How to write a perfect essay outline: an ultimate guide

How to write a perfect essay outline

When you need to compose an essay, you first need to create an essay outline. Working without an outline will be difficult and may result in a poor grade. Keep reading this guide, and you will know:

  • what an essay outline is
  • how to write an essay with a winning outline
  • get wining outline examples that will help you craft yours

What is an essay outline?

The outline is a method to organize work when you execute any type of academic writing. It helps to manage all your ideas and thoughts, focus on the topic.

If you are a student, you are probably familiar with the outline already. And you should know very well that those who want to compose a great college essay must not miss this stage. With the help of the essay outline, you can fix your main idea, write down your weighty arguments, and draft headings for the future sections in your paper.

How an outline can help you with your project:

  • It can become your draft plan where you sort and organize a bulk of information you get while conducting research.
  • The topic will become clearer for you, and it will be easier for you to convey it to your reader
  • It will be easier for you to navigate in your paper with an outline
  • If you want to learn how to write an essay outline, see the outline structure below.

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The first part of your essay should be within 5-7 sentences. This section serves to present your topic. To present it in a more attractive way, you are advised to use a hook sentence. You also briefly explain your wish to cover the topic. You also include one of the main ingredients of the essay – thesis statement. Your essay outline should contain the topic of your research and your thesis.

  • The first sentence in the introduction should present the topic you are to research. Unless you have a deadly serious topic, you should try to catch your readers’ attention with an interesting inclusion – a joke, and anecdote, a captivating story.
  • Your next step is telling the audience everything about your theme. It should not be long but precise and contain the most important information for the reader.
  • Also, in this part, you have to include the thesis statement in this section. Present your main argument, so it follows your entire essay until the end.


The body is the most informative part of your essay. You need to present and explain all your thoughts on the given topic. You are not limited in the volume here. You can make as many paragraphs as you want.

Make sure each paragraph is devoted to one subtopic of your essay. However, all of them should be connected with transition sentences. Each argument has to be supported by proof from a credible source.


How to write an essay outline without a conclusion? It is not even an option. The conclusion is an integral part of your essay outline.

This should be the last paragraph of your work. What to write here about? You should do the summing up of everything you said above.

Put your thesis statement in the first sentence. However, it should not be written word for word. Paraphrase and transform it, but do not change the idea.

Add a concluding statement to finish your paper. It should provide options for using the results of your research.

How to write an essay outline

Normally, a standard volume of a college essay is five paragraphs. So, it is easy to remember how to make an outline for an essay – use a 5-paragraph basis. Such a standard outline structure would include Introduction, Body, and Conclusion. This foundation is suitable for most types of essays.

The key-elements of outlining

Research and make notes. Before you write an essay, you need to search for reliable, up-to-date information. Use only credible sources.

Design your thesis first. The thesis is the guiding aspect of your writing process. Start with it, so it keeps you focused on the main idea until you finish.

Form your ideas. After you structure all the materials in your heads, write down the main headings for every section in your paper. Then, proceed with writing down the ideas that come up to your mind about each aspect you are going to cover.

Include references. In any type of essay, except for reflection and analytical papers, references are located in the body.

Introduction. It is usually a starting paragraph in any type of work. This is why it is worth making it special and catchy. Conclusion. Despite the fact that it is the final part, it is not less important than others. This is where you sum up the content of your entire essay. And the final sentence should emphasize the goal of your work.

Outline format

When designing an essay outline, they usually locate arguments linearly – from the most significant one to less significant.

However, this is not an established rule. Do not forget that the outline is just a draft. It means you are free to locate your arguments and other information the way it is comfortable for you. You just need to be sure it is clear enough for you to understand it.

You should also bear in mind that your audience might not be familiar with your topic. This is why you need to put things in a logical order, so your reader understands things gradually.

How to make an outline: the process

Those who write an essay worry about the writing process most of all. Although they know what an outline should include, they find it challenging.

In addition, your professor might ask you to submit an outline for revision before you write an essay. This is why knowing what to do before you begin might come to handy.

What to do before outlining

You should always begin by making sure that you understand your task. Read carefully what essay type it should be, the number of arguments to use, essay volume, etc.

Define the purpose. To do this, try answering the question: “What is the purpose of my essay? ». Whether it is to inform, persuade, or entertain.

Define your audience. Depending on the group of people who will read and evaluate your essay, you will use different arguments and methods of presenting your opinion.

