The Key Steps in Creating a Powerful Essay Outline

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An essay outline is a plan for the essay’s structure with the purpose of assisting you in organizing the ideas. Crafting a detailed, carefully structured outline prior to the essay writing process is one of the most difficult parts, but also one of the best ways of making sure that your essay is brilliant.
Investing your time in writing an outline does not only assist you in structuring the ideas effectively, but can also ease the revision process.

Outlines carry great importance and this is not only because they allow you to organize thoughts. Aside from doing this, an outline should let you know of the problems regarding your idea early in the writing process. Why? Because looking into the supporting material and resources for your essays can give you a clear picture of whether there is something missing.

Planning the Outline

An outline is a difficult task that also needs some planning. Before you start outlining your essay, you need to establish an idea of what it is that you will be arguing. There are two steps in doing so:

  • Choose the topic

The purpose of the outline is to assist you in organizing your thoughts before the writing process starts. However, in order to do research and create an outline, you need to have an essay’s topic.

At this point,  the topic you will choose does not need to be very specific. You can pick a broader topic when planning your outline. After all, one of the purposes of the outline is to assist you in narrowing the topic to a more specific argument.

  • Establish the main goal

Along with the topic of your essay, you need to decide on the main goal prior to working on your outline. Your essay may be focused on persuading or informing the reader or simply on sharing some personal experiences. Whatever your goal is, you need to be certain of it before structuring the idea.

The most important step you have to complete prior to writing the outline is analyze the sources and facts you will use. Furthermore, you need to make sure that you can use your research and quotes as cited evidence in the essay.

Categorizing the Information

The next task you have is to rearrange all the notes, quotes, recourses and ideas into an order that will best fit your plan to support the argument.  You can do this by checking every individual piece of information and categorizing it in a particular category.

This process is quite simple, but takes up much time. You can go through the notes you have made and move every piece of information in an already established set of categories, or pick the categories as you check the notes. Just make sure that you reuse the categories every time when this is possible. The main goal of this step is to reduce the category list to a maximum of one page.

When you are done with the first categorization, take another look at the headings of your categories. There are often such that are not repetitive, but can be combined into one general category.

Additionally, categorizing the ideas will help you understand what information becomes less relevant when grouped with related ideas.

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Ordering the Notes

As soon as you have arranged the information and notes into categories, you should start working on the next step. This step is much easier and complies of ordering the notes. This process consists of two parts: ordering general categories and ordering smaller categories.

The first task is to see how you can arrange the labels of the categories, taking the thesis into consideration. Your aim here is to arrange these labels in few sentences that will have the main purpose of supporting your arguments.

As soon as you are done handling the general categories, the next step is to order the smaller ones. In order to do this, you need to arrange each one of these smaller categories into few sentences that will be interconnected and supporting of the previously written sentences in the first part.

Ordering the Original Notes

Having ordered both your general and smaller categories’ notes will finally allow you to get to the final step of the outlining process. This step consists of taking the original notes you gathered at the beginning and organizing them in terms of your set arguments. The job you have now is to think of a single sentence or two sentences that will somehow manage to support the general idea and argument of your essay.

The original notes are usually disorganized set of information including quotes, numbers and statistics.

Constructing the Final Version of the Outline

You now have the sentences that, combined together, construct the essay outline.

The most general categories are now organized in sentences, which constitute the sections of your essay.

Furthermore, the smaller categories resulted in other sentences, which will help you determine the order of the paragraphs you will include in each of the sections.

Finally, the last step of creating the outline, which resulted in specific notes sentences should help you understand the sentence order in each of your paragraphs.

Planning the Conclusion

The conclusion planning process does not include writing it. However, you should always make sure to check the outline and see how it matches the goal you have set at the beginning. If the evidence you already have is insufficient to support the conclusion, this is the right time to add some more subtopics.

Modifying the Outline

The outline is a detailed document that will point out to the areas of your essay that you should cover. If there are certain changes that need to be made or things to be included, the outline can always be modified in the way it will include these. Additionally, you can always expand the outline if you are constructing a longer piece of writing, such as research papers. In this case, the discussion may require several paragraphs that will combine all possible solutions to the problem.

As you can see, the outline you have crafted up to this particular moment leaves very little space for revisions after the essay is written. In this way, you are not allowing yourself to mix the ideas and you are reducing the chances of having to spend hours on editing your essay.

Regardless of the paper you are writing, outlines serve as an invaluable tool. When writing an essay, an outline is something of high importance to a writer. Actually, an outline to a writer is the same as blueprint to an architect. The final version of your essay depends on the outline you write. If you manage to write a good outline and spend more time on doing this, you can enjoy an easier writing process later.

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