As a college student, you should know how to write an essay outline for college because essay assignments are among the most common college assignments. An outline is a plan or a blueprint of an essay. Its main purpose is to enable you to structure or organize the essay that you intend to write. A good essay outline provides a way of demonstrating the main argument or thesis of your essay, its main points or the topic sentences and the main evidence that you will present in your essay before you actually write it. A good outline serves the purpose of conveying the connection of your thesis statement and topic sentences in a clear manner.
This entails understanding the essay prompt or essay question. Take time to read and understand the essay question so that you can know what exactly the instructor wants you to write in your essay. Determine the best topic for your essay. If any aspect of the essay question is unclear, seek clarification from the instructor to save time. After understanding the essay question, think about the perspective that you will take in your essay and form a thesis statement around your perspective. For instance, what will you try to prove through the essay? Your thesis statement should include your subject or topic and your point of view.
After understanding the essay question and developing a thesis statement, list down the main ideas that you intend to use in supporting your thesis. Remember that your thesis statement is your core argument and you should support it with logical evidence. Therefore, consider the main points that you have for supporting your thesis carefully. Your main ideas will become the paragraphs of the body of your essay once you start writing it. Make sure that you have adequate materials for supporting your main ideas.
Take time to find adequate materials to support each main idea that you have listed in your outline. You can get material from your text or secondary sources. The material that you use to support your main ideas will form the details of your body paragraphs since each main idea will be a body paragraph on its own.
The conclusion should confirm the stated thesis statement. Also ensure that your conclusion restates instead of repeating the main ideas in a different way.
Before you jump into writing your essay using the outline that you have created, check the outline while asking the following questions:
Your answers to these questions will tell you whether you actually know how to write an essay outline for college and whether you have written an effective essay outline.
There are certain elements that should come out clearly in your essay outline.
The introduction of an essay should come out clearly in the outline. This is usually broad at the beginning but it has a narrow ending which is usually the thesis statement. A thesis statement is clear and specific and it tells readers what the essay is all about.
The body paragraphs comprises of the main ideas of the essay and their supporting evidence. The body of a good essay should have at least three paragraphs or main ideas and their supporting evidence. The evidence can be statistics or examples.
Topic sentences are usually the first sentences that state the main ideas in the body paragraphs. They introduce the main idea that is discussed in each body paragraph.
This is the evidence that is used to support the main ideas. Support can be in form of data, analysis, facts, anecdotes, details, examples and quotes among others. These support the topic sentences and they form the flesh of the body of an essay.
This wraps up the essay and no new information should be introduced in the conclusion. Its sentences should summarize the points made in the body of the essay while restating the thesis statement.
Basically, there are two types of essay outlines. There is a sentence outline and a topic outline. A sentence outline comprises of full sentences. Usually, it is used when the focus of an essay is on complex details. It is useful because the sentences provide important details which makes including them in an essay possible. A topic outline is made of short phrases. It is useful when dealing with different issues that are easy to arrange in different ways.
Here are quick tips that will make writing either of the outlines easier:
Identifying a topic for your essay should be your first step in writing an essay outline. This should be followed by gathering the necessary information or materials for writing your essay. The information that you collect should be summed up by the topic that you chose for your essay. This will enable you to come up with a focused essay.
Before you start developing an outline for your essay, identify the main points in the information that you have gathered. All your main points should be introduced by the introduction. List the categories of the main points in the order in which you will present them in your essay starting with the most important or the strongest point.
Start with the first category and develop it under the first point. Include what will be covered by the main category. For instance, if the point centers on a complicated term, you can start with its definition. If it is a theory, start by defining it and providing contextual information about it.
Once you have stated the main points in different categories, create subcategories under them using the supporting materials that you gathered during research. Make sure that your subcategories include materials or information that supports the main points only. The number of the categories and subcategories to include in your outline depends on the amount of data or information that you intend to present and the requirements of your essay question.
To master the steps of writing an outline, it is important that you use a sample outline.
Here is a sample outline that you can use as your writing guide:
Topic: Major AIDS Aspects
From this sample of an essay outline, it is apparent that you can write an essay outline when you are familiar with the topic or subject. As such, once you get your essay writing assignment, conduct some background research before you start writing its outline. Additionally, while writing the essay or as you conduct extensive research or generate new ideas, you may find subtracting, adding or changing the position of your ideas necessary. This is allowed provided that the logical relationship of ideas in your outline is upheld.
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