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How to create an essay outline

Getting started on an essay can be by far the hardest part. And once you get working, all the “difficulty” you thought you’d have in writing it can slip right away, and suddenly you find it wasn’t so hard, after all.

One of the best ways to get from smashing your head into your computer screen to smiling as you hand in your shiny new essay is to create an essay outline.

Once again, students often quail at the notion of an outline, but they don’t have to be difficult to create. In fact, the whole purpose of an essay outline is to help the writer organize and understand his or her ideas, and so be able to create a clear essay more easily and quickly.

An outline allows you to get your ideas down on paper in whatever language or way best works for you. You don’t have to worry about grammar or spelling or any of the other rules that apply to ‘real’ essays, so you can focus entirely on what it is you plan to write about.

The best place to start is always with the thesis. If you don’t have a thesis already, then you can create one simply and easily by asking yourself what the major point or theme of your essay is. It should be stated in a declarative sentence, or series of sentences, and the rest of the essay will serve to prove or show why your thesis is right. For example, a thesis statement might read, “Writing essays for school papers gets easier every time you do it.” Then, a supporting sentence might address how practice makes perfect, and another sentence might talk about how you can use old essays to help develop the structure for new ones.

Once you have your thesis, start your outline by writing it close to (not at) the top of the page. Above that, write the word “Introduction.” You’ll want to include a few opening remarks (you can worry about what these will be later on) before you hit your professor with your dynamite thesis.

Below this, and spread out so you can add more material later, write down a few reasons why your thesis is right. If there’s a chance someone might argue, write down what they might say, and next to that write down why you don’t think those reasons are valid.

Below this, write the word “Conclusion.” A conclusion is really just a rehash of your introduction, designed to close the essay and restate your basic ideas so the reader leaves with a clear picture of what you said.

And there you have it. Now, all you have to do is start expanding, adding sentences here and there that fit wherever you put them, and soon enough, you’ll have an essay ready to go!

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