Form your thesis. It is necessary to have the key sentence in your paper. It needs to be catchy enough to keep your reader interested throughout the text.

Choose an essay outline structure types

There are two main types of essay outline – alphanumeric and decimal. Let’s see the details of each.

Alphanumeric structure style

The alphanumeric format is more popular for essay outlining.  The alphanumeric structure is as follows:

I. _____












Decimal structure style

Decimal format is as follows:










You can choose the one which looks more convenient for you to use. You are making this essay outline for your personal use; you can put either complete or incomplete sentences as headings. But if you need to submit your outline for review, everything should be neat and complete.

Organize your outline

Begin with outlining the introduction. Present your topic, thesis, and hook.

In the Body section, you should write headings for each paragraph. Write down your arguments and their relation to your theme. The more info you write down, the easier it will be for you to write an essay.

In the Conclusion section, you normally reword your thesis, emphasize the importance of your topic, and offer ways to implement your results.

Sample outline

Check out the cool essay outline examples we prepared for you to have a better idea of what it is.

MLA outline example

I. Introduction: Stonehenge is one of the world’s cradles of ancient history.

II. Thesis: The paper describes the story and significance of Stonehenge.

III. Body paragraph 1: The studies prove that the ditch around the construction was constructed approximately in 3000 BC.

IV. Body paragraph 2: Scientists share a common idea that the Stonehenge was built for religious purposes.

V. Body paragraph 3: It is believed that the modern structure was built by migrants around 1000 BC.

VI. Conclusion: Scientists of all ages were attracted to this mysterious structure.

VII. References:

“Why Was Stonehenge Built?”

APA outline example

I. APA title page: Harmful influences of cell-phones.

II. Introduction: Everyday use of the mobile phone has turned out to have terrible effects on human health.

III. Thesis: The paper describes the negative effect of using a mobile phone on human health and communication between people.

IV. Body paragraph 1: Health-risks associated with cell-phones.

V. Body paragraph 2: How cell-phones destroy human interaction.

VI. Body paragraph 3: Using a cell-phone while driving

VII. Conclusion: Scientists warn of irreversible damage to everyday use of cell-phones for humanity.

VIII. Citations:

  • “Mobile Phones and Your Health”

  • Why You Should Not Sleep With Your Cell Phone at Night

Outline samples

We have selected several successful examples of different types of essay outlines.

Narrative essay

Topic: Losing a swimming competition helped me swim better

I. introduction: I failed my first participation in swimming competition completely. I concentrated on my training, and it helped me win 2nd place in the State Championship.

II. body paragraph 1: Failing competition served as motivation for action, so I started improving my technique and skills even harder.

III. body paragraph 2: New approach to training improved my performance greatly so that I decided to try to participate in the State Championship.

IV. body paragraph 3: My improved skills, speed, and techniques helped me win 2nd place.

V. conclusion: I did not give up after failing and took it as a motivation for better results.

Expository essay

Topic: Reasons to cut down the school year

I. Introduction:  School year in this country is too long compared to other countries. If cut down, it will help to save the government money, bring benefits to teachers and students, lead to better results in studying.

II. Body paragraph 1: Shortened school year will let students and teachers have more rest and not keep a negative attitude to studies.

III. Body paragraph 2: A shorter school year will help saving money on energy, heating, and water supply, transportation.

IV. Body paragraph 3: Students would be able to show better results in tests.

V. Conclusion: A shorter school year would be a very beneficial decision for all – government, teachers, and students.

Persuasive essay

Topic: What makes swimming a perfect kind of sport for children?

I. Introduction: Swimming is a better alternative to other sports young kids do.

II. Body paragraph 1: Swimming helps to develop the body and supports team spirit among kids.

III. Body paragraph 2: Swimming has additional benefits, it is a less harmful kind of sport, and it is easy to monitor your progress.

IV. Conclusion: The reasons why parents of young children should give preference to swimming are many. Some of them are…


There are many types of essays. And you will probably have to write most of them during your education process. You need to remember the standard structure of essays, and simply adjust them to some specific qualities of the type you are assigned to compose.

An essay outline is a tool that will come at handy when you do this type of written assignment. Having a basic knowledge of how to write will help you finish the task faster and produce high-quality essays. This will definitely help you become better in writing with time.

How to get qualified essay help

If you still find it challenging to make an outline, you can always use the help of those who know its inside outs. Our writers will provide quality assistance in outlining not matter what type of essay you have, your academic level, and the deadline.