Apr 28, 2020
Studying form home? Have to write an essay for one of your classes but not sure where to start? Here is a quick, crash course on how to outline your essay to help you get started! This guide is intended to help you create the bare bones or the outline of your essay and to help you get started. You’ll have to go back in and flesh out your ideas and add quotes afterwards, but you should have a strong base after following these steps.
Step 1: Decide What You Want to Say
Regardless of if you’re writing a personal essay, a research essay, or a literary essay, you need to have an opinion or a point of view on the topic. So decide what idea matters to you enough to write about and then you can get started!
This idea is your thesis (the concept that you want to argue in your essay)
Example: Pizza is the best of all fast foods.
Step 2: Now Prove You’re Right
Awesome, you have something to say! You’ve come up with an interesting idea about what you’re reading/studying. Now you must back your idea up with arguments. Come up with 3 or 4 arguments (reasons why what your saying is true). The amount of arguments you need in your essay will depend on your teacher and their expectations. Three or four is a safe starting point.
These arguments are your points. (The arguments that support your thesis)
Example 2: Pizza is the best of all fast foods because: it’s cheap, it offers a variety of choices, and it tastes good.
Step 3: Give Evidence
Now that you have your 3 points, find some evidence that help support those points. It’s like in a trial. You can suggest that someone is guilty because they were at the scene of the crime, but unless you can prove they were there, your argument has no leg to stand on.
Example: The argument that pizza is cheap is supported by the fact that: (1) it is a cheap meal because the ingredients are inexpensive; (2) it is inexpensive to buy (roughly $20) relative to other fast foods like Chinese (closer to $40); (3) one pizza can feed a lot of people for a low cost (that $20 pizza can feed four people so you don’t need to order as much).
Step 4: Summarize Your Evidence
You now have three points which all have evidence backing them up. Now you need to wrap up your paragraph by explaining how this evidence and this point support your thesis.
This is called your explanation.
Example: Therefore, pizza is convenient and affordable for people who can or can’t cook, making it an excellent fast-food option.
Step 5: Introductions Are Like Funnels!
Now that you figured out your arguments, you need your introduction. The reason we don’t start with the introduction is because until you have your arguments, you don’t know what it is you’re introducing! Introductions can be difficult but it can help if you think of your introduction as a funnel. You want to start with something broad and general in the beginning, and then slowly narrow your focus to something specific.
Example: There are many delicious options when it comes to deciding on dinner. One of the most popular fast foods is pizza. Pizza is the best of all fast foods. This is because pizza is cheap, it offers a variety of choices, and it tastes better than any other take out foods.
Step 6: To Conclude…
Almost done! One last step! If your introduction is a funnel, your conclusion is a pyramid. What that means is you want to have specific information in the beginning and then end on a general note.
*****Quick note on conclusions: Your conclusion is not your introduction in reverse! You must restate your thesis and arguments in different words and end on a new topic, not what you started with in your intro. *****
Example: In conclusion, pizza is the best fast food. This is because it is inexpensive to make and to buy which means it is convenient and affordable for both people who do know how to cook and those who don’t. It also comes in a variety of forms which means that it can be customized to people’s choices and is easy to share with friends. Finally, pizza tastes delicious because the combination of flavors is one that appeals to most and it can be modified to include people’s favorite toppings. It will be interesting to see with the growing number of foodies in the world, whether pizza will evolve to suit more tastes and whether it will become a staple for meals other than Friday night dinner.
Step 7: Putting it All Together
Last step! Once you’ve finished all your paragraphs, organize them in this way:
**You want to organize your arguments this way so that you start and end strong when proving your point.
And there you have it! Your essay in seven steps!
Blog post contributed by Maddie from our Greenboro branch.