Essay Outlines for an Effortless Writing Process

Essay Outlines for an Effortless Writing Process intro image

Back in my school days, I used to scoff at the idea of creating my very own essay outline. After all, if I were a good writer, the whole process would come to me naturally, right? It’s fine. I’ll just leave the essay writing until the last minute – diamonds are made under pressure after all. Well, I hate to disappoint my 12-year-old self, but all types of good writing require some form of structure – even the article you’re reading now.

DR

Essay outlines are like the metaphorical skeleton of a good essay. They keep the whole body together, but no one gets to see it (except rarely – doctors and your teachers if they want to evaluate your work). Without an outline, your essay will just be a wall of incomprehensible text, like an annoying Facebook post no one bothered to edit.

In this article, I’ll explain to you how essay templates work and give you a few examples for different essay types so you can start using them right away for your personal work.

What Is an Outline?

You can think of the outline of your essay as a guideline through the process of writing. There’s nothing more overwhelming than sitting in front of a blank page and a blinking cursor. Being able to put down a few sentences highlighting your most important arguments is a way of getting started – and with a solid foundation. This process will help you shine light through the dark tunnel of writing. Many successful writers use essay outlines for their work, for example, J.K. Rowling when she had to write all of the Harry Potter books.

Your essay outline can be as messy as you like – no one has to see it. You can draft it on a piece of paper or type it on your computer. I do recommend a little trick if you’re handwriting your outline – tear the different sections of your essay, and use them as puzzle pieces. Keep the introduction and conclusion where they are, but swap around the arguments in the body. This way, you can rearrange your essay outline many times, scrap bits you don’t like, and replace them with new ones without having to rewrite the whole thing.

Benefits of Outlining: Why Should You Use an Outline When Writing an Essay?

Let’s be honest – no good writer just sat down for a few days and suddenly, poof! Here’s the copy of my new book! Writing takes careful planning, and even though writing on inspiration exists, I doubt a sudden whim of it will strike specifically for your literary analysis or argumentative essay. However, if you’re still not convinced, here’s a few reasons why you should use an outline when writing an essay (or any text for that matter):

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Keeps Your Text Organized

That way, you’re writing and structuring your text at the same time, instead of creating an alphabet soup of words and spending days trying to edit it. By creating an essay outline, you can also navigate through your research to see if you have selected the most convincing arguments to back up your thesis.

Contributes to the Logical Flow of the Arguments

Speaking of arguments, having the flexibility to change and rearrange them is a time-saver. One-sentence outlines of your arguments will immediately show you if you have a well-defended essay in front of you. Rearranging the arguments and text in different ways can spark a fresh outlook on your writing.

Allows for Creativity

Knowing that the outline is not the final text lets you keep your writing more formal. There’s less pressure when writing, and you can have flexibility. You’re the only one who’s going to see it. (During my university degree, I even started drawing some of my arguments.) You can cross things out and brainstorm without being judged. Your essay outline will only make sense to you until you turn it into a great piece of writing for other readers.

How to Write an Essay Outline Like a Juicy Burger

The beauty of essay outlines is that they don’t have to be grammatically correct and neat. So long as you write your thoughts down, quick and easy, you’re making progress. Generally, an outline should showcase your statement supported in the different paragraphs by your arguments. Imagine the outline as a nice, juicy burger:

  1. The introduction is your top burger bun. This paragraph should outline your topic. Add a bit of history if you can. Generally, introductions include facts, background information, a super short summary of your arguments, and your thesis statement. Begin your introduction with an attention-grabbing sentence. This will make readers want to know what you’re talking about and engage their interest.
  2. The body of the text is the meat – all your arguments should be divided into different paragraphs (the lettuce, mushrooms, tomato – if you put that in a burger, and the bacon, yum!). They should cover different ideas in defense of your statement. Make sure to always come back to your main topic in every single paragraph. You can include a different number of arguments depending on how long your essay has to be.
  3. The opposing points paragraph is the metaphorical hot sauce of your essay outline. You hate it, but you love it. Use this paragraph to briefly go over the counterarguments against your thesis. Then, explain how your thesis is stronger. Defend it with some strong facts – this will add to the believability of your essay and earn the trust of your readers and teachers.
  4. Finally, we’re going to discuss the conclusion or your bottom bun. Here, write a paragraph that reiterates your thesis statement and summarizes each paragraph. Don’t include any new arguments here. Instead, finish off with a strong concluding statement that ties up the burger like a small wooden skewer.

There you have it – you’ve made something people would love to sink their teeth into!

Essay Outline Templates

Are you still having trouble getting started? Let’s take a look at some example essay templates depending on the essay you’ll be writing. 

Argumentative Essay Outline

The main point of this is to establish an argument and provide enough valid evidence to prove your claim is correct. Start collecting that evidence, because we’ve got work to do!

Here is a sample of what your essay structure should look like:

  1. Introduction
    1. An attention-grabbing first sentence
    2. General background information, history in reference to your topic
    3. Your thesis statement
  2. Body paragraphs
    1. Body paragraph 1
      1. Supporting evidence for paragraph 1
      2. Supporting evidence for paragraph 1
      3. Supporting evidence for paragraph 1
    2. Body paragraph 2
      1. Supporting evidence for paragraph 2
      2. Supporting evidence for paragraph 2
      3. Supporting evidence for paragraph 2
    3. Body paragraph 3
      1. Supporting evidence for paragraph 3
      2. Supporting evidence for paragraph 3
      3. Supporting evidence for paragraph 3
    4. Opposing arguments and your defense to these statements
      1. Opposing argument 1 and response to claim
      2. Opposing argument 2 and response to claim
  3. Conclusion
    1. Reiterate your thesis statement and the arguments you made in the body paragraphs.
    2. Talk about why your essay is important, and put it in a relevant present-day context.
    3. Finish with a memorable sentence.

