How to Write an Essay Outline – Templates Included


How to Write an Essay Outline – Templates Included

An essay is not just a bunch of words. It must have an outline and a structure. Outlining an essay is an important step when writing your essay, but also a difficult one. Writing an essay outline is a sure way of ensuring that your ideas flow logically and clearly. With an outline, you also reduce the time spent in revisions since you reduce the need to rearrange or combine your ideas later on.

What is an essay outline?

An outline is an organizational tool used by essay writers and authors in professional writing to ensure that their work follows a given structure. An outline is a skeleton of how the structure should be. You can also consider an outline as a blueprint or a roadmap for your essay to follow.  

As you research, you find information on the topic and figure out where it should go in the outline. With an essay outline, you produce highly detailed content that your audience or the teacher will appreciate. 

Although an essay outline is not mandatory, it is critical to have one. It helps to produce a better essay, and it makes your work a lot easier. Here at, our essay writers work with outlines, and the results say it all.

Outlining an essay is the fourth step when writing an essay. Before you can start outlining, you need to;

  1. Come up with the topic or the headline for your essay if it is not given. Choose a topic that you are familiar with, so writing can become fun for you. When you choose a topic you are familiar with; it becomes easier to write a great essay.
  2. Come up with a thesis statement for your essay. After you have chosen the topic, pick the main argument that your essay will be focusing on.
  3. Conduct preliminary research for your paper. Note the ideas that you get during research, first in any manner. List as many ideas, evidence, and everything else required to defend the thesis statement, keeping in mind the essay’s required word count or length. It is only after these three steps that the use of an essay outline starts.

Why write an essay outline?

As stated earlier, writing an essay outline is not mandatory, but it is important. Here are some of the reasons why you shouldn’t skimp on writing one;

  • It makes it easy to see the logical flow of your ideas
  • It ensures completeness of the topic being discussed
  • Through the outline, you can determine which ideas will be a priority
  • It makes work easier
  • It reduces the need for revisions later on
  • It ensures the essay meets the required scope

Before giving you the essay outline templates, it is important to understand the structures used when outlining an essay. The choice of the structure to use is just a matter of preference. There are two structures used, namely the alphanumeric and decimal structure. The alphanumeric is the most common because of its simplicity.

Alphanumeric structure

Here is how to use the alphanumeric style structure;

  • The roman numerals, I, II, III, etc. are used in identifying the major sections of the outline. For a five-paragraph essay, you will have five roman numerals for each paragraph.
  • Capital letters, A, B, C, etc. are used to identify the paragraph’s main point.
  • Arabic numbers 1, 2, 3, etc. are used to provide further important details supporting capital letters’ points.
  • Small letters a, b, c, etc. are used to identify even more specific details needed.

Here is a graphical representation of the alphanumeric structure.

Decimal Style Structure

The decimal style structure uses numerals only with decimals to show the hierarchy. Here is how it works;

  • The outline begins with 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, etc. to identify the major sections. That means you would need to go up to 5.0 for a five-paragraph essay.
  • The sequence starts with 1 after the decimal to indicate further information under a major section. For instance, for information under paragraph, 2.0 the sequence starts at 2.1, 2.2, 2.3 etc.
  • The information below 2.1 will have numbers 2.1.1, 2.1.2, 2.1.3, etc. Under 2.2, it will be labeled as 2.2.1, 2.2.2, etc.

Here is a visual representation to make it easier.

Essay Outline Templates

Writing is difficult in itself and especially when you have to start from a blank page. Staring at the emptiness of a blank page in your book, or the blinking cursor on your computer can be depressing. Trying to come up with the words to say and figuring out how to say them simultaneously is like trying to lift a chair you are sitting on.

There is an easier way for you to approach things, and it doesn’t include starting from a blank page. You can start with an essay outline template. A template will give you something to work with from the start.

An essay outline template makes it easier for you to write an essay because you can work one step at a time. No need to try and figure out everything at once, which can be mentally tasking and overwhelming. With an outline template, you move from one aspect to the other sequentially. Seeing the progress as you come up with the essay can be motivating.

Here are some templates you can use to write different types of essays for any study level you are in.

5 Paragraph Essay Outline Template

The five-paragraph essay outline is one of the most commonly used outlines for short essays of 1000 words and below. Here is a template you can use for a five-paragraph essay.

Compare and Contrast Essay Outline

A compare and contrast essay is one where a student has to examine the differences and similarities between the two subjects. It is a favorite kind of essay to write for many students because it is not limiting to just one thing. There are several styles to write a compare and contrast essay. However, the most common style entails discussing the two items in one paragraph and then moving on to the next paragraph. Here is a sample compare and contrast essay outline template you can use.

Persuasive Essay Outline

In a persuasive essay, the writer is supposed to take a stand and convince the reader to agree with their point of view or perform a particular action. Here is a sample persuasive essay outline template to use when writing a persuasive essay.

persuasive essay outline

Narrative Essay Outline

Narrative writing requires a lot of creativity on the part of the student. A narrative essay entails telling a short story. A lot of vivid language use is required for the writer to bring the reader to their experience. Describe your emotions fully at the time, the smell, what you were seeing, the room temperature, etc. Choose words that speak vividly without leaving any doubt in the reader’s mind. For instance, was it a horse you rode or a stallion? Did you see a snake or a venomous 10-foot python? Well, if you are writing a narrative essay, use this essay outline to produce a killer narration.

narrative essay outline

Apa Paper Outline

Have you been asked to write your essay in APA format? APA format is one of the most common college essay outline followed. It is important to learn how to write in APA if you are in college or university. Here is the APA essay outline to follow.

MLA Outline

For MLA essays, use the following MLA essay template when writing your essay.

Remember that if you are having problems writing, formatting or outlining your essay, is here for you.



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