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How to Write an Outline for an Essay

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How to Write an Outline for an Essay

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An outline is convenient for both the audience and the writer: it retells the plot of your whole document. Thus, readers can rush through headings and figure out if this text is what they need. On the other hand, the plan is a tool for writers to put their thoughts in order.

If you write a small essay, you can easily draw the outline in your head. But following such a careless attitude with long writings, you’ll most likely lose the thread of conversation. Think out the outline beforehand.

Building the List of Topics

Should you begin before or after analyzing sources? The answer is, you can start whenever you want and combine the two attitudes.

Your first outline will be a draft. It can be reassembled and updated further on when you find new information and review it.

A nice strategy is to chalk out the image of the future paper, i.e. its main topics, and correct this picture after new information arrives. As a result, you’ll have a solid carcass to flesh out.

It can be small or, like on Wikipedia, consist of three heading levels. You begin with the intro, body, and conclusion, including the abstract, summary, and bibliography, if your paper requires so. Then, you part these blocks into more targeted topics. The topics you chop into even smaller pieces, which are usually arguments and nuances.

For example, you’re talking about the life and artistic path of Henry Moore. You decide to devote the paper’s body to the sculptor’s early years, education, collaborations with other artists, and his personality. Then, you split the Education part into the home, school, and universities he’s been studying in, indicating to what extent they influenced his decision to master sculpture. In Collaborations, you present proof of his friendly relationships, naming shared works and quoting letters.

Actually, you aren’t going to spend much time on creating a business plan outline. It only prioritizes information you wish to include in the essay.

However, this typical management strategy is not for every student. If you catch yourself writing thoughts down in haste until they evaporate from your mind, you will appreciate the next method.

Introducing the Reverse Outline

In this type of planning, you write a complete essay draft first and organize it later. Some may deem it inefficient, but let’s see from the other side.

When your thoughts jump one over another like goats, you have no choice but to capture all of them on the sheet. As a result, they stay still before your eyes. Emptied mind allows you to observe them coldly from a third-party view. In this state, you’re perfectly capable of rearranging the sentences to their proper places. There’s a miserable chance to get tangled.

In fact, the reverse outline is a revision. However, only the sequence of work changes. You separate chapters, highlight topics and subtopics, erase paragraphs or add details as if it was a typical list. But instead of some imaginable paper, you have the material one.

Last Drafts to Complete Your Outline

Whatever you will prefer, keep in mind that you create the table of contents for readers as well. Transparent headings allow fast navigation and make your document twice useful. Check if yours have these fundamental properties:

  • Readability

Is the structure okay? Do you need to turn pages swiftly for the conclusion of any argument? Do you follow the main road or drive off to extras? Which audience will appreciate your styling of titles? Which audience did you keep in mind initially?

  • Clarity

Does realization match with the primary purpose? Can you understand what the text is about by reading headings only? Have you used direct or vague formulations? Is there something that needs explanation?

  • Fulfilled expectations

Have you included everything you wanted? Are there enough arguments to prove your point? Do headings reflect the true content of chapters or confuse readers?

The outline is the base of every document, article, or argumentative essay outlines, proposal outlines, outlines for research papers. And you can create it in any way that’s comfortable for you. However, remember the main goal behind it—to aid your writing process and inform readers.