Many college students hate the idea of essay outline with all their hearts. They are already unhappy with the need to invest efforts into research and paper writing, so an outline just looks like additional work that will take even more of their time. Such approach is a popular mistake. Most university professors assume that their students already understand academic values, but very often, this isn’t the case. To learn why an outline is important, you should first understand its definition and purposes. Outline is a graphic description of what your paper is going to look like, a miniature that you’ll be turning into a full-fledged essay later. It’s there to guide you and anchor you to your ideas, and its relevance cannot be overestimated.
Outline serves a very important purpose: it is a guide that gives writers a sense of direction. When students face an assignment and read instructions for it, they start brainstorming. Lots of ideas are born in those moments, and it might be difficult to keep them all under control. Let’s take a direct example: you were asked to write essay on the topic “Global warming.” There are so many perspectives that you could easily get lost in them. This is what outlining an essay could do for you:
Help visualize a future essay. People are expected to mention all key points from their essay in an outline. By putting ideas on paper, they start seeing how many body paragraphs they’ll have and what they’ll be about. For instance, at this point, you decide that you’ll explain global warming as a concept in one paragraph, present arguments for its support in another, and offer views of people who don’t think it is real in the third one. This is what your essay outline template should include in such case. Or you could explain what global warming is and focus on strategies for addressing it. These are two very different directions, and by having an outline, the picture in your head becomes clearer, helping you settle on a specific version you’ll be exploring.
2)Show how many sources you’ll need. In the academic world, each body paragraph must have at least one new source. So, if you have a 5 paragraph essay outline, you’re going to need at least 3 sources (since introduction and conclusion usually don’t require them). This could save your time because you won’t waste it on looking for too many sources that you’d never be able to use in an essay of this size.
3)Help you stick to the main point. Another relevant function concerns the anchoring process. When a person is writing an essay outline, they get a chance to consult with it at every later stage. If they feel like they’re losing direction or start rambling, all they need is to look at what they’ve written and get back to their key points. In this regard, outline is an anchor that keeps you grounded through the creative storm.
Not many students know this fact, but there are actually two types of outlines. One isn’t better than the other — they can both be extremely helpful. It all depends on which of them you personally prefer. So, how to write an outline for an essay?
Sentence Outline. In this outline, you describe each section and its sub-points in complete sentences. Imagine the topic “Danger Stereotypes Present.” First body paragraph could focus on definition. For describing it briefly, you could use this sentence: “Stereotypes are flawed assumptions that generalize characteristics of someone or something.” Once you start working on your essay, you’ll quickly recall what the first section had to feature by reading this outlined sentence. The second paragraph could be about consequences stereotypes have. This is an example of its description: “Stereotypes damage people’s perception, make them biased, and contribute to misunderstandings and harassment.” As you see, such outlines for essays require more efforts, but they are detailed and very helpful as they bring you perfect clarity regarding your ideas.
Topic Outline. This type demands less efforts. Basically, writers should just characterize their idea with a word or a phrase: it doesn’t have to be complete or even grammatically coherent. For the same topic about stereotypes, the first section could be called “Definition & Background.” The following one could be titled “Consequences.” It’s brief yet informative.
For students who face writing their first outline, we have some tips. Follow them closely and you won’t experience any problems! Note that you’ll need to write something only at one stage.
Choose a perspective. Once students select a topic, they must decide on their perspective. Are they arguing for the topic or against it? Is it going to be the five paragraph essay outline or a longer one? Narrowing your theme down is important. If it’s too general, even an outline won’t help because you’ll be including way too many points in it. Only when you know the approximate direction of where you’d like to take your essay, move on toward the next stage.
2)Pick a type. At this point, students need to answer the question: what is an outline for an essay they’re going to use? You now know about the two types and what they include, so pick whichever you find more convenient. If you don’t mind writing more but getting a clearer vision of your future essay, go with sentence type. If seeing brief reminders would be enough, rely on topic kind.
