How to Write an Essay Outline: What You Need to Know | (2023)

If you need to write an essay but want to know how to write an essay outline to organize your thoughts effectively, then this guide is for you. We will cover the benefits of an essay outline, outline structure, different types of outlines, and how to outline your essay so that it is much easier when you go to write it. Plus, we have some cool templates and examples for you.


The essay is arguably one of the most popular and efficient means of communicating a large amount of information on a given subject without taking a large amount of time. When you must write an essay, be it for academic or professional reasons, you do not simply start writing.


That is a rookie mistake. You must have a game plan.


This is where an outline comes in.


What is an essay outline?


An essay outline is essentially a blueprint for the essay that you intend to write, whether it is an argumentative essay or writing an informative essay. Consider it a prelude to writing your first draft.


An outline contains all of the basic points of what you intend to write. There are many different ways that one can create an outline, which we will cover, but it must serve the overall structure of the essay.


Why should you write an outline for an essay?


Some people think that you can simply sit down and start writing and produce an essay ready for a reader's scrutiny. This is a major misconception. Writing an essay without an outline is like trying to travel across the country without a map or GPS. You might get where you want to go, but you will almost certainly make mistakes trying to get there.


Knowing how to write an essay outline gives you the ability to lay all of your thoughts out and map where they will belong in your essay. In a way, your outline is the earliest version of the first draft of your essay. By creating a good outline, it practically guarantees you to create an essay that is well thought out and composed.


Here are the biggest benefits of creating an outline.




When you create an outline, you are creating a structure that you can hang your essay on. You do not have to try and write in a free-form style and hope that you have conveyed all of the information in the best manner to the reader.


With a proper outline, you can designate where all of the information, main points, and supporting ideas that you have compiled will go in your essay and in what order. This will keep you organized and better able to meet any potential deadline that you may be under.




One of the biggest drawbacks of free-form writing is that it can make for difficult reading when the writing is done. You find that free-form writing can often be redundant, go on tangents, and just not flow well. It adds up to a disjointed reading experience.

(Video) How to Create a Clearly Structured Essay Outline | Scribbr 🎓


When you do an essay outline, you are preventing your work from being difficult to read because you can place each argument in its proper place. This prevents redundancies and incoherencies that may arise when you try to do everything free-form. Outlining beforehand makes your essay flow better for the reader as you transition from each main point.




Creating an outline gives your essay an added element of flexibility. Imagine for a moment that you have completed the first draft of your essay. During the revision process, you discover a new piece of information that drastically changes the information that you want to put in the essay. With an outline at the ready, you can more easily chart your essay’s course while factoring in the new information.


Instead of trying to shoehorn your new information into your revision, you can rework your outline to better accommodate it. This level of flexibility will help you maintain your essay’s coherence.




Arguably, the biggest benefit of using an essay outline is that it makes writing more efficient. By outlining each main idea, topic sentence, and supporting ideas before you start essay writing, you know exactly what needs to be written before you type out your first draft.


With all of your thoughts already laid out in the outline, you can practically transcribe each idea or argument to the page. Since you have gone to the trouble of outlining everything beforehand, you do not have to worry about writing any redundancies into your first draft. This means you will have less editing to do in the long run. Writing an outline helps to streamline the whole process.


Essay outline structure


The entire point of an outline is to have a structure with which to hang the rest of your essay. As such, it only makes sense that your essay outline should have its own structure. Here are the main components of a good outline structure and how they correspond to the final version of your essay.



Your essay introduction should present the primary thesis statement of the essay in a manner that tells the reader what your main argument of the essay will be about. It should not presume that the reader is particularly knowledgeable on the subject at hand, but it should also assume the reader is reasonably intelligent and able to understand the topic.


Body paragraphs

The body paragraphs have a primary function, and that is to support the thesis statement with an argument. Each successive paragraph should further support the thesis statement with a new topic sentence backed up by highlighting additional pieces of evidence.


If you are following a traditional five-paragraph essay format, then there should be three body paragraphs focused on a different topic sentence backed up by supporting points. Think of each body paragraph as its mini-essay that helps to further build the case for the thesis you have presented.




