How to Write an Essay Outline: 2 Best Ways to Outperform in Writing

Staring at the blank page on your computer screen without any idea of how to write an outline for an essay and wondering where to find a good sample, for example, in PDF format? The establishment of a good structure for an academic essay is actually one of the most difficult parts of the writing process for many high school, college, and university students. Besides, if English is your second language, this task can be especially challenging for you.

But creating a detailed outline before you start writing the first paragraph of your short or extended essay is an effective way to ensure that your original ideas go together in a clear and logical order. Additionally, a perfect outline can save tons of your time during the revision process. Exclude the possibility that you will need to rearrange your ideas after they are written down. So, the writing process will be less time-consuming, and you’ll start working more productively.

In this article, you’ll find a detailed and easy guide on how to make an outline for an informative essay. We will provide you with a good universal outline example that you can use to create the outlines for other types of essays: personal, cause-and-effect, compare and contrast, etc.

outline informative essay

What Is an Informative Essay?

Let’s start with an informative essay definition. Informative essays are sometimes called expository. Their purpose is to educate an audience on a certain topic. You don’t have to express your own opinion, convince someone to do something or change their beliefs. Your task is simple – to inform people about something that they don’t know in an interesting and engaging manner.

In fact, informative essays can be used for a variety of purposes:

 ✅ You can provide an analysis of data just like in a cause-and-effect essay.

 ✅ You can teach your audience how to do something, for example, how to solve a specific problem.

 ✅ You can compare different points of view on a debatable subject without presenting the author’s opinion.

 ✅ You can offer a classification of some events, concepts or phenomena based on data analysis.

Informative essays typically include lots of quotes, facts or resources that are referenced in the text in MLA or APA formats. To avoid plagiarism, you have to make a list of all sources on a special works-cited or references page. Wondering how to properly cite your sources? You can use a number of websites with detailed guides on how to do that, for example, a website of Purdue Online Writing Lab.

What Is the Structure of an Informative Essay?

Before we start discussing how to create an outline, you should have a good idea of the good essay structure. Every successful informative essay for college has several vital elements. Let’s define these elements and explain how you can arrange them together, using an outline.

  • A thesis statement is a sentence which tells your readers what exactly you plan to argue in your essay. It is typically written at the end of the introductory paragraph and should be clear and specific to guide your writing. For example, if your informative essay is about the Titanic, your thesis statement may be something like this: The sinking of Titanic is one of the well-known tragedies in history, and it should never be forgotten. Each paragraph in the body of your informative essay will support your thesis statement obviously and directly.
  • An introduction has the purpose to grab your audience’s attention, to put your topic in the context, and explain why your topic is significant and why your readers might be curious about it. The introductory paragraph should start broad, then narrow down to a particular topic. It ends with a strong thesis statement. You can also provide the additional information about how you are going to organize your argument.
  • Body paragraphs present and discuss the main topic of your informative essay. There is no strict rule on how many body paragraphs your essay should include. It’s up to you or your instructor to decide how long your essay will be. Certainly, the length can depend on the complexity of your topic. Typically, each body paragraph discusses or explains a specific aspect or fact that is related to the main essay topic. Since the essay is informative, you don’t have to express your personal opinion.
  • Topic sentences are written at the beginning of each body paragraph. They introduce the main point of the particular paragraph. These sentences can help you stay focused during the writing process. You need to include in a paragraph all the necessary information that is logically and clearly related to the topic sentence. Keep in mind that all topic sentences are supposed to tie in your thesis statement.
  • The evidence is included in body paragraphs to provide support to the topic sentences. You can use analysis, facts, details, data, arguments, examples, anecdotes, quotes, etc. to support each topic sentence. Usually, you should include at least 3 points to support every topic sentence in your informative essay.
  • Transitions help to make your essay logical and allow readers to easily follow your argument. They show connections between different paragraphs and can be either the last sentences in the body paragraphs or be included in the next topic sentence with various transition words.
  • A conclusion should close off the essay giving a brief overview of what has been previously discussed. You don’t have to introduce here any new information or arguments. You can restate your thesis statement and summarize the general points of your informative essay. If you like, you can include your point of view or opinion on the topic in this part of an essay.

