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How to Write an Essay Outline | Guidelines & Examples
Published on August 14, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.
An essay outline is a way of planning the structure of your essay before you start writing. It involves writing quick summary sentences or phrases for every point you will cover in each paragraph , giving you a picture of how your argument will unfold.
Table of contents
Organizing your material, presentation of the outline, examples of essay outlines, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about essay outlines.
At the stage where you’re writing an essay outline, your ideas are probably still not fully formed. You should know your topic and have already done some preliminary research to find relevant sources , but now you need to shape your ideas into a structured argument.
Look over any information, quotes and ideas you’ve noted down from your research and consider the central point you want to make in the essay—this will be the basis of your thesis statement . Once you have an idea of your overall argument, you can begin to organize your material in a way that serves that argument.
Try to arrange your material into categories related to different aspects of your argument. If you’re writing about a literary text, you might group your ideas into themes; in a history essay, it might be several key trends or turning points from the period you’re discussing.
Three main themes or subjects is a common structure for essays. Depending on the length of the essay, you could split the themes into three body paragraphs, or three longer sections with several paragraphs covering each theme.
As you create the outline, look critically at your categories and points: Are any of them irrelevant or redundant? Make sure every topic you cover is clearly related to your thesis statement.
Order of information
When you have your material organized into several categories, consider what order they should appear in.
Your essay will always begin and end with an introduction and conclusion , but the organization of the body is up to you.
Consider these questions to order your material:
- Is there an obvious starting point for your argument?
- Is there one subject that provides an easy transition into another?
- Do some points need to be set up by discussing other points first?
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Within each paragraph, you’ll discuss a single idea related to your overall topic or argument, using several points of evidence or analysis to do so.
In your outline, you present these points as a few short numbered sentences or phrases.They can be split into sub-points when more detail is needed.
The template below shows how you might structure an outline for a five-paragraph essay.
- Thesis statement
- First piece of evidence
- Second piece of evidence
- Importance of topic
- Strong closing statement
You can choose whether to write your outline in full sentences or short phrases. Be consistent in your choice; don’t randomly write some points as full sentences and others as short phrases.
Examples of outlines for different types of essays are presented below: an argumentative, expository, and literary analysis essay.
Argumentative essay outline
This outline is for a short argumentative essay evaluating the internet’s impact on education. It uses short phrases to summarize each point.
Its body is split into three paragraphs, each presenting arguments about a different aspect of the internet’s effects on education.
- Importance of the internet
- Concerns about internet use
- Thesis statement: Internet use a net positive
- Data exploring this effect
- Analysis indicating it is overstated
- Students’ reading levels over time
- Why this data is questionable
- Video media
- Interactive media
- Speed and simplicity of online research
- Questions about reliability (transitioning into next topic)
- Evidence indicating its ubiquity
- Claims that it discourages engagement with academic writing
- Evidence that Wikipedia warns students not to cite it
- Argument that it introduces students to citation
- Summary of key points
- Value of digital education for students
- Need for optimism to embrace advantages of the internet
Expository essay outline
This is the outline for an expository essay describing how the invention of the printing press affected life and politics in Europe.
The paragraphs are still summarized in short phrases here, but individual points are described with full sentences.
- Claim that the printing press marks the end of the Middle Ages.
- Provide background on the low levels of literacy before the printing press.
- Present the thesis statement: The invention of the printing press increased circulation of information in Europe, paving the way for the Reformation.
- Discuss the very high levels of illiteracy in medieval Europe.
- Describe how literacy and thus knowledge and education were mainly the domain of religious and political elites.
- Indicate how this discouraged political and religious change.
- Describe the invention of the printing press in 1440 by Johannes Gutenberg.
- Show the implications of the new technology for book production.
- Describe the rapid spread of the technology and the printing of the Gutenberg Bible.
- Link to the Reformation.
- Discuss the trend for translating the Bible into vernacular languages during the years following the printing press’s invention.
- Describe Luther’s own translation of the Bible during the Reformation.
- Sketch out the large-scale effects the Reformation would have on religion and politics.
- Summarize the history described.
- Stress the significance of the printing press to the events of this period.
Literary analysis essay outline
The literary analysis essay outlined below discusses the role of theater in Jane Austen’s novel Mansfield Park .
The body of the essay is divided into three different themes, each of which is explored through examples from the book.
- Describe the theatricality of Austen’s works
- Outline the role theater plays in Mansfield Park
- Introduce the research question : How does Austen use theater to express the characters’ morality in Mansfield Park ?
