How to write an essay outline

  • Last Edited: December 19, 2018

Learning how to write an essay outline requires a thorough understanding of the assignment guidelines and the purpose of the essay. Once students fully understand what is required, they can proceed to develop a topic and then organize the structural outline of their essay (if students need help coming up with a topic, Questia offers a free topic generator).

Essays, of course, begin with an introduction (depending on the citation style, this title may or may not actually appear on the essay) so this should be the first section of any essay outline. The introduction should include relevant introductory statements, a thesis statement and a description of the paper’s contents.

Next, the main body of the essay should be outlined, starting with a general overview of the issue or topic of interest, followed by more detailed sections until the main point of the essay is reached. For example, the main body outline for an essay about the importance of professional codes of conduct for lawyers could begin with a section that discusses professional codes in general and their different purposes.

The next section in the main body could describe some of the ethical dilemmas that are typically faced by attorneys in their daily practice followed by a concluding discussion of the American Bar Association’s code of professional responsibility.

Finally, a conclusion should summarize the findings of the essay but it is important to avoid introducing any new information at this point.  In addition, students can find some additional useful information for outlining essays here.

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Student Network Resources Inc. "How to write an essay outline." (accessed July 5, 2022).


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