3)Fill an outline. With all planning stages behind, it is time to learn how to create an outline for an essay. The answer is simple: either download a template & start filling it in or just add numbers and/or letters to denote your sections. If you need more practical assistance, you can see examples below — simply study them and create something similar.
4)Double-check it. As soon as you’re finished, take a short break. In an hour or two, go back to an outline and start reading through it. Does it still make sense? Is everything clear? Decide these things in advance, before you forget your plans and find yourself confused. If you need to submit this outline for your professor, proofread it. Grammar doesn’t matter when it’s for your eyes only, but if you’re actually going to be graded on this work, it has to be perfect in every possible way.
We hope that explanations above helped you understand what an outline is and what features it should include. The extent of its usefulness depends on how responsibly you treat it, so if you brainstorm and include your actual major ideas into it, writing an essay is going to be so much easier. Let’s look at direct examples. We’ll start with the topic outline of an essay titled “Differences in Opinions on COVID-19.” This is a plan for a short paper with no sub-points: only thesis and three body sections are indicated.
Thesis: COVID-19 has inspired panic in many people, but while some accept the seriousness of the situation, others reject it.
I. Spread of COVID-19.
II. People religiously sticking to preventive techniques.
III. People ignoring precautions and going on with their lives.
I. COVID-19 started its deadly attack at the end of 2019, threatening health and lives of people all over the world.
II. Some people took the danger seriously, wearing masks, keeping social distance from each other, disinfecting their hands and even changing clothes several times per day.
III. Other people believe that the danger is overblown, so they refuse to follow medical precautions and maintain their previous habits.
Now let’s move to a topic outline for essay with a title “Different Types of Queerbaiting in TV Shows.” This one will be longer, with more body paragraphs and sub-points.
Thesis statement: Queerbaiting is a harmful practice many writers apply to give their LGBTQ audience hope that they will see representation, and though TV shows like Sherlock and Supernatural approached this issue differently, they still proceeded to gaslight their viewers.
A. Background of Queerbaiting.
1. Definition of a concept and its target group.
2. Reasons for why queerbaiting is used.
B. Consequences of Queerbaiting.
1. Harassment from other fans the target group undergoes.
2. Disappointment and certainty that they don’t deserve to be represented.
1. Subtext and text included for Johnlock within the show.
2. Denial of queerness by writers outside the show.
3. Continued denial to this day and fans’ final disappointment.
1. Subtext & text created for Destiel within the show.
2. Denial of Destiel by writers and actors.
3. Confirming Destiel within the show & deliberately being vague outside of it.
A. Queerbaiting emerged in 2010, when writers wanted to get more LGBTQ viewers by misleading them into watching their shows.
1. Queerbaiting is a practice of teasing a same-sex relationship between fictional characters aimed primarily at LGBTQ people without any intention to make it textual.
2. It is used for increasing attention to the show since LGBTQ fans tend to be loud and passionate about their representation-related hobbies.
B. Queerbaiting creates conflicts between fans and crushes the hopes of particularly vulnerable population slices.
1. Since fans hoping for representation are shunned publicly by the creators, it results in harassment within the fandom since those who deny queer coding feel required to protect writers from the related criticism.
2. LGBTQ groups start feeling more vulnerable when they are presented as deluded, which negatively affects their self-esteem.
A. Sherlock has been gaslighting its audience for years, from start to finish.
1. There are direct text, multiple instances of subtext, music, metaphors, and mirroring that point to Johnlock.
2. Outside the show, writers acted condescendingly to fans who picked up on their subtext.
3. Situation didn’t change even with the final season of Sherlock, with queerbaiting and its denial continuing, much to fans’ crushing disappointment.
B. Supernatural has become a queerbaiting phenomenon that has delivered textual promises with one hand and took them with another.
1. For 11 years, Supernatural writers kept adding text and subtext for Destiel into every season.
2. Beyond the show, Destiel was largely denied and mocked.
3. Destiel was textually acknowledged as romantic at the end of the show, but writers remain deliberately vague in their interviews, which hurts fans even more.