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How to Make an Outline for an Essay – Things are Changing

October 27, 2015 - Posted to How to: Essay writing tips

Content how to make an outline for an essay

How to Make an Outline for an Essay

Students learn how to outline early in their school careers – certainly by middle school. And they construct outlines for the essays and papers they write. These outlines look basically like this:

  1. Introduction
  2. Body
  3. Body Paragraph 1
  • Detail
  • Detail
  • Detail

   4. Body Paragraph 2

  • Detail
  • Detail
  • Detail

   5. Body Paragraph 3

  • Detail
  • Detail
  • Detail

   6. Conclusion

This outline is linear, and it is for linear thinkers. But many students are not linear thinkers, and this type of outline does not work for them. If you have always disliked this method of organizing information for an essay, you are probably a concentric thinker – someone who needs to see things in shapes, not lines. And if you have never been taught other options for how to make an outline, here are a couple of other formats that you may prefer.

The Wheel

No one really knows who originally designed this outline model, and there are now several variations, but in essence, information is organized in the form of a wheel – the hub, the spokes, and the rim.

HUB = The thesis or the idea around which the essay is written

SPOKES = The evidence, the sub-topics, or the specific details. Each spoke will represent a paragraph of the essay, and the number of spokes may be anywhere from 3+.

RIM = The conclusion, or that section that wraps around all of the content and ties it together.

The Spatial Scratch Outline

This format features the topic or theme in the center with arrows pointing to the larger boxes (which will be the paragraphs, and the small boxes representing details that will be included in each paragraph. This outline is for a cause and effect essay, but it can obviously be used for any type. And there can be as many large boxes (paragraphs) as necessary to cover the topic.

Using What Works for You

Organizing your content in a logical fashion that makes sense to you is critical to producing a good piece of writing. How to do an outline for any essay is a matter of personal choice, and you should find that format with which you are most comfortable. These three formats are by no means the only options – many students create their own and use many different formats dependent upon the type of essay to be created. If, for example, you are writing a comparison/contrast essay, a Venn diagram provides an excellent visual representation of what you will want to include.

When the Formal Outline is Required

Sometimes, an instructor will insist that a formal outline be submitted with the written piece. If this is the case, use your own outline form for your pre-writing organizer, and then translate what you have done over to the formal outline once you are finished!

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