The conclusion is simple in concept. An essay conclusion is where you succinctly reiterate your thesis and the already discussed supporting evidence. You should restate the core information of your body paragraphs without repeating or bringing up any new information.


The main point of the conclusion is not only to reiterate the prior points but to tie all of those points together in support of the thesis.


(Video) How To Write An Essay Outline | 4 Steps Of Writing Essay Outline | Essay Writing | TutorBin

Different types of outlines


While your instructor or professor may prefer the outline they want you to use, an essay outline is a guide for you to use that helps the flow and overall structure of your college essay or research paper.


By creating an outline, you ensure that your essay is cohesive, covers all of the main points you were trying to make, and even that you hit your word count if you have one. That being said, it’s wise to still check with your instructor should you have one, to make sure you truly do have carte blanche on the choice.


Alphanumeric outline


An alphanumeric outline is the most common type of outline used in essays. You'll lay out your essay in lists and organized sub-lists through a mixture of numbers, symbols, periods, and letters. This type of outline helps to get all of your thoughts in a logical order before you begin writing.


Here is an example essay outline template for an alphanumeric outline:



How to Write an Essay Outline: What You Need to Know | (1)



Full sentence outline


This particular layout has one real requirement: The heading needs to be a complete sentence. You can’t use just one or two words for it. A full sentence that fully explains the section. While it is laid out the same as the alphanumeric version, it is distinctive because of this rule.


Many writers employ the full sentence outline as a way of keeping their thoughts organized since it allows for proper spacing of ideas, forces you to go through each part of your essay to clarify what you meant, and helps you reach your word count guidelines if you have been struggling to do so.


Here’s an example of the full sentence outline:


How to Write an Essay Outline: What You Need to Know | (2)


Decimal outline


The decimal outline is similar to the alphanumeric outline, and many people have trouble distinguishing between the two. The main difference is that the decimal outline uses only numbers. Where in an alphanumeric outline, you might see letters or symbols, this is not the case with a decimal outline.


Here is an example template of a decimal outline:

(Video) How to Write Essay Outline - Step-by-step Guide | BidForWriting


How to Write an Essay Outline: What You Need to Know | (3)



How to outline your essay


Now that you understand the structure of an outline and the different types of outlines that you can do, the time has come to create your outline for your essay. If you want to be sure to do the job right, then you have some steps that you can follow that will make your outline more organized and more helpful.




The research phase of your outline requires that you do more than simply go on Google or Wikipedia to find more information. You can use those resources as a starting point to find reputable information sources, but Wikipedia should never be a source on your essay and they cannot be the be-all-end-all of your research.


You want to be sure that the sources you use are trustworthy and have the proper qualifications, which Wikipedia alone does not (but they do have references near the bottom that you could use). A good example would be that if you are writing an essay about the medical world, you would cite information from a medical journal or a clinical study.


Determine your main points


When you write an essay, there can often come a point where you can get distracted by tangents, where you can no longer see the forest for the trees. This is why you need to settle on your main points in the essay.


Your main points should be the aspects of your topic that you find stick out the most. They should be the pieces of information that paint the clearest picture of the topic you wish to highlight.


By sticking with a primary set of points, you prevent yourself from going on tangents that may be related to your thesis, but ultimately do not add much information of value. You do not want to make the mistake of overloading the reader with information that will do little to enhance their opinion of the topic at hand.




One of the problems that comes with trying to write an essay is that sometimes your subject matter can be somewhat unwieldy. Keeping track of all your research materials and your main points can be hectic if you are not staying on top of things. That is why you must keep your outline organized.


Write and revise your outline


Now that you have organized your research materials and main points, you are finally ready to begin writing your outline. This part must be done correctly, as it will strongly affect what the finished essay becomes.


You want to make sure that each point of your essay is made in a way that will allow for the essay to flow when it is written. A common mistake people make with outlining their essays is that they treat it like a slide presentation or a bullet list rather than as a piece of writing. Make sure that your outline takes your writing style into account.


