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Essay Outline Explained: 7 Things You Should Do Before Writing An Essay

Creating an essay outline is by all means the most effective and motivating way of learning the writing assignment, organising your ideas on the essay topic, and positioning your own point of view.

The importance of essay outline in writing process is hard to underestimate. It is the solid foundation of a well-structured and considered essay with enchanting essay topic, logically organised paragraphs, strong thesis statements, and unforgettable conclusions. The essay outline helps you put your thoughts together, and have a clear idea of what the essay should be all about.

I could go on, but the point is: when you write your essay outline first, the process of essay writing becomes a piece of cake! However, to make a truly effective and well-organized essay outline, you need to follow these important preparatory steps:

1. Read the Question of Your Essay and Decode It

The first and most important step you should take before writing an essay is to understand what your professor wants to see in your essay wanted from you, thus to decode the writing assignment. The solution to this riddle can be found in your essay question, which asks you either to discuss, compare, contrast, or summarise certain issues. When you know what is expected from you, you know which way of writing an essay to choose.

Just to play safe, here are the definitions of the essay questions, so that you could refresh your memory:

1. “compare” in an essay question means to list in an extended way points of similarity between two or more things;

2. “contrast” asks to dwell on the differences of several things;

3. when “summarising” you are supposed to write down all you know on the essay topic;

4. a “discussion” requires putting the cases for or against some proposition and end with stating your own position;

5. “consider” means to describe a certain subject and say how effective it is.

Once you know what you ought to do, you can get down to creating the essay outline.

2. Verify the Assignment Requirements

But before you do so, you need to verify the requirements for your essay. In the department’s guidelines you shall find the deadlines, the requirements for the essay length and presentation. If some points are not clear to you, do not hesitate to verify them with your teacher. The more you know the better chances your have to write an outstanding essay.

3. Write a Thesis Statement at the Top of Your Paper

You must know that a thesis statement is a single declarative sentence that contains the focus of your essay and tells the readers what it will be all about. But except for helping your readers with understanding your essay, it is of great help to you as well.

A thesis statement helps you think through your ideas and their overall presentation to the readers.
Moreover, it is the wishful salvation each time you get sidetracked from the main idea of your essay, and want to come back to the initial point.

Your should not skip the process of writing a thesis statement at the top of your paper, right after your essay outline. Thus, be sure you compose a strong thesis statement for your essay outline.

4. Brainstorm Ideas for Your Essay

Once a thesis statement is ready, you should start brainstorming your ideas that relate to your thesis statement. Write down all ideas that come to your mind and are related to your topic, even if they are seemingly bizarre or outlandish. You should let your ideas flow as rapidly and spontaneously as possible. When you have collected all your ideas, be sure to revisit them and discard the ones that seem useless.

5. Gather Evidence

It goes without saying that all ideas in your essay must be supported with some evidence that should consist of specific examples or opinions of others. The supporting evidence should prove your thesis statement. Thus, it must be relevant, reliable and presentable.

So, you need to sweat a bit and gather relevant information on your essay topic and select the materials that will come in handy. It is advised not to neglect the basic sources you use every day. Thus, start examining your lecture notes, core texts and handouts. They usually include a sufficient amount of useful information that will supply you with great ideas for the essay outline.

If you want to deepen into the essay topic, you can pick some other sources with detailed information on your essay topic. For instance, articles in journals, or texts referred to by your teacher can provide you with extremely valuable information. But be selective, and do not fall on the first source that you come across. Make a thorough and painstaking search.

6. Organise Your Essay Ideas

Once you have collected the information, you need to think through the structure of your essay and create the first draft. Your essay must be planned in the way that it has a coherent and logical structure.

So far there are no universal standards for organising ideas in essays. However, all your ideas must be arranged in the logical way. For instance, the logical sequence of your facts could be presented in a simple to complex form, be specific or general, etc. Either way, choose which is most appropriate in your case.

When structuring your ideas, do not be too wordy; write down your points in brief one-line sentences that are arranged in a series of headings and subheadings. Use bullet points to describe what each paragraph will contain.

7. Keep References

In the process of gathering information and brainstorming you must remember to write down everything you have consulted as you go along in order to be able to create a bibliography or list of references. Have a notebook where you can put down the information you will need later. Such trick will help you avoid the needless headache when you will be writing an essay.

This is your seven-point plan that you should carry out before writing an essay. The outline with your properly organised ideas, notes, a thesis statement and references will be indispensable when the direct writing process will take place. This action plan will help you prepare your essay outline and save you from many hurdles of essay writing.

Submitted by:

Linda Correli

Linda Correli is a staff writer for http://www.go2essay.com/ She specializes in writing History, Literature and English essays and book reports, as well as admission essays, personal statements and letters of recommendation.




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