How to Write an Outline

Table of contents

  1. Writing an Essay Outline to Improve Your Paper
  2. What is an Essay Outline?
  3. Helpful Outline Tips
  4. An Outline Example
  5. Still Need Help Writing an Essay Outline?

Writing an Essay Outline to Improve Your Paper

It’s pretty common for essay, assignment rubrics to contain an outline requirement. There are just two problems. The first is that many students rush through this as they hurry to get started on writing the essay itself. Then, there are students who simply don’t understand how to use the outline as a tool to improve their final results. That is why we are offering this guide on how to write an essay outline.

We are able to present this guide thanks to the help of our top writing staff. In the paragraphs below, we’ll discuss the important elements of an essay, why it’s such an important part of the writing process, and share some great writing tips. We’ll even share a brief essay outline example.

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.”

― Terry Pratchett

What is an Essay Outline?

The essay outline is a brief, written work that summarizes the sequence, structure, and intended content of your upcoming essay. It contains the topic, thesis, main arguments, summaries of supporting points, and the points to be summarized in the conclusion. The typical essay outline format looks like this:

Introduction of Subject Matter

  • Compelling Opening Statement
  • Thesis Statement

Main Idea 1

  • Support For Main Idea 1
  • Support For Main Idea 1
  • Support For Main Idea 1

Main Idea 2

  • Support For Main Idea 2
  • Support For Main Idea 2
  • Support For Main Idea 2

Main Idea 3

  • Support For Main Idea 3
  • Support For Main Idea 3
  • Support For Main Idea 3


  • Summary Statement 1
  • Summary Statement 2
  • Summary Statement 3

The above is a very simple version that you might see for a typical, 5 paragraph essay.

How to write an outline inforgaphic

Of course, the way you create your outline will depend on your assignment, and what works best for you. If your essay is a part of the finished work you will turn in to your instructor, chances are you need to use a very traditional format when writing your essay. 

On the other hand, some students use writing an essay outline as a helpful tool. They do it to help them keep their thoughts organized and to better present their ideas. In this case, use what works for you. If a linear outline doesn’t work for you, consider mind mapping. It’s another way of organizing your thoughts and ideas. Some students even choose to use note cards to get their points down and keep them organized. For the rest of this essay outline guide, we’re going to assume that you’ve been tasked with writing a standard outline. We’ll also assume that this outline must be delivered to your instructor for grading.

Essentially, an outline helps prevent a writer from getting stuck when performing the actual writing of the essay.

Sample Essay Outline

By: Writer144311


Writer144311 has a background in marketing, technology, and business intelligence. S/he enjoys writing about data science, BI, new marketing trends and branding strategies. On TrustMyPaper s/he shares her practical experience through academic writing.

Request this writer

Helpful Outline Tips

Here are some very helpful tips for producing an outline that helps you write a better paper.

  • Take great notes. These are the foundation of any good outline.
  • Take time to formulate a thesis you can support.
  • Use your outline to test your thesis. If your outline cannot solidly support your thesis, you need a new thesis.
  • Don’t be afraid to resequence your main ideas. This is the perfect time to do that.
  • Write down more main ideas than you will need. It’s easier to eliminate something than to find a new point to add.

Look for statistics, reports, and other data to back up your main ideas. In some cases, examples and anecdotes are also acceptable.

An Outline Example

Imagine that you are writing an argumentative essay in support of providing breakfast to students in elementary school. Your outline might look something like this:

  • Breakfast for all helps to reduce stigma and shame.

    1. Students who need breakfast may not accept it if they believe they will stand out as a poor or low-income student.

    2. If breakfast is served to all, students are less likely to use it as a reason to exclude others.

    3. Eating together provides students who would not normally connect another opportunity to socialize with one another.

  • School breakfast can fill the gap for hungry students

    1. A simple breakfast option such as fruit and a granola bar can help a student who skipped breakfast or just needs more energy.

    2. Student-athletes and growing bodies can have additional calorie needs and unpredictable hunger patterns.

    3. Hungry students struggle with focus and memory.

  • Students can learn about and experience better nutrition

    1. Information on portion size and nutrients can be provided to students as they eat.

    2. Students can experience food from different cultures and different food groups.

    3. What students are served can model portion sizes, variety, and otherwise food choices.

  • Conclusion

    1. Students can learn to make better food choices if they are served breakfast at school.

    2. It ensures that low-income students are adequately fed without shaming them.

    3. Free breakfast helps students who may have skipped eating at home, or have increased caloric needs.

Still Need Help Writing an Essay Outline?

That’s our job! We are happy to help you with advice and assistance on any part of the writing process. Please contact us online to learn how to proceed.

How ready is your essay? Choose the stage you are at right now
What’s next and what’s missing?

How ready is your essay?