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Step 4: Essay Outline

Essay Outlines

Essay outlines are an important and helpful step to the writing process. Outlines can help you focus your ideas and information around one, central theme. By doing this, you can easily and efficiently organize your essay in a way that best helps you best your message across to your readers. Outlines help you see how your essay will look before you actually write it all out, enabling you to be sure that it is organized in a strong and effective way. Ultius and our essay writers are here to make sure your academic content needs are met, and helping you craft your essay outline is an important step in that process.

Benefits of Using an Outline

When writing an essay, most people think of an outline as a tedious, extra, unnecessary step that just adds to the amount of work they have to do. In fact, outlines are an integral part of essay writing. You don’t need to know exactly what you want to say before you write your outline; just writing down and shaping your thoughts and ideas can help form the essay. When writing an outline, you can write out all of your information before arranging the thoughts and ideas in a logical and smooth-flowing order. Writing an outline can ensure that your essay will be structured and organized. Not only do they help to organize all of your information in the most effective way, but it helps make your essay easier to read and comprehend for your audience. The structure will help to make your paper memorable and easy to retain for your readers and ensures that they take away the message you are trying to share. In addition, using an outline allows you to sort of preview your paper before writing the final version, which is often much easier with the help of a well written outline. Typically, the lines in an outline contain only ten to twenty words. They sum up the main points of the idea in a short and concise way, in addition to forcing the writer to have a complete understanding of the concept.

Tying in Key Points to the Primary Argument

It is important that an essay’s body paragraphs all tie back to the main idea of the paper. Generally, each paragraph should have a claim that supports the central thesis of the essay. Following the claim, it is important to provide the evidence, proving that the claim is true and relevant. After the evidence, the next part to include is the warrant, or a short explanation of why the claim supports the general thesis of the paper. With a claim, evidence to back it up, and a warrant to clearly explain how it connects to and supports the paper’s main idea, your paper will have a strong and reliable structure.

The Thesis Statement

Your thesis statement is the central theme of your paper. The thesis is sometimes confused with the topic of the paper, which is really only the general subject of the essay and is very broad. Rather, your thesis statement must be arguable and be distinguished from both an observation, merely an obvious interpretation that no one would ever argue, and fact, which is clearly provable and demonstrable. It is a one sentence, direct, and concise statement that clearly establishes your paper’s argument. Besides demonstrating your knowledge and understanding of the subject matter, a thesis will explain to your readers how you will interpret and discuss the information you are presenting and let them know what to expect from your essay. A thesis will answer a question or make a definitive statement that can be argued or disputed. It establishes your position in the paper and explains to the reader why your message is important. Your thesis should be clear and easy to understand and identify, as well as being presented early on in your essay. 

Supporting Evidence

In order for your essay to have validity and credibility, it is imperative that your thesis and supporting claims are backed up by concrete evidence from reliable sources. The evidence you provide is almost solely responsible for convincing your audience to agree with your thesis. This supporting material can prove your thesis and has the power and potential to convince your readers and make them believe what you are saying is true. Good evidence is detrimental in persuading readers that your method and affirmations are correct. In addition to evidence that supports your argument, a well-written essay will also include evidence for the counter-argument, and directly address these opposing claims with proof of the contrary. 

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Each claim must be supported by evidence, and all evidence needs a warrant, or an analysis of the information and an explanation of how the evidence proves the claim to be true. A good, strong essay will spotlight important details in the evidence and help the readers notice patterns and implications that they may never have noticed before. The analysis should make your argument seem clear and obvious in an easy to understand, but intelligent way. While it is important piece of your essay that must be present throughout your paper, analysis is an especially integral part of your essay’s conclusion. It is important to reflect on this evidence and analysis and use it to build up to larger claims and overall conclusions about the evidence. An affective analysis will consider the counter-argument and discuss its credibility, redefine the claims, and briefly touch once more on the support that makes these claims true.

Structuring Your Outline

Now that you understand all the important aspects of your essay that make it effective, you can being structuring your outline. When you begin to structure your outline, you must consider whether you are going to structure your outline logically, in which the main sections of your essay focus on specific ideas rather than paragraphs, or if you are going to structure your paper around paragraphs, which enables you to see exactly how long your essay and each of its sections will be. The logical approach helps to effectively develop the implications of your paper’s main thesis much more deeply than any other approach. Organizing your paper this way will help your audience understand the information you are presenting and how each new claim extends and strengthens your central argument. Each claim should support and expand you’re your previous argument while preparing the reader for and segueing into the next claim. With this form of organizing and structure in mind, you can effectively create an outline that both represents and communicates your main argument, claims, and evidence, and helps you to later write your essay quickly and easily. 

You should first consider the required length of your paper so that you can accurately predict how much information you must provide. The majority of essays contain three supporting claims that back up your main thesis that are accompanied by both evidence and analysis. Organizing your essay in this way also enables you to break up the required page length into individual sections in order to better interpret how much information about each one you need. Generally, most paragraphs take up about half of a page when the paper is double spaced and contain about six to eight sentences. For example, suppose your paper needs to be five pages long. Your outline may look like this:

  1. Introduction (1 page)
    1. Introduce your paper and thesis statement (half page)
    2. Provide insight to how you will prove your thesis (half page)
  2. Body Paragraph #1 (1 page)
    1. Topic sentence presenting a major claim that supports your central thesis.
    2. Evidence that clearly supports the major claim.
    3. Warrant that explains the connection between the claim and the evidence.
  3. Body Paragraph #2 (1 page)
    1. Topic sentence presenting a major claim that supports your central thesis.
    2. Evidence that clearly supports the major claim.
    3. Warrant that explains the connection between the claim and the evidence.
  4. Body Paragraph #3 (1 page)
    1. Topic sentence presenting a major claim that supports your central thesis.
    2. Evidence that clearly supports the major claim.
    3. Warrant that explains the connection between the claim and the evidence.
  5. Conclusion (1 page)
    1. Analysis and interpretation of previously stated evidence (half page)
    2. Summary of main points followed by a restatement of the thesis and a closing statement that leave the reader with a strong understanding of the information presented (half page)

In this example, the essay is broken down into the five required pages. The structure is simple enough that you can easily insert your own ideas and information into the blank spaces to make your paper more focused. It is organized in a way that clearly and efficiently presents your argument and makes it sound logical and obvious to the reader.

After you have completed your structured outline, you can easily assess your paper and the information you provided to determine the strengths and weaknesses of your essay. Outlines give you a unique perspective as to how the organization and layout of the paper, in addition to the claims, evidence, and analysis that you provide, all come together into one final product. You can determine whether you need more information, stronger evidence, or more clearly supported claims. Outlines enable you to fix any weaknesses in your paper before you have to put in the hours of work and effort to actually write your final draft.

Writing Excellent Essay Outlines

As you can see, outlines are a detrimental component to the success of your essay. Outlines help you to organize your ideas in a way that supports your main claim and provides conclusive evidence that persuades your audience to agree with your argument. They not only help to improve the overall quality of your paper, but they also help to make writing your final essay easier. While it may seems like a tedious or unnecessary tasks, the benefits of writing and using an essay outline far outweigh the effort required to make one. A great, well-written outline helps to ensure a strong and effective paper.

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