(Video) Writing an Essay Outline

After you have created your outline, you should look over it for anything that could create potential problems. Will it yield an overly long essay? Are there any redundancies? Is all of the information relevant? If you find any element of your outline that is lacking, then you should revise it.

Essay outline examples

It’s always helpful to see examples of outlines for the different types of essays for academic writing, whether it’s an argumentative essay, narrative essay, persuasive essay, or any other academic paper you may need to do.


Here are some essay outline examples for different essay types.

Persuasive essay outline

How to Write an Essay Outline: What You Need to Know | (4)



Expository essay outline

How to Write an Essay Outline: What You Need to Know | (5)


Argumentative essay outline

How to Write an Essay Outline: What You Need to Know | (6)


Informative essay outline

How to Write an Essay Outline: What You Need to Know | (7)



Narrative essay outline


How to Write an Essay Outline: What You Need to Know | (8)



FAQs on writing essay outlines


What’s a five-paragraph outline?

A five-paragraph outline is an outline that is designed specifically for an essay that is following a five-paragraph format. It accounts for the introduction, three body paragraphs, and the conclusion.


When should I write an essay outline?

You should start the process of outlining after you have chosen your topic, and you have done the proper research on it. Make sure that you have compiled all of the necessary information into a form that is easily accessible to you.


Can I change my outline when I begin writing?

There is nothing wrong with changing your outline after the writing process begins. It needs to be understood that while there are guidelines that have helped thousands upon thousands of essays; they are still only guidelines.


The only rules that you need to heed are the parameters of the essay, as it has been assigned to you. If you need to change your outline to create a better essay, then that is not only something you can do, it is what you should do.


(Video) How to Write Six Common Essay Outlines

Final thoughts on how to write an essay outline

Through each step of the outlining process, you must remember that your outline is not your essay. Your outline is your guide, your map to creating a fantastic essay, but if you find during the writing process that straying from the outline yields a better essay, then do what is best for the essay. After all, nobody will read your outline, but your essay is what truly matters.

This article is part of an ongoing series on how to write. It covers topics such as how to write an affiliate blog post or how to write a business proposal.


What are the basic outlines for writing an essay on artificial intelligence? ›

Simple Tips on How to Write an Essay on Artificial Intelligence
  • Choose a topic. ...
  • Provide an engaging introduction. ...
  • Write a valuable body. ...
  • Conclude logically. ...
  • Edit as if you are doing it for the last time. ...
  • Format your essay according to the instructions. ...
  • Keep it simple. ...
  • Make it unique.
24 May 2021

What do you write in an outline for an essay? ›

Outline your essay body: write down a topic sentence for each paragraph, provide supporting evidence you'll use when writing, and mention how they'll relate to the topic and your thesis. The more details you outline, the easier it will be to organize all the thoughts while writing.

What are the 5 main parts of an essay? ›

An outline is often used to demonstrate the content of most five-paragraph essays:
  • Introduction.
  • Body. First Point. Second Point. Third Point.
  • Conclusion.

Can you write a AI essay? ›

In many cases, AI can help write essays that appear highly similar, if not indistinguishable, from that of a human author. As this piece was being typed, Google AI helpfully suggested words to auto-complete these sentences.

What are the 5 components of AI? ›

As such, the five basic components of artificial intelligence include learning, reasoning, problem-solving, perception, and language understanding.

What are the 7 aspects of AI? ›

The original seven aspects of AI, named by McCarthy and others at the Dartmouth Conference in 1955, include automatic computers, programming AI to use language, hypothetical neuron nets to be used to form concepts, measuring problem complexity, self-improvement, abstractions, and randomness and creativity.

What are the 3 types of outlines? ›

The outline shows the sequence of your essay and the main ideas to keep in mind while writing. Three types of outlines are most commonly used. They are: alphanumeric outline, full sentence outline, and decimal outline.

What are the 5 steps to writing an outline? ›

5 Steps to Create the Perfect Outline
  1. Choose Your Topic and Establish Your Purpose. A lot of writers struggle to define the initial focus for their paper. ...
  2. Create A List Of Main Ideas. This is the brainstorming part of the writing process. ...
  3. Organize Your Main Ideas. ...
  4. Flush Out Your Main Points. ...
  5. Review and Adjust.

