Fourth Step in Essay Writing: Creating an Outline

An outline is a useful and important stage of any essay writing project. The primary aim of an outline is to provide a central theme to help the writer focus on his/her thoughts, ideas and information. When you have an outline to guide you, the process is made much easier as it helps you to organize your work in a more efficient way so that you can better convey your key message to those who will be reading your work.

Another great aspect of an outline is that it provides a sort of preview of your essay so that you can see how the final product will look before it is actually written. It provides a framework that allows you to organize your whole paper in an effective and robust manner. WritingLeader has a team of skilled writers and we are all here to meet your writing needs and help you with this crucial stage of the process.

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Primary Benefits of an Essay Outline

A lot of people consider an outline to be an additional, cumbersome and even irrelevant step that merely adds to one’s existing workload. However, outlines are an important and integral part of the writing process. It is not necessary for you to know precisely what you are going to say before writing an outline. You simply need to write down a few key thoughts and ideas that will ultimately shape the overall content. When you sit down to write an outline, it helps to make a note of all your essential information and then arrange your ideas and thoughts in a logical and well-ordered manner.

A carefully written outline can go a long way towards ensuring your essay is well organized and solidly structured. As well as helping with the effective organization of information, an outline makes a written piece easier for the reader to understand. Proper structure will help make the information in your essay more memorable for the reader and it will ensure they understand the message you want to convey. An outline typically comprises of as little as ten to perhaps twenty words. They are used to summarize your key ideas or points in a brief and succinct manner and they help the writer’s understanding of the overall subject matter.

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Linking Main Points to Your Central Argument

In any essay, it is quite essential that the main body paragraphs link back to the paper’s central idea or thesis statement. Usually, each individual paragraph should have a point that supports the thesis. Once that point is made, it should be supported with evidence to prove it is relevant and factually correct. Following the evidence you should provide a brief explanation or warranty that demonstrates how it connects to the central idea and supports it. This will give your essay a solid structure that is both reliable and robust.

You may also be interested in reading our article: "Third Step in Essay Writing: Planning the Process"

The Thesis Statement

The thesis statement is the central idea or theme of any paper. Sometimes, people believe that the thesis is essentially the same thing as the paper’s topic. However, the latter just refers to the overall subject area of the paper and is often quite broad ranging in nature. By contrast, a thesis statement should be distinguishable from a mere observation, which is usually just an interpretation that is not open to argument, and it should be capable of being demonstrated, argued and proved. A thesis is normally one sentence long and it should be concise, direct and written in a way that clearly states the argument being put forward. As well as showcasing the writer’s understanding and knowledge of the topic, a thesis statement will seek to explain to the readers how the information being presented will be interpreted and discussed giving readers a clear idea of what to expect from the entire essay. The thesis statement will also address a particular question or put forward a distinct statement that can be disputed or argued. A thesis should establish the writer’s stance and explain why the message being conveyed is important. Above all, a thesis should be clearly written, identifiable and understandable and it also should appear in the early part of an essay.

Evidence to Support Your Thesis

If an essay is to be credible, valid and worthwhile, it is important that the thesis and any claims made therein are supported by solid evidence from trustworthy sources. The supporting evidence a writer offers is almost entirely responsible for persuading the readers to agree with the thesis. This evidence should be able to prove a thesis and it should have enough sway to persuade your readers to the extent they unquestionably believe your words are the absolute truth. Undoubtedly, a strong evidence is crucial for convincing a reader that any claims and the methods used are irrefutable. As well as supporting evidence, any essay that is properly written will also describe any counter-arguments, provide any evidence related to them and directly answer any opposing arguments with solid proof as to their invalidity.

