An outline is one of the approaches to planning an essay or another type of academic assignment before writing it. It involves listing all the points you intend to mention in your essay and summarizing each of them in one or two short sentences. You may pay more attention to certain parts of your essay (e.g., you may want to render the introduction and the thesis statement in their entirety due to their importance for the overall structure of your paper), but most body paragraphs are usually represented in just this way – boiled down to their main points. Sometimes you may be asked to submit an outline as a separate assignment before you set about writing the essay per se, but even if you do not have to do so, it is a good idea to prepare one for each essay you write.
In this article, we will cover the main aspects of writing an outline so that you do not have any problems with this sort of work any longer.
How Much Detail You Should Go for in Your Outline
The amount of detail in an outline fully depends on your preferences. Some students go for the absolute minimum, simply jotting down the main points of each paragraph in one or two words. Others go in the opposite direction and provide such minute details that their outlines are almost complete essays in themselves. An optimal approach, as usual, is somewhere in between. It is a good idea to write the introduction, conclusion, and thesis statement in their entirety, mention references to the sources you are going to mention, and transition between points so that it is easier to maintain the logical structure of your paper later on. Otherwise, one sentence per paragraph of the essay body is probably enough. Suggested – STLCC Blackboard Learn & Login Guide
What an Outline Consists of
The common parts of an outline include:
- Introduction. Here you introduce your topic and provide the basic information necessary for the audience to follow your reasoning. You should begin by discussing the topic of your essay rather than broadly outlining the background of your research. Then lead up to the thesis statement;
- Thesis statement. It is the main idea of your entire essay reduced to a single sentence. In the essay, it comes right after the introduction and clearly states the main purpose of the paper. The introduction leads up to it, the rest of the essay supports it and elaborates on it;
- Context (background). Here you introduce the context for your following research. No academic work exists in isolation, and this part serves to prove that you build upon the existing research by other people and try to fill in the gap in the literature on the subject. This section may contain a literature review (short summary of the published works on the topic) or simply an overview of the existing data on the subject. In an outline, you should enumerate the works and/or facts you are going to mention;
- Major points. These are the basic building blocks constituting the main part of your essay. Each major point should represent a definite claim that is somehow related to the thesis statement and other major points. They should follow each other logically and build upon each other;
- Minor points. These are subtopics or supporting details related to major points. They further elaborate on the major points but are not significant enough to be mentioned separately. Minor points include statistical information, examples, references, and supporting ideas;
- Conclusion. Here you once again state the main point of your essay and connect it to the larger context. For example, you can state what results you achieved in your research and what it implies for the field in general. Do not repeat every point you made or introduce new information – instead focus on the thesis statement, your results, and how they tie in with the existing research on the subject and possible future lines of work for other researchers.
A Few More Tips for Writing an Outline
Always carefully follow the directions received from your professor/supervisor, especially if they directly deal with the way you should write your outline or the essay itself. Also, remember that the structure and contents of the outline depending on the type of essay you write and the discipline you study. An essay in humanities will be much different from the one based on practical research, and their outlines will be different as well, so keep it in mind.
Not all people are equally good at writing, and some students experience problems with essays and their outlines even after going through extensive tutoring. If you are one of such unfortunates, remember that you can always pay for essay writing – just make sure to find a reliable writing service to delegate this assignment to.