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Essay outline formats can vary according to the writer's preferences, but in general, each outline will contain many of the same features. A topic as well as a thesis statement should be present in the outline, as well as general topics for supporting paragraphs. The length and the details included in the essay outline formats can vary, and while more detail may be helpful for some writers, other writers may get bogged down or confused with too much information. A very simple format will include a thesis statement, supporting paragraph points, and any sources from which the writer intends to pull information.
One of the simplest essay outline formats allows the writer to get started writing the opening paragraph during the outlining process. The first item in the outline is the general topic of the essay, which may be as broad as "Common Medical Devices." From that topic, the writer may choose to do a brainstorming cloud or web; this is a separate piece of paper on which the writer can write the topic in the center of the page and write related ideas and concepts around that idea. This will help the writer develop a more specific focus for the paper. Once the writer has a specific idea, he or she will write the thesis statement, or main argument, of the paper in the outline. The writer will then write down a numbered list of main points for supporting the thesis.
Other essay outline formats are a bit more in depth. The essay can be broken down by paragraph, and the specific details or examples that will be included in each paragraph will be included in the outline. This very detailed document will help the writer form specific paragraphs with little room for deviation from the established plan. The outline might look something like this:
B) Introductory information
C) Thesis statement
A) Point 1
B) Example 1
C) Example 2
A) Point 2
B) Counter-argument 1
C) Response to counter-argument 1
B) Main point
C) Main point
The individual bullet points or numbered or lettered items can vary according to the specific essay being written, but these essay outline formats will allow the writer to keep track of specific points and arguments regardless of how long or short the essay ends up being. A writer who needs to write a very detailed essay with a specific focus might want to choose this essay format.
@browncoat - I actually think the point you make about relating the paragraphs back to the central theory of your essay is the most important point.
More important than even making sure your essay follows a strict structure, although having a structure will ensure that you can more easily achieve this.
Too many essays I've seen have wandered and waffled all over the place. And that is usually what the marker is looking for, rather than the structure. If you keep reinforcing the main purpose behind the essay, you won't go far wrong and your marker will have clear things to mark you on. I'd say that is more important than anything else.
My English teacher from high school always encouraged us to look at it like a hamburger. The introduction and the conclusion were the buns, which were not that interesting and shouldn't have anything that wasn't already in the middle. Then, make several points about your subject and arrange them so that the second most compelling argument is first, then the third and fourth and the most compelling argument is last.
Always relate your points back to the main question or theory.
If you have your weaker arguments sandwiched in between your strong ones, it helps to convince the reader.
This is only a basic structure of course, but I still use it when I'm stuck on how to write an essay.
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