What are the 4 types of outline? ›

Four Types of Outlining - article
  • Classical Outlining. A classical outline includes Roman numerals, letters, and numbers for headings and subheadings. ...
  • Summary Outlining. In a summary outline, the writer estimates the number of chapters in their manuscript. ...
  • Index Card Outlining. ...
  • Clustering.

What is the 10 rule in essay writing? ›

It goes like this: Whenever you finish a piece of writing, check its word count then go back through it and ruthlessly remove at least 10% of the words. So if it's a 750-word article, delete 75 words.

What are 3 main points in an essay? ›

The main parts (or sections) to an essay are the intro, body, and conclusion.

How do you structure an essay? ›

The structure of an essay is divided into an introduction that presents your topic and thesis statement, a body containing your in-depth analysis and arguments, and a conclusion wrapping up your ideas.

Are there 3 or 4 types of AI? ›

According to the current system of classification, there are four primary AI types: reactive, limited memory, theory of mind, and self-aware. Let's take a look at each type in a little more depth.

What is the average IQ of an AI? ›

(See also: Artificial Intelligence Will Add $15.7 Trillion to the Global Economy: PwC.) Researchers Feng Liu, Yong Shi and Yin Liu carried out tests throughout 2016, which ranked Google's AI IQ at 47.28, just shy of the average IQ they found for a human 6-year-old: 55.5.

How do I write my own AI? ›

Let's go through the basic steps to help you understand how to create an AI from scratch.
  1. Step 1: The First Component to Consider When Building the AI Solution Is the Problem Identification. ...
  2. Step 2: Have the Right Data and Clean It. ...
  3. Step 3: Create Algorithms. ...
  4. Step 4: Train the Algorithms. ...
  5. Step 5: Opt for the Right Platform.
22 Feb 2022

What is the main concept of AI? ›

Artificial intelligence (AI) refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines that are programmed to think like humans and mimic their actions. The term may also be applied to any machine that exhibits traits associated with a human mind such as learning and problem-solving.

What is AI and its importance? ›

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the basis for mimicking human intelligence processes through the creation and application of algorithms built into a dynamic computing environment. Stated simply, AI is trying to make computers think and act like humans.

What are the 2 types of learning in AI? ›

AI Learning Models: Knowledge-Based Classification

Factoring its representation of knowledge, AI learning models can be classified in two main types: inductive and deductive.

What are the 2 types of artificial intelligence? ›

Artificial intelligence is generally divided into two types – narrow (or weak) AI and general AI, also known as AGI or strong AI.

What is a good outline look like? ›

Basic outline form

The main ideas take Roman numerals (I, II, ...) and should be in all-caps. Sub-points under each main idea take capital letters (A, B, ...) and are indented. Sub-points under the capital letters, if any, take Arabic numerals (1, 2, ...) and are further indented.

How do you write a good outline? ›

How do I write an outline?
  1. Identify your topic or thesis statement.
  2. Decide what points you would like to discuss during your paper.
  3. Put your points in logical, numerical order so that each point connects back to your main point.
  4. Write possible transitions between paragraphs.

What are the four principles of good outlining? ›

Four principles of outlining are consistency, unity, coherence, and emphasis (DuBois, 1929). In terms of consistency, you should follow standard outlining format.

What is the basic rules of outlining? ›

CENTRAL IDEA: The three major principles for outlining a speech are having the right parts, using proper outlining form, and properly documenting sources. There's an oft-quoted maxim about public speaking that says, “tell 'em what you are going to tell 'em, tell 'em, and then tell 'em what you told 'em” (Safire, 1999).

What are the 7 guidelines in writing an outline? ›

  • Craft your premise.
  • Roughly sketch scene ideas.
  • Interview your characters.
  • Explore your settings.
  • Write your complete outline.
  • Condense your outline.
  • Put your outline into action.

