How to Write a Paper Outline - Expert Tips

How to Write a Paper Outline - Expert Tips
Table of Contents
  1. How to Write a Paper Outline - Expert Tips
  2. 7 Benefits of Having a Paper Outline
  3. What to Start Paper Outline Writing with?
  4. Thesis Structure
  5. Question-like Structure
  6. Paper Outline Structural Points
  7. Introduction
  8. Body
  9. Conclusion

Many students face writing block when it comes to dealing with academic papers. Putting ideas in order, getting inspiration, arranging arguments in a logical sequence – this is where a paper outline can help you with. Apart from these, thoroughly written outline can help you produce a winning piece, without missing an important point in it. It performs many functions.

Any paper, whether it is a thesis, research work, article review, an essay, should have a clear structure. An outline helps the people catch your main point from the beginning of reading and remain “on your side” until the last sentence of your piece. From this point, an outline serves you as a strategy to keep the reader interested in your paper.

7 Benefits of Having a Paper Outline

  1. It defines paper structure;
  2. It helps you not to miss out important piece of information;
  3. An outline allows you to play around with the order of your arguments, choose the best one;
  4. An outline inspires;
  5. It allows you to write a paper step by step and not in one go;
  6. An outline makes the search and writing process easier;
  7. It helps you write a paper with a logical structure.

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What to Start Paper Outline Writing with?

To create detailed paper outline, it is necessary to break the piece into fragments, highlighting the main point of each separate section. Consider a paragraph as a short text proving/ highlighting a unique idea. It is important here that all sections are united by the main idea, which is logically developed within the whole text of the paper.

It is important to remember that outline reflects how your paper is built, contains short specific information about content of each part of it. By looking at an outline, you need catch up what a particular paragraph is going to be about. We recommend you to take a sheet of paper and sketch out rough outline now writing down your ideas. It should be the “skeleton” of the text one-page length. You can create several outlines, choose the final one to assists your writing goal the most.

There are two different approaches to how to write an outline:

  • Short thesis structure;
  • Question-like structure.

Thesis Structure

When creating paper outline, write down not separate words or 2-line sentences to a paragraph but short phrases. These should be specific and cover the main idea or topic you are going to convey in a particular section. Phrases are more suitable for the outline because they are short and informative at the same time.

In the outline, write down one-word combination per paragraph; keep in mind that their order will define the structure of your future piece. Outline is a kind of a semantic unity that carries information about your paper. An outline guides you on what to write about in the introduction, body, conclusion.

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paper outline essay

Question-like Structure

Another effective approach to writing paper outline is to formulate key messages per paragraph in a form of a question. You will understand what information you need to provide in each paper section to reply the question.

Paper Outline Structural Points

Due to the fact that any paper consists of introduction, body, conclusion; all the three major parts are to be reflected in an outline. Another important element of paper outline is a thesis statement. It should express the main idea of your writing supported by a number of arguments listed further in the paper. As a general rule, a thesis is placed in introduction and is one-sentence length. Cover all these elements in an outline.


The first paragraph of the text introduces the reader to the course of the case and brings him to the problem, which the paper is devoted to. The introductory paragraph should provide background information related to the topic and contain key idea you want to deliver to the reader (thesis statement). There’s no need to write long introduction. One or two paragraphs will be enough.

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It is the body that plays strategically important role in the paper. This part requires the most attention, especially when making outline to it. It can have a different structure:

  • Thesis-argumentation – In this case, you need to include your thought first, then prove it;
  • Reverse structure (facts-inference) – Describe the situation or list facts, then make a conclusion;
  • Thesis and several arguments (facts) – In this case, one idea is confirmed by several arguments. The thesis can go both prior and after the arguments.

By “thesis” we mean a short thought which the author wants to convey to the reader of the paper. “Argument” implies some proof of the thesis. It can be a situation from life, piece of news, scientific theory, or fact proven by science.

Ideally, one argument should be covered in one paragraph. You are free to support your thesis with any number of arguments; their number depends on your key message, the logic of the narrative, and the paper structure. However, it is important to maintain the consistency, laconism, and imagery of the text.

What is more, it is important that paragraphs in the body are logically connected with each other. You can go from simple to complex concepts, conduct analysis or synthesis, or use the method of deduction and induction. What is important here is that there is a logical bridge between the sections. In order to build a logical text, you need to:

  • Write down the abstract;
  • Choose several arguments for the main point;
  • Line up the main points in logical sequence.

Before you start working on the paper, check whether main points are arranged in a logical sequence and whether evidence is convincing enough. If not, feel free to play around with their order.


As a general rule, conclusion summarizes everything said in the paper. Here the author sums up everything together with the reader. It is important that conclusion is not contrived from zero and has a logical link to the body. We recommend you to restate thesis statement in the concluding paragraph to fix the result of your writing.