Persuasive Essay Outline

Persuasive essays intend to – you guessed it! – persuade the reader to change their opinion on a subject. They do this by providing explanations and evidence on a specific issue and forming a logical conclusion. Persuasive essays typically have five paragraphs in total. Here is a template you can start working with straight away:

  1. Introduction
    1. Write your attention-grabbing sentence that “hooks” the readers.
    2. Give information on your topic.
    3. Are you working with specific definitions? Time to explain them here.
    4. Finally, provide your thesis statement in the last sentence.
  2. Body paragraphs
    1. Body paragraph 1
      1. Supporting evidence for paragraph 1
      2. Supporting evidence for paragraph 1
      3. Supporting evidence for paragraph 1
    2. Body paragraph 2
      1. Supporting evidence for paragraph 2
      2. Supporting evidence for paragraph 2
      3. Supporting evidence for paragraph 2
    3. Body paragraph 3
      1. Supporting evidence for paragraph 3
      2. Supporting evidence for paragraph 3
      3. Supporting evidence for paragraph 3
  3. Conclusion
    1. Once again, restate your thesis.
    2. Make sure to tie up those main points and bring it all together.
    3. Establish the significance of your essay.
    4. Give the reader some food for thought (this is the last food-related joke, I promise).

Compare and Contrast Essay Outline

Compare and contrast sounds difficult, but if you think about it, we do it every day – we live at the peak of capitalism, and we constantly analyze our surroundings. Whether it’s researching what degree we should apply for or what phone we should buy, we compare and contrast all the time.

This type of essay serves as practice for the future – giving us the basics so we can confidently analyze several items and make an educated choice. The structure of this essay type is less complex in comparison with the previous two. It’s still crucial that you research and plan out this type of essay. Take a look at an example of a compare and contrast essay outline:

  1. Introduction
    1. Write down a brief introduction to the two points you’ll be comparing. From now on, I’ll refer to them as Point A and Point B.
    2. A brief thesis statement, highlighting your comparison or contrast between Point A and Point B.
  2. Body paragraphs
    1. Topic sentence 1 – regarding Point A
      1. Claim 1 in reference to Point A
      2. Claim 2 in reference to Point A
      3. Claim 3 in reference to Point A
    2. Topic sentence 2 – regarding Point B
      1. Claim 1 in reference to Point B
      2. Claim 2 in reference to Point B
      3. Claim 3 in reference to Point B
    3. Topic sentence 3 connecting Point A and Point B
      1. What is similar between the two Points?
      2. What makes them different?
      3. What comparisons can you draw between them?
  3. Conclusion
    1. What conclusions have we reached when comparing Point A and Point B?
    2. Do we need to look into additional research in the future?
    3. Is there another thing we should compare Point A and Point B to?

Narrative Essay Outline

Narrative essays are extremely fun to write – they give you the freedom of imagination and take the reader on an adventure. It’s the same reason that makes writing a compelling narrative essay also pretty difficult. Start by selecting a topic for your essay. If you’re not sure what to pick, we have an extensive list of topics for narrative essays that you can browse.

Now that you have selected what to write about, let’s take a look at the overall structure of a narrative essay:

  1. Introduction
    1. Hook the reader – start with a statement that catches the reader’s attention.
    2. Set the scene. Page 1 of A Christmas Carol is a great example!
    3. The thesis statement is different in a narrative essay – a narrative thesis can begin the events of a story or provide a moral – “I’ll never swim again.”
  2. Body
    1. Include details and descriptions that will help the reader look at life from your perspective.
    2. What events took place? They are your supporting evidence and demonstrating the lesson learned and the emotional weight of the story.
    3. Remember that new paragraphs mark the transitions in a story. Paragraphs should logically connect with one another.
  3. Conclusion
    1. What is the moral of the story? Did you learn anything? How did it affect your life?

Literary Analysis Essay Outline

Finally, the devil of all essay writing – the literary analysis essay. It’s usually given on a text you’re learning at school and has a very strict structure. Still, it’s nothing we won’t be able to ace, right?

  1. Introduction
    1. Add a “hook,” and talk about the background of the writer and the literary work.
    2. Thesis discussing something interesting in the text.
  2. Body
    1. Paragraph 1 supporting your statement
      1. Topic sentence
      2. Concrete details
      3. Quote
      4. Commentary
    2. Paragraph 2 supporting your statement
      1. Topic sentence
      2. Concrete details
      3. Quote
      4. Commentary
    3. Paragraph 3 supporting your statement
      1. Topic sentence
      2. Concrete details
      3. Quote
      4. Commentary
  3. Conclusion
    1. Make sure to summarize and extend your argument.
    2. Talk about why the discussion of this text is important.

Need Help Writing Other Essays?

Now that you know the main structure of most essay types, you’re almost ready to start writing. The last ingredient you’ll need is to find the right topic. We have written some really interesting argumentative essay topics as well as another 233 essay topics on all kinds of subjects.

We don’t just talk about essays by the way – we cover speech topics too, so if you want to learn how to be funny in your upcoming speech, check them out!

I hope you have found this article helpful and you have the confidence to start working on your amazing essay right away!

Cite this article as: Jim Peterson, "Essay Outlines for an Effortless Writing Process," in My Speech Class, July 5, 2021, https://www.myspeechclass.com/essay-outline.html.