How to Write an Essay Outline for College

How to Write an Essay Outline for College

In order to deliver an impeccable essay paper, you should always start by knowing how to write an essay outline for college. In fact, a good outline will ensure that you have a proper plan on how to craft every section of the essay to the best standards. Continue reading to find out how to easily create an outstanding outline for a college essay paper.

Knowing how to write an essay outline for college can be quite easy if you understand what an outline is. An outline is defined as the ‘blue-print’ or draft showing how the actual paper will be presented. It allows you to organize your thoughts and points, well in advance so you do not forget ideas when writing the essay.

An outline will also give you the opportunity of analyzing what you want to discuss in order to come up with the right content for the essay. In fact, it can also make your research quite efficient for the best results. Besides, skills on how to write an essay outline for college will also be useful in other academic papers, thereby improving your general performance.

Tips on how to write an essay outline for college

An outline serves as the guide on how you will write the essay, therefore, you have to be keen on certain elements in order to come up with a good piece. Below are the main guidelines on how to write an essay outline for college.

Identify the subject or topic of the essay

Before you start thinking of how to craft the outline, it is important that you know and perfectly understand the subject of the paper. This will make your work less hectic since you can now specifically focus on an area or idea to address.

If you are given a topic to discuss, you do not have to undergo this step. However, there are several occasions when you will be given the option of choosing a subject or angle to pursue in an essay. In such instances, it is advisable that you go for a topic or form a claim that you can easily defend in the essay. This will make writing the outline as well as the essay paper much easier.

Do a little research

Since an outline is a representation of the actual essay paper, you have to do some background search to find ideas and evidence that will be used to support your claim in the paper. Remember that whatever is generated from your research will be used in writing the outline and final paper, so it has to be relevant and comprehensive.

There are several sources that you can research from including online, libraries and even fellow students. However, there are instances whereby you may be directed to refer to specific sources.

Analyze your thoughts

An outline should be a simple and brief representation of the ideas that will be discussed in the essay. This implies you should only list the main points and maybe some quotations or short details that will be explained in the paper.

Based on the research, you should identify the key points of the topic or subject of the essay. It is these that you will be required to list in the outline.

Besides, you should also identify the examples or pieces of evidence that will be used to support your points. You can only list key phrases of the evidence, clearly marked with the sources for easy reference during the writing process.

Try to narrow down the points that you have identified to use in the essay and the evidence to support each in order to have precise details for crafting the outline. Find the importance in every point and only go for the most outstanding ones.

Formulate the thesis

At the point of writing an essay outline, you already have in mind what to address in the paper. Therefore, it is important that you also come up with the thesis statement at this stage. In fact, it is required that you also clearly write the thesis statement in the outline to ensure that your paper is well planned.

Steps on how to write an essay outline for college

Just like there is a particular format for writing essay papers, there are also clear-cut procedures on how to write an essay outline for college. A college essay outline should comprise of three main parts; introduction, body and conclusion. Although, you can also write the title of the essay in the outline. These can be listed in subheadings under which you will include other details.

The following steps will guide you on how to write a good college essay outline.


Write the title of the essay in the outline as it will appear on the final paper.


In the outline, clearly write a few points that will be used to give the readers a picture of what you will be talking about in the essay.

If you intend to begin the essay with a question or even statistics, it is important to note them down on this part of the outline.

You should also write the thesis statement since it will be included in the introductory paragraph.


On this section of the outline, you will need to be more detailed since it holds the bulk of the work when it comes to writing the paper. To make it less hectic, you should first decide on the number of paragraphs that you will have in the essay so that you can know the number of key points to list down.

A good essay should have at least three to four paragraphs, each giving a different idea but supportive of the thesis. This implies you should identify three main points to use in illustrating your claim.

The main points should be listed in numerical or bullets. Under each, write down the examples or evidence that will be used to support it. It is advisable to include more than one evidence in order to make your argument more compelling. However, this may depend on the particular topic or issue that you are discussing.

If simply listing the main points may make it hard to remember certain information, it is advisable that you write short topic sentences that summarize the points for each paragraph.


This is the last part of the outline and should vividly show how you plan to end the discussion in the essay. The best way to end an essay is by restating the thesis and revealing how the supporting points relate to the assertion made in the paper.

Try to rewrite the thesis in another way and list a few clues that will help you in demonstrating a smooth end to the discussion. In case there are sources that have been quoted in the conclusion, remember to also note them down in the outline for easy reference during writing.

Examples of Essay Outlines for College

Another easier and faster way of mastering the art of how to write an essay outline for college is through reading sample outlines. The following examples have been drawn from professionally written sample outlines that you can refer to for help on how to craft a good college essay outline.

Example 1

Sample College Essay Outline

Title: Frederick Douglass

Thesis: Frederick Douglass played a critical role in securing the abolition of slavery and equality of African-American rights through his actions, ideas and efforts as a lecturer, author, publisher and politician.

  1. Introduction

A). Thesis

B). Roles/ Arguments

  1. Douglass as Lecturer

A). History as a slave and education

  • He experienced slavery
  • Literacy allowed expression

B). Early lectures including initial speech before Garrison…

Visit to read the whole of this sample outline.

Example 2

Sample Compare and Contrast Outline: Comparison between ‘’The Hunger Games’’ by Suzanne Collins and ‘’Battle’’ by Koushun Takami.

  1. Introduction to controversy
  2. Explain the Hunger Games franchise versus the little-known Battle Royale franchise
  3. Address the slight controversy brought up by the fans of Battle Royale about the similarities between the two (BR written before Hunger Games)
  4. Cite/ quote online discussion forums bearing comments from the fans.
  5. Explain summaries of both books.
  6. Summary of Hunger Games
  7. Summary of Battle Royale
  • Compare similarities
  1. Themes…

Read the rest of this sample college essay outline at

Example 3

Sample Outline in an MLA Paper

Thesis: Unless the risks of cellphones are shown to outweigh the merits, we should not limit their use in moving vehicles; instead, we should educate the public about the dangers of driving while on the phone and prosecute irresponsible phone users under laws on negligence and recklessness.

  1. Scientific studies have not proved a connection between use of cellphones and traffic accidents.
  2. A study by Redelmeir and Tibshirani was inconclusive since researchers themselves have admitted so…

Find the entire sample here.

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