Evidence Analysis

Every claim made in an essay must have a supporting evidence and every piece of evidence or information needs to be thoroughly analyzed and accompanied by an explanation as to how it proves any claims are true. A strong, robust essay will highlight all key pieces of evidence and assist the reader in identifying patterns and important implications that they may have previously missed. An argument should be made clearer by your analysis and it should be presented in an intelligent yet easy-to-digest way. While analysis is a crucial part of an essay and should be evident throughout, it is especially important to have it stand out in the concluding paragraph. It is essential to be able to reflect on all available evidence and your interpretation; the analysis should be used to lead up to even more significant claims as well as to arrive at a final conclusion in relation to the evidence. A good analysis will take account of any counter-arguments and discuss their validity. It will redefine the central claims and quickly remind the reader of all available evidence that proves such claims to be true.

Find more tips that will come in handy: "Fifth Step in Essay Writing: Developing a Thesis Statement"

Outline Structure

Once you have understood all the elements that make an essay effective, you can turn your attention to the structure of your outline. When you start you need to consider whether you are going to use a logical structure e.g. where the key sections are focused on particular ideas and not paragraphs or whether the structure is going to be more paragraph-based. The latter option allows you to see in advance how long each section and your overall essay will be. On the other hand, the logical method will help you develop your central thesis and implications of your work in more depth than the paragraph-based method. Moreover, this style of organization will help your readers better understand the information and how each individual claim adds to the key argument and makes it stronger. Every new claim should support the previous one and expand the argument while guiding the reader onto the next point or claim. Using this structure and organization, it is possible to develop an outline that simultaneously reflects and conveys your key claims, evidence and arguments and it speeds up the essay writing process making it so much easier. The first thing to consider is the length your essay needs to be. This will allow you to gauge more accurately the amount of information you will need to include. Most essays comprise of around three claims to support the central thesis and each one in turn is to be supported by analysis and evidence. This organizational style allows you to divide the overall page count into separate sections so that you can judge the amount of information required for each section. Usually, a standard paragraph covers about a half page. This roughly equates to around six or eight sentences in double line spacing. For instance, the following is an indication of how the outline for a five-page essay might look:

  1. Introductory Paragraph (One Page)
    1. Subject matter introduction with a thesis statement (half a page)
    2. Describe how your thesis will be proved (half a page)
  2. First Body Paragraph (One Page)
    1. Start with a topic sentence containing major point or claim in support of a thesis
    2. Provide evidence to support this claim
    3. Explain how claim and evidence are connected
  3. Second Body Paragraph (One Page)
    1. Repeat step 2a.
    2. Repeat step 2b.
    3. Repeat step 2c.
  4. Third Body Paragraph (One Page)
    1. Repeat step 2a.
    2. Repeat step 2b.
    3. Repeat step 2c.
  5. Concluding Paragraph (One Page)
    1. Interpretation and analysis of the aforementioned evidence (half a page)
    2. Summarization of key points, reiteration of thesis statement and final statement that reinforces the readers’ understanding of the provided information (half a page).

In the above model, the paper is divided up into the five pages as required. The described structure is simple enough to allow adding your own information and ideas easily. This organizational style provides the framework to enable you to present your argument(s) in a coherent and efficient manner and it is logically sound and clear enough for readers. Once your outline is complete, it will be easy for you to evaluate your essay’s content in terms of its strong and weak points. An outline provides a unique overview of the structure and organization of your paper and it shows how your analysis, claims, arguments and evidence work togerther in an effective end product. It allows you to decide whether you need additional information, better evidence or stronger arguments. A structured outline gives you the opportunity to identify weaknesses and fix them before you put endless effort into actually writing your final paper.

Writing a Great Outline for an Essay

So an outline then is a key component in determining how successful your essay will be. An outline provides a framework for organizing ideas in a manner that logically supports primary claims. It also helps you provide strong concluding evidence to convince your readers that your argument is correct. As well as enhancing the quality of your overall essay, they also simplify the task of writing a final draft. While creating an outline might feel like an unnecessary and tedious chore, the ultimate benefits far exceed the effort and expectations.

A correctly written and well-structured outline helps ensure your final paper is an effective and a robust one.