to write an outline in an alphanumeric format, it is time to discover how to write an outline in decimal format. In our opinion, it is much easier to write a decimal format outline than an alphanumeric format outline. Here is an example of a decimal format outline.

Decimal format essay outline

1.0. Example sentence.

2.0. Example sentence.

3.0. Example sentence.

4.0. Example sentence

            4.1. Example sentence

            4.2. Example sentence

            4.3. Example sentence

            4.4. Example sentence

                        4.4.1. Example sentence

                        4.4.2. Example sentence

                        4.4.3. Example sentence

                        4.4.4. Example sentence

5.0. Example sentence

6.0. Example sentence

Checklist for a good essay outline

How do you know if you have written a good essay outline? Well, it is pretty easy actually. Just use the checklist below.

If your answer to all the questions below is yes, you are good to go. If your answer to any of the questions is no, then you need to tweak your outline to make sure the answer is yes.

  1. Is my essay outline easy to understand?
  2. Is my essay outline properly organized?
  3. Do all my supporting arguments relate to my central argument or thesis?
  4. Do I have supporting evidence under every supporting argument?
  5. Does every explanation under every supporting argument make sense?

While this checklist is useful, you don’t have to use it every time. You just need to make it a habit to write at least one essay outline every week. Practicing will make you perfect. And once you perfect the art of writing essay outlines, your essays will almost always be logical, coherent, and easy to understand. This will definitely ensure you get an above average total every time you submit an essay assignment.

Final Remarks

All types of essays are much easier to write using an essay outline. So, knowing how to write an essay outline is a valuable skill particularly for undergraduate students. In this essay outline guide, you discovered how to write general essay outlines. You also learned how to write essay outlines for different types of essays.

The knowledge you have gained in this blog post should make it easy for you to write essays. If you need any help writing an essay outline or an essay, you should order one from us right now. We have essay tutors who are ready to confidentially assist you with any essay outline writing project or essay writing project. Get the help you need right now!

Need a Discount to Order?

15% OFF First Order!

What you get from us


Plagiarism-free papers

Our papers are 100% original and unique to pass online plagiarism checkers.


Well-researched academic papers

Even when we say essays for sale, they meet academic writing conventions.

24/7 support

24/7 online support

Hit us up on live chat or Messenger for continuous help with your essays.


Easy communication with writers

Order essays and begin communicating with your writer directly and anonymously.