What is outline give example? ›

An outline is a tool used to organize written ideas about a topic or thesis into a logical order. Outlines arrange major topics, subtopics, and supporting details. Writers use outlines when writing their papers in order to know which topic to cover in what order.

What is the most common outline format? ›

Alphanumeric Outlines

This is the most common type of outline and usually instantly recognizable to most people. The formatting follows these characters, in this order: Roman Numerals. Capitalized Letters.

What are the 6 basic steps in preparing an outline? ›

6 Effective Steps to Create an Outline for Your Novel
  1. Step One: Idea Explosion. The first step is the most creative. ...
  2. Step 2: Create your premise. ...
  3. Step 3: Establishing your characters. ...
  4. Step 4: Choose your settings. ...
  5. Step 5: Time to outline. ...
  6. Step 6: Review and Edit.
27 May 2020

How do you write a full sentence outline? ›

To create an outline:
  1. Place your thesis statement at the top.
  2. List the major points that support your thesis. Label them in Roman Numerals (I, II, III, etc.).
  3. List supporting ideas or arguments for each major point. ...
  4. If applicable, continue to sub-divide each supporting idea until your outline is fully developed.
21 Jul 2021

How long is a 20 Mark essay? ›

20 mark questions are essay style questions and should be answered in continuous prose and paragraphs. You should take around 25 – 30 minutes to answer these questions and contain between 3 and 4 paragraphs as well as an introduction and conclusion.

How many hours does it take to write a 700 word essay? ›

Writing 700 words will take about 17.5 minutes for the average writer typing on a keyboard and 35 minutes for handwriting. However, if the content needs to include in-depth research, links, citations, or graphics such as for a blog article or high school essay, the length can grow to 2.3 hours.

What is the 90 %/ 10 rule in writing? ›

Because publishing is a business with limited time and resources, authors should be aware of the 90/10 rule. This states that approximately 90 percent of a publisher's revenue is generated from 10 percent of the titles it publishes.

What are the 7 elements of an essay? ›

7 Essential Elements Of A Perfect Essay
  • # 1 – Do your Research. ...
  • # 2 – Outline Your Essay. ...
  • # 3 – The Introduction. ...
  • # 4 – The Body. ...
  • # 5 – The Conclusion. ...
  • # 6 – Proofreading & Editing. ...
  • # 7 – Read It One More Time! ...
  • Write The Perfect Essay Every Time!

What is the 5 point essay format? ›

The five-paragraph essay structure consists of, in order: one introductory paragraph that introduces the main topic and states a thesis, three body paragraphs to support the thesis, and one concluding paragraph to wrap up the points made in the essay.

How many paragraphs is an essay? ›

Arguably the most common essay format is the standard five-paragraph essay. This essay devotes a paragraph each to the introduction, conclusion, and three different supporting details.

What is the best essay format? ›

A basic essay consists of three main parts: introduction, body, and conclusion. This basic essay format will help you to write and organize an essay. However, flexibility is important. While keeping this basic essay format in mind, let the topic and specific assignment guide the writing and organization.

How do I start writing an essay? ›

Preparation: Decide on your topic, do your research, and create an essay outline. Writing: Set out your argument in the introduction, develop it with evidence in the main body, and wrap it up with a conclusion. Revision: Check the content, organization, grammar, spelling, and formatting of your essay.

How do you start an essay example? ›

Take a look at these common ways to start an essay:
  1. Share a shocking or amusing fact.
  2. Ask a question.
  3. Dramatize a scene.
  4. Kick it off with a quote.
  5. State your thesis directly.
  6. Pick the right tone for your essay.
  7. When you're stuck, work backwards.
2 Jun 2022

Who is father of AI? ›

Abstract: If John McCarthy, the father of AI, were to coin a new phrase for "artificial intelligence" today, he would probably use "computational intelligence." McCarthy is not just the father of AI, he is also the inventor of the Lisp (list processing) language.

What type of AI is Siri? ›

Siri consists of three main components: a conversational interface, personal context awareness, and service delegation. The conversational interface is based on Natural Language Processing (NLP), a branch of AI.

