As a college student, I majored in journalism. That means I have a lot of experience in all types of writing. In order to major in a communications-related field, students must take a rigorous schedule of English courses, which means a whole lot of essay writing.
I quickly adapted a method of essay writing, which I believe simplifies and streamlines the process.
What’s the trick? Instead of sitting down and writing an essay, from start to finish, as many students do, it’s much easy (and way less time consuming) to do all of your research beforehand, placing each item into a basic outline.
From there, the outline contains all of the information you need to create your essay and, the essay essentially writes itself.
The only work left will be filler writing to explain your thought processes.
Here’s how you can format your essay outline (Note: the example below has three paragraphs, but additional paragraphs can be added as necessary.):
I. Introduction paragraph:
a. What you’d like to discuss within your introduction paragraph
b. Quotes or references, if any
II. Thesis statement: What’s the main point of your essay? Decide what you want to convey in your essay and put it into words. Your entire essay will revolve around this point, so make sure you’re clear and concise in your phrasing. (This is usually placed near the end of your introduction paragraph.)
III. First paragraph topic that supports your thesis
a. List supporting quotes/references: Find quotes from reputable sources that support what you’ve stated within your thesis and that relate to your first paragraph topic.
IV. Second paragraph topic that supports your thesis
a. List supporting quotes/references: Find quotes from reputable sources that support what you’ve stated within your thesis and that relate to your second paragraph topic.
V. Third paragraph topic that supports your thesis
a. List supporting quotes/references: Find quotes from reputable sources that support what you’ve stated within your thesis and that relate to your third paragraph topic.
VI. Conclusion paragraph: Note what you’d like to say within your conclusion paragraph. Your conclusion paragraph should detail how you are going to unite the topics from your aforementioned topics and weave them together into one solid point. Students commonly mistake a conclusion paragraph as a summary paragraph when, in fact, it’s really an opportunity to drive home your argument. Your conclusion should round out your essay and unite your paragraphs together, solidifying your thesis.
a. Additional quotes or references, if any
VII. List all citations: As you find each quote or reference to include within your essay, make sure to cite each reference, so you won’t have to scramble at the end to go back to your sources to see where you found each quotation. List each citation on your outline so it’s already finished before you even complete your essay. That way, it’s one less thing to worry about.
By following this outline format, the work of your essay is already clearly mapped out ahead of time. You already know what you want to say and how you’re going to say it and you have all of the support to back up each theory.
This method takes the stress out of essay writing because it eliminates guesswork; struggling for the right idea or argument and helps you ensure your thesis is strong. If you’re not able to easily fill out the outline, your thesis isn’t strong or clear enough and your essay topic will likely not be a winner as a result.
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Sample Outline #2
Title: The FederalistPapers’ Influence on the Ratification of the Constitution
Thesis: The Federalist Papers influenced the ratification of the Constitution by making some of their most important arguments, including the importance of being in a Union by having a Constitution, answering to the objections made by the Anti-federalists about separation of powers, and defending opposing arguments made against the characteristics of the executive and judicial branch as provided in the Constitution.
a. Describe The Federalist Papers are and when they started
b. Thesis:The Federalist influenced the ratification of the Constitution by making some of their most important arguments, including the importance of being in a Union by having a Constitution, answering to the objections made by the Anti-federalists about separation of powers, and defending opposing arguments made against the characteristics of the executive and judicial branch as provided in the Constitution.
a. State when The Federalist was printed and published.
b. Discuss the intentions and purposes of The Federalist.
III. Argument for the benefit of a
a. A would guard against external dangers
b. A would guard against internal dangers
A. The “extended sphere” argument about how it will control factions. (Federalist 10)
IV. Argument of the problem with complete separation of powers
a. Anti-federalists wanted a complete separation of the judicial, executive, and legislative branches
b. The Federalist said the maxim of complete separation of powers is misunderstood. (Montesquieu)
c. The branches need some limited power of the other branches to protect themselves from encroachment of the other branches (Federalist 51)
A. The branches need to have the interests of maintaining their powers, and not letting the other branches take that away.
V. Argument for a single executive, and against a plural executive
a. Anti-federalists didn’t want a single executive, too much like a monarch
b. The Federalist need the executive to be “energetic” and a plural executive would make this impossible (Federalist 70)
A. It would take too long for the people in the executive position to make decision in an emergency, because they might disagree.
B. In a plural executive, it is hard to tell who is responsible for a wrongdoing because they can all blame each other, so a single executive would lead to more responsible behavior
VI. Argument in favor of judicial review and terms of good behavior for judges
a. Anti-federalists didn’t like judicial review and the term of good behavior
b. The Federalist argued that judicial review was necessary to protect the judicial branch from the Legislature.
c. A term of good behavior was necessary to get qualified people for the positions; it would also give them time to develop knowledge.
b. The dates of the ratification of the Constitution by the States
c. The Federalist’s influence beyond the ratification