How to Write an Outline for an Essay

A well-written and informative essay requires a lot of in-depth research about the subject of the paper. However, research is only half of the work. You must also be able to take that research and put into a concise and organized format. The best tool you can use to organize your research and put it into a workable form is to create an outline for your essay. This outline establishes the general plan for your essay, and makes it easier to write your paper.

Thesis Statement

The thesis statement is one of the most important parts of your essay and should be the first thing you determine. This statement will summaries the entire purpose for your essay. The reader should be able to determine from your thesis statement what your essay is about and what they will learn by reading it.

Points or Categories

Now you need to divide your research information into the major points or categories you want to discuss in your paper. At first, do not worry about the order of these various points. Instead, just determine what the points are and how many of them you will discuss in your essay. After you have completed the list of points you want to discuss, you can now put them into the most logical order for your paper.


Next, you need to breakdown each category or point into subcategories. This allows you to focus on one aspect of your paper at a time. These subcategories should be put in the order that will make most sense to the reader and their relevance to the main point.


Once you have completed listing your categories and subcategories, you need to determine what format you want to use to create your outline. Below is an example of the most common form of an outline that is used today. From this example, you can see how everything is spaced out and all the points are in sentence format. This makes it easier to read.

I. Roman numerals are used to mark the major points or categories of the essay.

A. Capital letters A through Z are used for break down points into subcategories.

1. Arabic numbers are used to break down subcategories even further.

a. Lower case letters are used to break information down even further.

B. The letter B is used to mark the next subcategory under the first point or category.

II. The next Roman numeral is used for the next major point or category in the essay.


You also should include a bibliography at the end of your outline. This should include all of the sources that you used during your research. Be sure to include every source that you plan to include in your paper.

Creating a well-thought-out outline can literally cut the time it takes you to write your essay in half. Do not make the mistake of skipping this step when it comes to writing your essay. It may take a little more effort, but the results will be a well-written and informational essay. Designing an outline for your essay will also make it easier for you to write your paper.