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Writing Help for Students

Essay Outlining

Basic Outline of an Academic Paper

An essay outline provides a logical arrangement of ideas to help define the organization and characteristics of an essay. Creating an outline helps the writer logically plan, arrange, and structure the essay, providing a creative framework for problem-solving.

I. Introduction

  • The introduction should have some of the following elements, depending on the type of paper: the hook, background information, connections, and thesis statement.
  • Start with the hook: an example, quote, statistic, anecdote, or historical fact that introduces the paper topic.
  • Provide background information related to any issues involved with the subject.
  • Define important terms and language needed to understand the topic.
  • Emphasize background information on the topic necessary to understand the direction of the paper.

Thesis statement: The introduction should end with the thesis statement, usually one, sometimes two sentences:

  • The thesis is the claim stating the overall focus of the paper.
  • The thesis outlines the main points in the paper.

III. Body Paragraphs

  • Clearly present the main points of the paper as listed in the thesis.
  • Give strong examples, details, and explanations to support each main point.
  • If it is an argumentative paper, address any counterarguments and refute those arguments.
  • In a research paper, use strong evidence from sources—paraphrases, summaries, and quotations that support the main points.

IV. Conclusion

  • Restate the thesis in different words.
  • Make important observations in the conclusion.
  • Reinforce the significance of the argument.
  • End with a strong closing statement, a thoughtful and logical final sentence that ties the whole point of the paper together.

Some Useful Strategies:

  • You do not need to start with the introduction.
  • Try drafting a working thesis to provide a logical framework for the paper.
  • Write a few body paragraphs, dumping information on paper.
  • Write the thesis and body first, then go back and figure out how to best introduce the body and conclude the paper.
  • Use transitions between main points and between examples within the main points.