In high school or college, essays are frequently assigned for classes ranging from English to History and everything in between. Knowing how to write a good essay is an important skill for any student, and it all begins with knowing how to structure an essay outline. While the exact structure of an essay outline varies depending on the type of essay and the topic, the basic format is consistent across all outlines. An essay outline should start with an introduction, then three or more supporting paragraphs, and finally a conclusion.
Depending on the subject and purpose of the essay, there are several different types of essay formats. When the writer wants to give the reader objective information about two or more items in a category, for example, a compare-and-contrast format can be used. A persuasive essay, on the other hand, is written to persuade the reader to agree with the writer’s point of view on a particular subject.
Roman numerals are used as headings in the basic format of an essay. The introductory paragraph, for example, would be listed as “I.” on the outline because each paragraph is usually given its own Roman numeral followed a period. The points under the initial Roman numeral are then indented and written in alphabetical order with capital letters and a period — A., B., C., and so on. Under each point, sub-points will be indented and written in numerals, such as 1, 2, and 3. More sub-points can be added indented and beneath the numerals, using a lower-case form of the letter and a period — a., b., c., and so on.
An essay outline should start with a thesis statement, which will serve as the main component of the introductory paragraph in the actual essay, regardless of the type. The thesis statement expresses the writer’s intent to prove or discuss something throughout the essay. A one-sentence thesis should be included in the outline, which the writer will expand upon when writing the essay.
The outline should have three to five supporting paragraphs after the thesis statement, depending on the page requirements and the type of essay being written. Each paragraph should have its own topic sentence, which informs the reader about the topic of the paragraph. Each paragraph should contain a single idea or concept that proves or strengthens the thesis statement and supporting evidence. The opening sentence of the second and subsequent paragraphs should be a transition sentence that flows naturally from the previous paragraph.
An essay outline may include “bullet points” or key words that the writer intends to use in the paragraph under each opening sentence. Writing the essay will be easier if key words or phrases are included in the outline, and the writer will be less likely to overlook an important point. Depending on how detailed a writer wants the outline to be, sub-points or examples for each point can be added.
A conclusion is required at the end of the essay outline. A sentence that reaffirms the original thesis sentence and ties up the essay for the reader should be included in the conclusion. The thesis statement and the concluding sentence should both be focused on the essay’s topic and be able to convey to the reader what the writer was attempting to convey in the essay.