Essays for college students: how to write an outline

Outlines are a simple process that will help you easily plan, and write, an essay or research paper. They help to organize your thoughts before you get to the writing phase – that way, the writing part is much more fluid and easy to complete.

If you create an effective outline, you will save yourself a bunch of time on your project or essay. You will also ensure that your essay is well organized, written, and argued. There are many benefits to using an outline – which is why every single student should use them on each project they are assigned in college.

How to Write Your Outline

  1. Start with your idea: Using your assignment requirements – either on a printed sheet or on notes you have taken in class – you should define what your topic or argument will be. Using the parameters set for you, establish what the requirements are for your paper and how you will tackle the subject. Is it an argumentative essay? Is it an informational essay? Is it simply a book review? What are your length requirements? Style requirements?
  2. Create your thesis: The first point on your outline should be your thesis. This is part of your introduction section, but is the number one focus of your entire paper. Clearly state your thesis on your outline so that you can refer to it as you fill in your other important points. All of the information included in your outline – and ultimately included in your paper – should point back to your thesis statement or argument.
  3. Map it out: The typical layout for an outline includes some specific parts.

    • Introduction – including thesis
    • Discussion topic
    • Discussion topic
    • Discussion topic
    • Conclusion

  4. Make sure all roads lead back to the thesis: Once you have completed your basic layout, including discussion topics, make sure that each topic directly relates to the overall thesis. If one doesn’t, scrap it and find a stronger supporting topic.
  5. Include citations and information: You should always include information and citations with the specific topic that you would like to include them in when you write your paper. That way, you have it all ready to plug it in when you get to the writing phase.

Outlining makes writing and getting a good grade much simpler. It also saves time! Though many people are quick to surpass the outline phase, it is important that you complete it rather than jumping into the writing process immediately. It will make your work much easier – and much more effective.