How to Create an Outline for an Essay

Outlining is a type of organization used by authors of all writing styles. Before beginning the writing process, the standard organizational method allows writers to list their research and ideas in one place. Understanding the general college essay outline can help you structure your thoughts and receive positive feedback from your professor. To learn how to write an overview, consult this guide.


What Is an Outline?

When writing academic papers, scholarly articles, informative guides, novels, and encyclopedias, an essay outline is one of the most critical planning methods. The following headings appear in the simple paper outline: Introduction, Body, and Conclusion. To aid the writing process, each source is organized by relevance. There are several formats to choose from when it comes to outlining, but the two most common for a college essay outline are MLA and APA.

The organizational process is the same whether you’re writing an MLA or APA outline, with a few minor differences. The main distinction is that APA employs abstracts because it requires one or two sentences per line. APA is more commonly used in the humanities, whereas MLA is most widely used in social studies. Aside from that, the basic outline for any academic paper structure remains the same.


How Do You Create an Outline?

The most common length for a college essay is five paragraphs. Thus, an easy way to remember the general format of a writing plan is to imagine it as a 5-paragraph essay outline. Students write an Introduction, Thesis, Body, and Conclusion. Then, within the basic structure, fit a total of 5 paragraphs. The same technique can be used for planning, but instead of sections, use notes. The same method applies to an argumentative essay outline and any other type of paper structure throughout and after college.


Outlining’s Crucial Elements

  • Research and Notes: Before beginning the writing process, it is critical to find credible sources and list them. To find reliable references for an academic paper, search credible websites and academic search engines such as Google Scholar or Oxford Academic.
  • Prioritize Your Thesis: Because the thesis statement summarizes the entire paper, begin working on it first before moving on to the other sections of the outline. The thesis can help you with the planning and writing process.
  • Write Your Ideas: Assuming you’ve already written out the primary headings of an outline, list all of the key points from your research sources in the Thesis and Body sections.
  • Where to Put References: The references for cause and effect, AP English examinations, SAT essays, admission essays, and other formal writing styles are all included in the body section. Except in the case of a reflection paper or an analytical paper, where a citation can be included in the introductory paragraph.
  • Introduction: The introduction is the first line of the paper in most academic styles. As a result, it is critical to plan something catchy within the outline. As previously stated, certain writing styles, such as a reflection essay or an analytical paper, permit the use of citation as an opening.
  • The conclusion should summarize the entire paper, restating the thesis in the first sentence and adding suggestions, predictions, and opinions in the sentences that follow. The final sentence should summarize the purpose of the paper.


Outline Format in General

Title Page

  • Essay Title:
  • Student Name:
  • Professor’s Name:
  • Class (Optional)


  • The first paragraph.


  • A Synopsis of the Entire Paper.
  • Connect the Sentence to the First Body Paragraph.

1st Body Paragraph

  • Evidence/Reference.
  • Reasoning (Related to the Thesis).
  • Connect Sentence to Second Body Paragraph

Paragraph 2 of the body

  • Evidence/Reference.
  • Explanation (Related to the Thesis).
  • Link Sentence to the Third Body Paragraph.

3rd Body Paragraph

  • Evidence/Reference.
  • Explanation (Related to the Thesis).
  • Link Sentence to the Conclusion.


  • Synopsis of the Entire Paper
  • A Conclusive Sentence.


  • Bibliography or footnotes



Regardless of writing style, the main essay format can assist any author in various ways. Having all of the ideas and references on a writing plan can significantly benefit those writing their daily college paper or dissertation by knowing the general plan of an essay. A persuasive essay outline, for example, is not distinguishable from a research paper outline. As a result, understanding the available outline format can make producing academic papers much more accessible by simplifying the entire writing process.