To many students, an outline might seem redundant. "I'm writing the essay. Why do I have to write an outline too?" Sometimes they don't realize that the outline serves as the skeleton upon which the body (their essay) is built.
While writing an outline might seem counterproductive at first, it's really not. Instead, it provides mileposts for each step of the way. Outlines keep student writers from getting lost or straying from their intended point.
Making Sure All the Information is There in Point Form
An essay outline could simply serve as a checklist for students who want to make sure they don’t leave anything out. A lot can happen while trying to write the essay; students may start writing so much that they stray off-topic or wander into irrelevant trains of thought. Any free essay writer emphasizes that other students may lose valuable pieces of information in an attempt to impress their teachers with elegant prose. A checklist can remind students which pieces of information should or shouldn’t belong in the essay.
Organizing the Essay in Point Form First
A good essay allows the reader to understand the message as effortlessly as possible. An essay isn’t a puzzle. No one wants to try to decode or decipher what the student is trying to say. The best approach is to make sure that everything flows logically from point to point. An essay outline can give students the chance to make sure that their points are clear, logical and sensible.
A “Practice Essay” Using Point Form
Some students are better off jotting down some notes before jumping headfirst into writing their essays. The most common obstacle to writing is being unsure what to write. Why? Writing is about communicating a clear message; if students don’t have a clear message to communicate, they simply won’t be able to write well. Writing everything down in point form might give the student the chance to rehearse the message before attempting to deliver it to their audience.
The Anatomy of an Essay
Essays consists of an introduction, conclusion and paragraphs in between. Each part of the essay plays an important role; the introduction provides a brief overview of the essay, each paragraph contains a main idea that supports the thesis statement, and the conclusion offers the final recap of the student’s opinion. The essay outline can be used to make sure that every part of the essay fulfills its purpose in the best way possible.
Essay Outlines Come in Different Shapes and Sizes
There are no absolute rules regarding what an outline should be. The outline is nothing more than a tool to organize one’s thoughts, ideas or opinions before writing an essay. However, every writer needs some kind of plan before engaging the writing process. This plan could be a simple checklist, elaborate bulleted list or a few words jotted down to make sure that everything stays on track.
Starting the Outline: Deciding Major Points of the Essay
The best place to start when writing the outline is deciding what one's major points will be. For example, if a student plans to write a five-paragraph essay on good reasons to own a pet, she might make these her major points:
II. Pets provide companionship
III. Pets encourage responsibility
IV. Pets reduce stress
Note that the outermost levels use uppercase Roman numerals.
She's not done with writing her outline, as an essay writer, by a long shot, but she has the main ideas down. She can now drill down to deeper levels. The more specific and detailed she gets, the easier her essay will be to write, because she will simply follow her outline point by point.
Getting More Specific: Writing Deeper Levels of the Outline
The next level uses uppercase letters (A, B, C, and so on) and each new, deeper level is indented further than the last (some word processing programs, such as Microsoft Word, have automatic outlining; once the writer starts, the software "recognizes" what the student is doing and sets up the format).
The third level uses Arabic numerals (1, 2, and 3), and the fourth level uses lowercase letters (a, b, and c). If the student has a 1 in his outline, he must have a 2; if he has an A, he must have a B. If he doesn't have enough information for at least a second part of that level, then the sublevel should probably be absorbed into the level above. For example, the student might have an outline like this:
B. Degree Programs
So far, so good. But, let's say, the student wants to add under 4. Doctorate this information:
- a. Writing a thesis
If the student has "a," he must have a "b." Otherwise, he shouldn't list it. He can either "absorb" it into the upper level or just know that his "a" information is included in the information he will be discussing. To absorb the information, he can do this:
- 4. Doctorate (including writing a thesis)
Some levels will need to be taken to very specific levels, whereas others don't need much detail. For example, a basic introduction paragraph probably wouldn't need more than a second level:
A. Attention getter
C. Essay map
However, if a different paragraph needs a lot more detail, a student might need to provide several levels. For example, using the outline levels above, perhaps a student would come up with these secondary levels for IV. Pets reduce stress:
A. Studies suggest that pets help reduce stress
B. Many people can benefit from stress reduction
People with stressful jobs
Again, it's ultimately up to the student as to how much detail he wants to provide for his outline, but the more detail, the easier his essay will be to write.
Outlines Can Make Even the Most Difficult Papers Easier to Write
While there are many activities students will often do before actually writing an essay, preparing an outline is sometimes the most important step, especially if a student has to write a lengthy term paper. An outline provides focus and clarity as well as a step-by-step map for writing one's essay. Students who struggle with writing an essay will likely find an outline helps them tremendously.