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Outline Structure for an Essay


Far from being a school chore, an essay allows you to convince a reader of your viewpoint about a particular topic by presenting your thoughts and arguments in a structured way. Essays have three main parts to their structure -- an introduction, the body of the report and the conclusion. In the outline stage of your essay, use this structure to make brief notes about what you're going to cover and the order in which you want to present your information. For the final draft of the essay, rewrite your notes as complete, grammatically correct sentences.

Introduction

The introduction to an essay grabs the reader's attention and persuades her to read further. In one or two introductory paragraphs, detail the context of the essay and your thesis statement. The context of your essay explains the topic you’ve chosen or the problem you’re solving and why it's important to know about or investigate. This is the motivation for people to read your essay. Your thesis statement is your spin on the topic, the view you're taking or the point or argument you're making. Explain your thesis in one or two clear sentences. After reading the introduction, the reader should know what the essay is about and the main point that you will be making.

Body

The body of an essay consists of a series of paragraphs that present your ideas about your thesis statement. Each paragraph covers just one idea, and there are as many paragraphs as you need to develop your thesis statement. Each paragraph starts with a transition sentence that flows from the previous paragraph. The paragraph continues with a topic sentence that contains the point that you're making in that paragraph. The following sentences support and explain the point. Include examples for illustration and discuss and analyze research that supports your point.

Conclusion

This is where you pull everything together. Start with a sentence reminding your reader of your thesis statement and follow with a very brief summary of your main points. Don’t introduce any new evidence or arguments, just reiterate what you've already presented. Tie it together with a few sentences about how all this supports your thesis. For a memorable ending to your essay, finish with a statement that provokes further thought in your reader. This could be something personal, such as what you've learned from writing this essay, or it could place your thesis in a larger context by explaining any wider implications or consequences of your thesis.

Tips

Write a brief draft introduction, with one or two sentences about context and your draft thesis statement. After you've finished the essay, review the introduction and make any changes. Often, the thesis statement changes in researching and writing the essay. Present the entire picture around your thesis statement by including research and examples that contradict it. Explain why this information doesn't change the point or argument you are making. It's not enough to have a well-structured essay; it must also be easily readable, with correct spelling, punctuation and grammar. Remember that you're not writing for yourself. Use words that your audience understands, and only use jargon if your intended audience uses it everyday.

About the Author

Christina Ash has been writing since 1982, throughout her career as a computer consultant, anthropologist and small-business owner. She has published work in various business, technology, academia and popular books and journals. Ash has degrees in computer science, anthropology and science and technology studies from universities in England, Canada and the United States.

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