- Discuss Austen’s depiction of the performance at the end of the first volume
- Discuss how Sir Bertram reacts to the acting scheme
- Introduce Austen’s use of stage direction–like details during dialogue
- Explore how these are deployed to show the characters’ self-absorption
- Discuss Austen’s description of Maria and Julia’s relationship as polite but affectionless
- Compare Mrs. Norris’s self-conceit as charitable despite her idleness
- Summarize the three themes: The acting scheme, stage directions, and the performance of morals
- Answer the research question
- Indicate areas for further study
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You will sometimes be asked to hand in an essay outline before you start writing your essay . Your supervisor wants to see that you have a clear idea of your structure so that writing will go smoothly.
Even when you do not have to hand it in, writing an essay outline is an important part of the writing process . It’s a good idea to write one (as informally as you like) to clarify your structure for yourself whenever you are working on an essay.
If you have to hand in your essay outline , you may be given specific guidelines stating whether you have to use full sentences. If you’re not sure, ask your supervisor.
When writing an essay outline for yourself, the choice is yours. Some students find it helpful to write out their ideas in full sentences, while others prefer to summarize them in short phrases.
You should try to follow your outline as you write your essay . However, if your ideas change or it becomes clear that your structure could be better, it’s okay to depart from your essay outline . Just make sure you know why you’re doing so.
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Caulfield, J. (2023, July 23). How to Write an Essay Outline | Guidelines & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved November 17, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/academic-essay/essay-outline/
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Dr. Sandi Van Lieu
**For a video overview of this essay, see further down on this page.
- Images and video created by Dr. Sandi Van Lieu and licensed under CC BY NC SA.
- Student essay example by Janelle Devin and used with permission.
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Literary Analysis Essay Writing
Literary Analysis Essay Outline
Literary Analysis Essay Outline - A Step By Step Guide
Published on: Sep 23, 2018
Last updated on: Nov 15, 2023
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How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay - A Step-by-Step Guide
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Have you ever felt stuck, looking at a blank page, wondering what a literary analysis essay is? You are not sure how to analyze a complicated book or story?
Writing a literary analysis essay can be tough, even for people who really love books. The hard part is not only understanding the deeper meaning of the story but also organizing your thoughts and arguments in a clear way.
But don't worry!
In this easy-to-follow guide, we will talk about a key tool: The Literary Analysis Essay Outline.
We'll provide you with the knowledge and tricks you need to structure your analysis the right way. In the end, you'll have the essential skills to understand and structure your literature analysis better. So, let’s dive in!
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How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay Outline?
An outline is a structure that you decide to give to your writing to make the audience understand your viewpoint clearly. When a writer gathers information on a topic, it needs to be organized to make sense.
When writing a literary analysis essay, its outline is as important as any part of it. For the text’s clarity and readability, an outline is drafted in the essay’s planning phase.
According to the basic essay outline, the following are the elements included in drafting an outline for the essay:
- Thesis statement
- Body paragraphs
A detailed description of the literary analysis outline is provided in the following section.
Literary Analysis Essay Introduction
An introduction section is the first part of the essay. The introductory paragraph or paragraphs provide an insight into the topic and prepares the readers about the literary work.
A literary analysis essay introduction is based on three major elements:
Hook Statement: A hook statement is the opening sentence of the introduction. This statement is used to grab people’s attention. A catchy hook will make the introductory paragraph interesting for the readers, encouraging them to read the entire essay.
For example, in a literary analysis essay, “ Island Of Fear,” the writer used the following hook statement:
“As humans, we all fear something, and we deal with those fears in ways that match our personalities.”
Background Information: Providing background information about the chosen literature work in the introduction is essential. Present information related to the author, title, and theme discussed in the original text.
Moreover, include other elements to discuss, such as characters, setting, and the plot. For example:
“ In Lord of the Flies, William Golding shows the fears of Jack, Ralph, and Piggy and chooses specific ways for each to deal with his fears.”
Thesis Statement: A thesis statement is the writer’s main claim over the chosen piece of literature.
A thesis statement allows your reader to expect the purpose of your writing. The main objective of writing a thesis statement is to provide your subject and opinion on the essay.
For example, the thesis statement in the “Island of Fear” is:
“...Therefore, each of the three boys reacts to fear in his own unique way.”
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Literary Analysis Essay Body Paragraphs
In body paragraphs, you dig deep into the text, show your insights, and build your argument.
In this section, we'll break down how to structure and write these paragraphs effectively:
Topic sentence: A topic sentence is an opening sentence of the paragraph. The points that will support the main thesis statement are individually presented in each section.