What Are Pre-Writing Tips on How to Write an Essay Outline for College?

The first step when writing an essay, including an informative one, is to choose a good topic. When writing an informative essay, you can choose from a huge variety of topics. For example, you can write about the latest technological advancements, consequences of the climate change, health benefits of being a vegetarian, steps in writing an application letter, e-learning trends, advancements of plastic surgery, etc. This list may be endless. You should choose a topic that is interesting to you, and, at the same time, it should be appropriate and interesting to your audience.

After you have chosen an informative essay topic, it’s important to conduct a profound research and gather relevant data from credible primary and secondary sources that you can use for formulating your thesis statement, making an outline, and wring your essay. When doing research, you have to make notes, writing down some interesting facts or quotes that you can use in your essay. You should also keep track of all your sources and write down information about the authors, titles of books and articles, publishers, etc.

How to Write an Outline of an Essay with Examples?

An outline can help organize all your facts and main argument in a logical way and determine the order in which you are going to write about your main ideas. It’s a great way to decide how you will present information in your paper. You are free to choose between 2 main essay outline formats:

  1. Decimal;
  2. Alphanumeric.

Look at the examples and determine what is more suitable for you.

Essay Outline Formats

The decimal outline format uses only numbers that clearly show how levels of the outline are related to each other. The alphanumeric format is more common for students. It uses Roman and Arabic numerals as well as capital and lowercase letters. You watch the video with the detailed explanation on how to structure an outline for a college paper.

But before you start making an outline, you need to have a good idea what you are going to argue in your essay. So, your first step is to rearrange your notes, ideas, and quotes that serve as a raw material for your project and organize them into an order that can support your argument. In what way?

✏ Generalizing

After you have gathered enough material, you should use brainstorming techniques to come up with interesting ideas for your essay. You need to review every individual piece of information and assign it to some specific category. You have to classify all the information into relevant groups and establish connections between them. You can do it in a number of ways: make a list of ideas, free write or create a mind map. Try to make categories more general so that you should have not more than 3 categories for a 7-page essay.

✏ Ordering

You should list your categories in order of importance and divide each category into sub-categories. You should think about how you can arrange your points in a sentence to support your argument. You should order both general and smaller categories and create sentences to support more general sentences. You should repeat this procedure to the smallest level. Make sure you arrange quotes, ideas, and statistics in a natural way.

✏ Putting It All Together

When you construct all these sentences, you actually create an outline for your informative essay. The most general ideas will make your essay sections that will follow the order you used to place them into your sentences. The smaller categories within every larger category will determine the order of arranging paragraphs in every section.

Looking for a good outline template? Most essays follow the same basic pattern (alphanumeric format), and your informative essay outline can look something like this:

informative essay outline

Now, you know how to make an essay outline. So, you are well on your way to creating clear and powerful essays that can impress your audience and get a high grade. You can use this informative essay outline template for writing most of the essays you are assigned in high school or college. When your outline is ready, you can start writing your first draft, using it as a tool that will guide you while writing. At this stage, you should focus on a good content and don’t mind spelling errors and grammar mistakes. It’s a rough draft, and you’ll be able to fix them in your final copy.

Editing is an important step for all writing projects. That’s why, no matter how good your outline is, you should always revise your essay to improve its content, the logic flow of information, and make your informative essay clear and concise. When you finish the final copy, you need to proofread it and correct minor grammar, punctuation, and spelling mistakes and typos to make your essay perfect.

Patricia Jenkins

Author: Patricia Jenkins

Patricia Jenkins is the senior writing advisor at FastEssay blog for international students that seek quick paper assistance. In her blog, Patricia shares useful tips on productivity, writing, research, references. Sometimes Patricia goes off topic by sharing her personal experience peppered with lively humor and healthy irony.