How to Structure an Outline for a College Paper

All essays will have a basic structure


Check with your tutor whether they’re looking for a specific structure. My guess is that, nine times out often, it won’t vary much from what I’ve shown you here.

This essay structure is linear. It takes your reader on a journey, from introduction to conclusion.

The aim is always to lead your reader from old information to new information: from what you’ve just told them to something they don’t yet know.

You have to develop the stages in the journey: they will be your paragraphs

The best way to plan the essay’s structure is to create an outline. An outline is a miniature version of your essay, written in numbered, single sentences.

The sentences express the key ideas in your essay; the numbers indicate how the ideas relate to each other. Those sentences will form the heads of the paragraphs in your essay.

An outline lets you see the big picture before you start drafting. It allows you to see how your paragraphs will be structured and how they’ll link to each other.

Most usefully, with an outline you can move your paragraphs around very easily, without becoming confused in lots of detail.

All outlines combine two organizing principles.
• Putting your ideas into sequences
• Organizing your ideas into pyramids

How you combine these two principles will be your choice, based on the demands of the essay that
you’re planning.

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