How to write an outline in 5 easy steps


Creating an effective outline is an essential step in academic writing. It sets the tone and structure for your essay, guiding the flow of your ideas. This guide simplifies the process into five easy steps, making it less daunting and more manageable. Whether it’s identifying the purpose of your paper, pinpointing key points, or adding supporting details, these steps will streamline your writing process. By the end, you’ll have a clear blueprint for transforming your ideas into a well-structured essay. Let’s get started!

1. Identify the outline objective

Before starting your outline, clearly describe the purpose of your essay. Ask yourself: What are you seeking to achieve with this paper? The type of essay you’re writing – whether persuasive, narrative, expository, or descriptive – will significantly influence its tone and direction. Here’s a simple guide to match your outline with your essay’s objective:

  • Persuasive essay. Focus on arguments and evidence that persuade the reader towards a particular viewpoint.
  • Narrative essay. Structure your outline to tell a story, highlighting the order of events.
  • Expository essay. Organize information and ideas that explain or analyze a topic.
  • Descriptive essay. Plan descriptive sections that create a clear image of your subject.

Understanding the specific requirements of your essay type guarantees that your outline effectively guides your writing process toward your planned goals.

2. Highlight your key points

After selecting your essay’s purpose, the next step in your outline is to identify the main points that will support your argument or narrative. These key points are the foundation of your essay and will form the core of your main body paragraphs. To successfully select and organize them, consider the following approach:

  • Selecting points. Choose three key topics or arguments that strongly support your thesis or main narrative. These should be clear, relevant, and well-supported by evidence or examples.
  • Organizing points. Put these points in a logical order. In a persuasive essay, for instance, you might order them from least to most compelling. In a narrative, they should follow the natural progression of your story.
  • Detailing points. For each key point, write down smaller points or proof that supports it. This step is important for building a complete and convincing argument or narrative.

By clearly identifying and organizing your key points, your outline will guide you through a structured and effective writing process, ensuring each section of your essay is clear and impactful.


3. Incorporate supporting details

Once you’ve selected your main points, the next step in your outline is to add supporting details. These details are crucial as they provide evidence, examples, and further explanation to strengthen each main point. To effectively add these details, follow these steps:

  • List details under each point. Under each main point in your outline, create a bulleted list of supporting details. This could include data, quotes, examples, or personal anecdotes relevant to the point.
  • Organize logically. Place these details in a way that makes sense. For example, in a narrative essay, details should follow the chronological order of events. In an argumentative essay, you should systematically build up your argument.
  • Depth and variety. Confirm that the details you include offer depth to your main points and vary in type — incorporating statistical evidence, textual references, or real-world examples can make your argument more powerful.

Remember, the introduction and conclusion of your essay can be outlined more effectively once you have a clear view of your main body paragraphs. This approach allows you to create a solid basis for your essay before wrapping it up with a strong opening and closing.

4. Prepare your introduction

Writing the introduction is an important step in your essay outline. This section should provide a concise overview of your essay’s main points, engaging the reader’s interest and clearly setting the stage for what follows. Here’s a structured approach to writing your introduction:

  • Begin with a hook. Start with a clear statement, a question, or an interesting fact to grab the reader’s attention.
  • Overview of main points. Briefly mention the key points that you will explore in the essay. This gives the reader a preview of what to expect.
  • Include a thesis statement. End the introduction with a clear thesis statement. This sentence should encapsulate the main argument or purpose of your essay.

Writing the introduction becomes more straightforward when you have your body paragraphs outlined. You can look at them to make sure your introduction matches the content that follows, setting a readable tone and direction for your essay.


5. Write your conclusion

The conclusion of your essay is your final opportunity to support your key points and leave a lasting impression on the reader. It’s essential to summarize the main arguments and link them back to your thesis statement. Follow these steps for guidance in writing an effective conclusion:

  • Summarize key points. Briefly review the main points of your essay, ensuring that the reader remembers the most critical aspects of your argument.
  • Support your thesis. Clearly repeat your thesis statement, showing how your essay has supported this central idea.
  • End with a strong closing. Leave the reader with a final thought or call to action that grabs the importance of your essay. This could be a thought-provoking question, a striking quote, or a statement that highlights the relevance of your topic.

Remember, a well-prepared conclusion ties all the elements of your essay together, demonstrating how each part contributes to your overall argument or narrative. Once your conclusion is outlined, all that remains is to expand your points into full sentences, completing the writing process. This structured approach simplifies essay writing, making it more accessible and manageable.

For additional insights and tips, you can explore more information here.


In this guide, we’ve covered the key steps to make a great essay outline, making the writing process easier and clearer. From identifying your essay’s objective to structuring key points, adding supporting details, and preparing impactful introductions and conclusions, each step brings you closer to a well-structured and persuasive piece of writing. With these tools, you’re prepared to change your ideas into a clear, cohesive essay that resonates with your readers. Remember, the key to great writing lies in a well-planned outline. Now, with a clear roadmap in hand, you’re ready to start your writing journey with confidence. Dive in, and happy writing!

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