“The first boy, Jack, believes that a beast truly does exist…”
Evidence: To support the claim made in the topic sentence, evidence is provided. The evidence is taken from the selected piece of work to make the reasoning strong and logical.
“...He is afraid and admits it; however, he deals with his fear of aggressive violence. He chooses to hunt for the beast, arms himself with a spear, and practice killing it: “We’re strong—we hunt! If there’s a beast, we’ll hunt it down! We’ll close in and beat and beat and beat—!”(91).”
Analysis: A literary essay is a kind of essay that requires a writer to provide his analysis as well.
The purpose of providing the writer’s analysis is to tell the readers about the meaning of the evidence.
“...He also uses the fear of the beast to control and manipulate the other children. Because they fear the beast, they are more likely to listen to Jack and follow his orders...”
Transition words: Transition or connecting words are used to link ideas and points together to maintain a logical flow. Transition words that are often used in a literary analysis essay are:
- Later in the story
- In contrast, etc.
“...Furthermore, Jack fears Ralph’s power over the group and Piggy’s rational thought. This is because he knows that both directly conflict with his thirst for absolute power...”
Concluding sentence: The last sentence of the body that gives a final statement on the topic sentence is the concluding sentence. It sums up the entire discussion held in that specific paragraph.
Here is a literary analysis paragraph example for you:
Literary Essay Example Pdf
Literary Analysis Essay Conclusion
The last section of the essay is the conclusion part where the writer ties all loose ends of the essay together. To write appropriate and correct concluding paragraphs, add the following information:
- State how your topic is related to the theme of the chosen work
- State how successfully the author delivered the message
- According to your perspective, provide a statement on the topic
- If required, present predictions
- Connect your conclusion to your introduction by restating the thesis statement.
- In the end, provide an opinion about the significance of the work.
“ In conclusion, William Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies exposes the reader to three characters with different personalities and fears: Jack, Ralph, and Piggy. Each of the boys tries to conquer his fear in a different way. Fear is a natural emotion encountered by everyone, but each person deals with it in a way that best fits his/her individual personality.”
Literary Analysis Essay Outline (PDF)
Literary Analysis Essay Format
A literary analysis essay delves into the examination and interpretation of a literary work, exploring themes, characters, and literary devices.
Below is a guide outlining the format for a structured and effective literary analysis essay.
- Use a legible font (e.g., Times New Roman or Arial) and set the font size to 12 points.
- Double-space your essay, including the title, headings, and quotations.
- Set one-inch margins on all sides of the page.
- Indent paragraphs by 1/2 inch or use the tab key.
- Page numbers, if required, should be in the header or footer and follow the specified formatting style.
Literary Analysis Essay Outline Example
To fully understand a concept in a writing world, literary analysis outline examples are important. This is to learn how a perfectly structured writing piece is drafted and how ideas are shaped to convey a message.
The following are the best literary analysis essay examples to help you draft a perfect essay.
Literary Analysis Essay Rubric (PDF)
High School Literary Analysis Essay Outline
Literary Analysis Essay Outline College (PDF)
Literary Analysis Essay Example Romeo & Juliet (PDF)
AP Literary Analysis Essay Outline
Literary Analysis Essay Outline Middle School
Literary Analysis Essay Topics
Are you seeking inspiration for your next literary analysis essay? Here is a list of literary analysis essay topics for you:
- The Theme of Alienation in "The Catcher in the Rye"
- The Motif of Darkness in Shakespeare's Tragedies
- The Psychological Complexity of Hamlet's Character
- Analyzing the Narrator's Unreliable Perspective in "The Tell-Tale Heart"
- The Role of Nature in William Wordsworth's Romantic Poetry
- The Representation of Social Class in "To Kill a Mockingbird"
- The Use of Irony in Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn"
- The Impact of Holden's Red Hunting Hat in the Novel
- The Power of Setting in Gabriel García Márquez's "One Hundred Years of Solitude"
- The Symbolism of the Conch Shell in William Golding's "Lord of the Flies"
Need more topics? Read our literary analysis essay topics blog!
All in all, writing a literary analysis essay can be tricky if it is your first attempt. Apart from analyzing the work, other elements like a topic and an accurate interpretation must draft this type of essay.
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We are a professional essay writing company that provides guidance and helps students to achieve their academic goals. Our qualified writers assist students by providing assistance at an affordable price.
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Cathy A. (Literature, Marketing)
Cathy has been been working as an author on our platform for over five years now. She has a Masters degree in mass communication and is well-versed in the art of writing. Cathy is a professional who takes her work seriously and is widely appreciated by clients for her excellent writing skills.
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