How to Write a Perfect Essay Outline

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How to Write a Perfect Essay Outline

For most students, writing an essay is a grueling task. Despite how tricky it can be, though, most students can expect to write at least one essay per class per semester. As such, it's important that students learn how to become great essay writers. One of the simplest ways to become a great essay writer is to learn how to write a good outline. Fortunately for you, you've come to the right place. We've compiled a list of tips to help you learn how to write a perfect essay outline.

Why Do You Need an Outline?

For many, figuring out how to start and structure an essay is overwhelming. That's where your outline comes in handy. Learning how to create a good outline will extend far beyond your academic life. Outline writing is a skill that will carry over to your professional career, where it will be useful to help you formulate successful workplace communications.

If you still aren't convinced why having an outline is essential to writing a good essay, here are some additional reasons why:

Thought clarification and idea development:

Like we alluded to above, staring at a blank page can be overwhelming. When you don't know how to start or don't know what you're planning on talking about in your essay, it can be tricky to get started. Creating an outline will help you flesh out the details of what you want to write, which can help you overcome writer's block. Moreover, you can develop your thoughts and ideas in your outline, and start to organize it to fit your paper's main argument.

Argument clarification:

One of the biggest mistakes that novice writers make is not creating a sound argument or having enough evidence to back up your claims. When you're making your outline, you'll break down each facet of your argument. In the space below each point, you can highlight the evidence that you have collected. You can also identify areas in which your argument isn't as sound as it could be, giving you the chance to either omit that point completely or note that you need to do more research. Finally, another plus to outlining your argument before writing your whole essay is that you'll be able to see how your points fit together and if you need to do any shifting of your organization.

Argument clarification


Have you ever received a comment back on your essay that it doesn't quite make sense? Chances are, you probably could've benefited from creating an outline. When you write an outline it's easier for you to see how your points all fit together, giving you the opportunity to see if you need to shift around your argument points. Outlining your points and supporting details also gives you the opportunity to realize if you're getting unfocused while making your argument. For example, you might realize that the personal anecdote that you thought was a good idea to share actually makes your writing come across as clunky and unorganized.


Think about the concept of an outline. You're essentially creating a step-by-step plan for your end-product. You're putting in the work upfront creating a comprehensive guide for when it comes time to write your final product. As a result, you're actually saving yourself time later because your thoughts are already composed and organized, and you've collected the supporting details that you'll need later on in the process. Many writing experts state that as long as you do a good job creating a solid outline, you can save up to 50% more time drafting your entire paper.

So, How Do You Create the Perfect Outline?

Now that you've gained knowledge of why writing an outline is so crucial to the success of writing your actual paper, it's time to learn how to draft the perfect outline. There are many different ways to create your outline, and as you become more confident in your outline-creating skills, you can tweak the process to make it work for you. However, if you're just starting out, you should follow our simple steps.

1. Brainstorm your argument

When you first receive an essay topic from your tutors and instructors, you may find it so broad which is difficult to handle. Under that condition, you should refine and divide what you are assigned into different perspectives from a general topic. A mind map can be started at this time based on the center topic to have extensions. You do not need to worry about the boundary, just brainstorm to put every idea you think down. After your brainstorming process, you can judge all the ideas, select one which you prefer, and confirm your essay theme. After deleting what you do not need or hiding them, you can start your essay and go on the next step.

1. Brainstorm your argument

If you're looking for a simple, visual way to organize all of your ideas, mind mapping is the way to go. Mind mapping is a strategy designed to help you effectively brainstorm in a way that allows you to see all your thoughts on paper. It allows for creative thinking and flexibility that traditional brainstorming cannot provide. It also makes it possible to show how solutions or ideas are related, which is sometimes essential depending on the topic or problem you're trying to solve through your brainstorming session.

Another perk of mind mapping as a brainstorming activity is that it can be done independently or collaboratively. It can be a useful tool for brainstorming, but can also transfer to strategic planning or project planning after you've completed your brainstorming session. To get started with mind mapping, follow these steps:

  • 1. Start in the middle of a blank page, writing or drawing the idea you intend to develop. I would suggest that you use the page in landscape orientation.
  • 2. Develop the related subtopics around this central topic, connecting each of them to the center with a line.
  • 3. Repeat the same process for the subtopics, generating lower-level subtopics as you see fit, connecting each of those to the corresponding subtopic.

2. Create an essay structure

The common structure for an essay consists of an introduction, main body, conclusion, and references. You can set these as the primary branches and fulfill detailed structures in the second-level branches. At second-level branches, you should plan how many main ideas you would like to allocate to different paragraphs. For the third level branches, ideas related to a fixed topic should be expanded in a logical order and keywords should be extracted so as to maintain sufficient contents. The fourth-level branches contain specific theories, experimental methods, discussion notes, cited documents and related supporting information which might be convenient for your reference while you are writing.

3. Explore all the details

As mind mapping software has a drag-and-drop function, you can note down anything you need and ignore position. If you find several ideas point to one argument, boundary function helps you surround these ideas and callout can be inserted to summarize the argument.

4. Check the organization

After you list all your arguments, you should link them together at this time. Using arrowhead or lines to let what you note down in a logical way. Although you have various perspectives to support the essay, you still need to judge which is stronger to be applied and which might be deleted. Mind mapping in this process can help you boost your efficiency and make your essay structure clear and intuitive.

5. Follow your outline

If you finish the process of planning your essay structure and outlining it, you can start writing according to what you have programmed. The only thing you need to do is to extend your arguments and comb the syntactic structure. Please mind your grammar and avoiding mistakes, so you will complete the task of using mind maps to write an essay.

Always brainstorming and mind mapping will explore your thoughts. With various views, you can have rich content in writing an essay and form a good habit of planning before writing. Ultimately, mind mapping will not just help you write a well-organized essay, but influence your critical thinking ability.

5. Follow your outline


By keeping these tips in mind, you'll be well on your way to learning how to effectively write the perfect essay outline. The next step is to work on your writing process and editing skills. Remember, it may seem overwhelming at the start, but if you put in the work to finesse your outlining skills, you'll definitely reap the rewards.