Every student has to write an outline at least a couple of times during their college years. After all, even chemistry majors have general English and academic writing classes. While most have learned how to make an outline back in high school, it is never a bad idea to refresh one’s memory or learn something new. Luckily for you, we are at your service. Check out these top four tips that will make you instantly better at writing outlines.
#1 An outline depends on the type of the essay
The number one thing you need to know before you even start to work on your outline is what type of paper you are going to write. This will affect your outline. Academic essays typically fall into one of these categories:
- An expository essay
This one’s the easiest. As the name suggests, expository essays offer an exposition of the topic. For example, it can be a paper about the early-days suffrage movement in the USA or some scandal involving a famous company deceiving a high-profile customer. When an expository essay is good, the reader has a more or less full picture of the topic when they finish it.
- A narrative essay
A narrative essay is a hybrid genre; it falls somewhere in between an academic assignment and a fictional short story. Students are often assigned narrative essays about themselves, for example, “the biggest challenge you’ve ever overcome.” It’s okay to include dialogue in a narrative essay, which isn’t the case for other types of essays.
- An argumentative essay
The task a writer faces when writing an argumentative essay is to prove their point. Any story has multiple sides to it; in an argumentative essay, you have to show that yours is the right one. Argumentative essays may be challenging, but they have the simplest structure, and it’s not too hard to outline them.
Once you know what type of essay you are going to write, it will be much easier to come up with an outline. If you’re looking for ideas, it can help to look at samples from professional services like CustomWritings or, as an option, you can ask experts to process your “write my essay for me” request. Such companies are very helpful for struggling writers. But keep in mind that your outline and essay will still have to be written from scratch.
#2 Take notes when researching
The first part of the writing process (once you’ve come up with the topic) is research. How much time and effort you’ll spend on it will depend on the type of your essay and the topic. It may be enough to look at a single website for a personalized narrative essay. But expect to spend hours looking for reliable evidence online and in print literature if you want to write a quality argumentative essay. Otherwise, your readers won’t buy your argument.
Because of how long and overwhelming research can be, it’s essential to take notes as you go. It will be much more convenient to locate all the important evidence and quotations later, when you’ll start working on your outline and essay. If you don’t take notes, a large chunk of important information will inevitably get lost. Feel free to make the best of any note-taking instruments or apps out there (or stick to old school and use a regular notebook).
#3 Basic essay structures work best
Depending on the type of your essay, the topic, and your personal preferences, you’ll need to choose an essay structure to follow. Obviously, all essays have the same core, meaning Introduction-Body-Conclusion. But what happens in the body part of papers can vary. Some of the most popular essay body structures are:
- Chronological order
This one is perfect for expository and narrative essays. As is clear from the name, you’ll be addressing things chronologically. So if your topic is the women’s suffrage movement in the United States, you’ll probably begin with early voting in the colonial era, then move to Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, and so on.
- Problem-solution structure
The problem-method-solution structure works best for shorter argumentative essays with only three body paragraphs, but it can be modified to fit other types of essays of any length. It can also be used in some expository essays, for example, when you are describing how something happened (say, how Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign was so successful).
- Compare-and-contrast structure
The compare-and-contrast structure is an excellent option for comparison and argumentative essays (although you’ll have to modify it a little for the latter). It works no matter what your topic is. You can be comparing cheap grooming services in Arkansas, the most influential business people in history, and everything in between.
Sure, you can shake things up a little bit in any way you like, but it’s still better to stick to the classics. Consider developing your custom structure only if you have enough writing experience and confidence.
#4 Once you’ve drafted an outline, ask someone for feedback
When you are done with research and have decided which essay structure to follow, it’s time to actually write an outline. It doesn’t have to be polished as long as you are genuinely interested in the subject and have original ideas backed-up by evidence. Don’t make your outline too long, but it has to be detailed enough to follow it when you’re working on your essay. At the very least, there should be:
- a hook and thesis statement in the introduction,
- topic sentences, main arguments, evidence, and concluding sentences in body paragraphs,
- restated thesis statement and a call to action (if applicable) in the conclusion.
Once you’re done with the draft version of the outline, ask a friend, partner, or family member to review it and give their feedback. Even professional writers know that such reviews are critical. An outsider can notice inconsistencies in your reasoning, which will help you improve your outline. They can offer their assistance, for example, with changing the hook into something catchier or improving the thesis statement. Never underestimate the power of a fresh pair of eyes.
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