Is 80% IQ good? ›

An IQ score of 115 means performance one standard deviation above the median, a score of 85 performance, one standard deviation below the median, and so on.
Wechsler Intelligence Scales.
IQ Range ("deviation IQ")IQ Classification
110–119High Average
80–89Low Average
3 more rows

How smart am I if my IQ is 150? ›

115 to 129: Above average or bright. 130 to 144: Moderately gifted. 145 to 159: Highly gifted. 160 to 179: Exceptionally gifted.

Who has an IQ of 1000? ›

Marilyn vos Savant
BornMarilyn Mach August 11, 1946 St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
OccupationAuthor columnist
SpouseRobert Jarvik ​ ( m. 1987)​

What is AI in your own words? ›

Artificial intelligence is the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially computer systems. Specific applications of AI include expert systems, natural language processing, speech recognition and machine vision.

What are some AI ideas? ›

Artificial IntelligenceProject Ideas – Advanced Level
  • Voice-based Virtual Assistant for Windows. ...
  • Facial Emotion Recognition and Detection. ...
  • Online Assignment Plagiarism Checker. ...
  • Personality Prediction System via CV Analysis. ...
  • Heart Disease Prediction Project. ...
  • Banking Bot.
4 Oct 2022

What is the basics to study artificial intelligence? ›

You can learn artificial intelligence by taking an online course or enrolling in a data science bootcamp. Many bootcamps provide an introduction to machine learning. Machine learning is a tool used by AI that involves exposing an algorithm to a large amount of data. It allows the AI to learn faster.

What are the key concepts of artificial intelligence? ›

To understand some of the deeper concepts, such as data mining, natural language processing, and driving software, you need to know the three basic AI concepts: machine learning, deep learning, and neural networks.

What is the basics of AI? ›

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI includes everything from robots who play chess to chatbots that can respond to customer support questions to self-driving cars that can intelligently navigate real-world traffic. AI can be composed of algorithms. An algorithm is a process or set of rules that a computer can execute.

What is the main idea of artificial intelligence? ›

Artificial intelligence is based on the principle that human intelligence can be defined in a way that a machine can easily mimic it and execute tasks, from the most simple to those that are even more complex. The goals of artificial intelligence include mimicking human cognitive activity.

What are the three types of learning in AI? ›

there are three general categories of learning that artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning utilizes to actually learn. They are Supervised Learning, Unsupervised Learning and Reinforcement learning.

What are the 4 types of artificial intelligence? ›

There are a lot of ongoing discoveries and developments, most of which are divided into four categories: reactive machines, limited memory, theory of mind, and self-aware AI.

What are 3 benefits of AI? ›

What are the advantages of Artificial Intelligence?
  • AI drives down the time taken to perform a task. ...
  • AI enables the execution of hitherto complex tasks without significant cost outlays.
  • AI operates 24x7 without interruption or breaks and has no downtime.
  • AI augments the capabilities of differently abled individuals.

How can I learn AI by myself? ›

You can start learning AI by working on your fundamentals. Beyond basic mathematics, you can look at learning a coding language like Python. You also need to work on advanced concepts such as Calculus, Vectors, Matrices, Statistics, Probability, and Linear Algebra fundamentals.

What is the first language of AI? ›

The first practical and still most widely used AI programming language is the functional language Lisp developed by John McCarthy in the late 1950s. Lisp is based on mathematical function theory and the lambda abstraction.

How AI will change the world? ›

On a far grander scale, AI is poised to have a major effect on sustainability, climate change and environmental issues. Ideally and partly through the use of sophisticated sensors, cities will become less congested, less polluted and generally more livable.

What is the impact of artificial intelligence on our life? ›

Artificial intelligence can dramatically improve the efficiencies of our workplaces and can augment the work humans can do. When AI takes over repetitive or dangerous tasks, it frees up the human workforce to do work they are better equipped for—tasks that involve creativity and empathy among others.

How will AI help us in the future? ›

According to a research by scientists at the University of Oxford, Artificial Intelligence will be better than humans at translating languages by 2024, writing school essays by 2026, selling goods by 2031, write a bestselling book by 2049, and conducting surgeries by 2053.


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