2.4 Outline

An outline is a skeletal framework of the essay you intend to write. In a nutshell, it presents the main ideas and supporting ideas in your intended essay. It is meant to direct the writer to achieve the objective and purpose of the essay. It also helps one to maintain an organized structure of the essay.

To write a good outline one can follow the following steps:

The topic of the essay:

If you have not been given an essay topic, you must choose your topic. In doing this one should consider the purpose of the essay and what he wants the readers to learn.

Gather/Generate relevant information on the chosen topic (see 2.3):

From this pick the main ideas or the information that is most relevant to your essay topic considering the purpose and relevance to your audience.

Organize your ideas:

Having selected the main ideas, you need to organize them. This forms the structure of your essay. The organization of your essay is relative to the type of structure you want to adopt. You can adopt the chronological process, classification, cause and effect, numerical or logical order. Whichever organizational structure you choose should be maintained till the end of the essay.

Create your supporting ideas:

At this level decide what your supporting ideas should be. As you have decided your main ideas, list the supporting ideas for each main idea. These could be examples, facts, theories, or minor stories that support a particular main idea.

Review and edit:

You must read and edit everything you have written. Also, you need to establish a link between the main ideas and make sure that you uphold the same structure till the end.


Format of an outline:


An umbrella statement that reflects the main points or major ideas in the essay.


Body paragraphs:

Paragraph 1:

Main point: Topic sentence

Supporting ideas


Paragraph 2:

Main point: Topic sentence

Supporting ideas


Paragraph 3:

Main point: Topic sentence

Supporting ideas



A statement or statements that recapitulates the main points or major idea

reflected in the introduction.


The number of the body points depends on the number of points/main ideas that you would like to discuss. If you have more points, it means that you would have more paragraphs. It is vital to include every main idea you want to use for your essay in the outline. Also, any point you would not use in your essay should not be added to your outline. The outline should strictly serve as your guide.