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David Carlson
  • Old Fort, OH
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How to write an essay outline

Start by brainstorming and start with preliminary research

Before you write your outline you should note down all your ideas and elements you have learned that may come in handy. You should also do a little preliminary research so that you may plan your essay better. You should research to find out if the thesis you are choosing is going to work for your essay. Use all opportunities to find new information and ideas. You can always use the Internet for this. There you can find many useful knowledge resources for you, and you can also ask for help with your essay such services as college paper writing services if you have any difficulties in writing your essay. You can also look up other essays that are based on the same thing and see what they have to offer. Are they heavily weighted or biased? Do they have any great points you can steal? Do they have references that would make handy research sources for you?

Should I outline first or plan first?

You should definitely write your outline first. There are some people that write their plan first and then create an outline based on the bigger issues within the plan. That method is okay, but it is far easier to write your outline and then use that outline as a skeleton plan that you flesh out into your essay plan.

You have to plan your essay

This is just common sense because it will help you organize your essay as you go. Your plan can show all the details and points you are going to add, and as you write your essay you can refer to your plan to be sure you haven’t missed anything. Your plan helps you maintain a good flow and helps stop your work being too heavily weighted. This may happen if you concentrate on one issue too much and then do not leave enough word count to concentrate on other issues. At least if you have a plan then you can judge how many points you are going to enter and how much time/word count you should spend on each.

Come up with an outline and build your plan onto it

Your outline can be a very basic essay structure that notes the major themes/issues/points in your essay. You can start with your outline and then build a plan into it. You can add in research notes and references that you can research later. You can add in smaller points between the bigger issues, and you can even plan your personal time such as the days and times you are going to work on your essay. Starting with an outline is one-step up from starting with an essay format/structure, and building your plan into it is common sense if you want to make writing your essay easier and more efficient.

What is an essay format or structure?

This is what you start with at a very beginning. For example, an expository essay may have a structure that goes, introduction, body, analysis, evaluation, and conclusion. You need to pick your essay format or structure so that you know how you are going to organize your essay when you write it.

How do I make an essay outline from a format or structure?

If for example, you had a format that placed a comparison of all similarities first and all differences second, then your outline would show the biggest similarities in the first part of the essay outline, and the biggest differences in the second part of the essay outline.

How do I judge what are smaller issues/points and bigger issues/points?

If you were to leave the smaller issue out, then would the dynamic of your essay change? This is not as easy as it sounds, but start by asking yourself if you would have to change the essay conclusion if you took out the smaller issue/point? If you have to change the conclusion then the issue/point in question is a big issue and should be included in your outline.

Judging the smaller and bigger issues is not as easy because sometimes there may be one big issue for similarities, but a lot of smaller issues for differences. In that case it is unfair to call one small issue less or more significant than the next. If you cannot find a big issue then you have to consider all (or most) of the smaller issues as big issues and add them in to your outline. This will make your outline seem a little crowded, but you cannot simply say there are no big issues, ergo nothing goes into the outline. Maybe there is a connection between a number of the smaller issues that indicates there may be a bigger issue.

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