Great writing starts with a great outline
By Lisa Brown
Once you’ve decided on your topic and wrote down an impactful thesis, it’s time to create the foundation upon which you will write your content.
Writing an outline for an essay or a book is very similar as the only difference is the length or amount of words.
With an essay, you are usually required to write an introduction, three paragraphs and a conclusion. As you know, writing a book includes many chapters, but ultimately, you also need a beginning, middle and ending.
Even though the middle might be where the difference comes in, the process is almost identical.
Don’t be afraid to use a free paraphrase generator as these tools help us prepare more effectively. Now, let’s get into how you create your outline.
Start with all the basic information
Write down the date, name, class or module, and any extra information you feel is necessary. This does not include any information about the essay or book yet, but it’s necessary to have on your outline.
You might be working on various class essays or projects at the same time, and you want to quickly look at this information and see which one it is you are working with. This is also important for your teacher or publisher to check who is sending the information.
Thesis / Synopsis
Your thesis argument should be solid and provide the reader with information on what to expect when they read your essay or book. It does not need to be a long, drawn out statement, but it should communicate a clear message.
You can find a paraphrasing tool online free of charge, to help you word your thesis better. When you write down your thesis, be sure that you are able to argue your point.
When writing a book, you might relate to this section more if you think of it as a synopsis. This is a short summary of what your book is about.
Some publishers will have a set number of words, while others leave it up to the author. Check with the publishing house you want to work with and make sure your synopsis fits their requirements.
First paragraph / Chapter
Your opening paragraph is probably one of the most important sections of your writing project. This is where you hook the reader and create the spark.
Many readers will form an opinion about your writing on the first paragraph, and it is important to convince them that your thesis is correct. Once you have convinced the readers of your thesis, you are able to keep them interested throughout the essay or book.
Focus on your strongest point in your first paragraph to set all doubts aside. There are times I have to reword my essay if there isn’t enough punch to my first paragraph.
As this paragraph also stands as your introduction, it is important to introduce the readers to your way of thinking. Once you’ve stated your most valuable fact, you can move on to the rest of your paragraphs or chapters.
The Body / Middle
Now that you have started with your most compelling paragraph and fact, it is time to add more information. Do not think that the body of your work does not need to be strong.
If you are writing an essay or a book, there are always other people competing with you. If you are a student in the class, you want to be one of the top students. Being an author is not any easier because there are many writers out there trying to get published.
Do proper research to prove your thesis, and this is the section where you will state most of those facts. Seeing as this is just the outline for what will eventually be the final product, you need to make sure you understand the flow and structure. You can jot down ideas or facts and insert it into these paragraphs.
Your work needs to have a flow to it, and this is where you create that flow. The body is where you organize your thoughts. You already know your thesis and your opening fact, but what else do you want to say and in which order do you want to say it?
After you’ve created an outline for all of your chapters, it is time to start your conclusion. Your conclusion should basically sum up all the facts you stated in the essay or book.
Do not be afraid to remind the reader of you most impactful facts. This is a summary of what has been discussed and to leave the reader on a high. You cannot start with a bang and then slowly lose your audience at the end.
Use the hook you started with and let them know why they chose to write your piece till the end.
Call to Action
Once you have convinced your readers that your thesis is correct, what actions would you like for them to take? You provided great facts in your writing, and the audience will start thinking about your point of view more. Now you have to direct them to test your theory for themselves.
There is no difficulty in creating a great outline once you have your structure right. You can also go online and look at some examples and apply it to your own work. There is no right or wrong way to do an outline if you have a flow to your work.
You do an outline to prevent rambling in your writing or stating random facts that do not create any type of flow. Your final draft will come much later than your outline so do not rush the process. With that being said, your outline also makes writing later much easier.
You can take each heading as a new project and focus on your transition to the next section. When you write the ending sentence of a paragraph, think about the opening sentence of the next one. This way you know that there will be no sharp endings, but rather a smooth transition between paragraphs.
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Lisa Brown works as a content manager. She is specialized on writing useful articles for writers, students and people who want to improve their writing skills. Her hobby is reading, travelling and blogging. Lisa`s life motto is “Never stop learning, because life never stops teaching”.
You’ve been staring at your blank computer screen for what feels like hours, trying to figure out how to start your analytical essay. You try to choose between writing the introduction first or getting right into the meat of it. But somehow, it seems too difficult to do either.
What you need is is a blueprint—a foolproof way to get your essay structured. Then all you have to do is fill in the blanks.
By Anonymous [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
What an Analytical Essay Is—And What It Isn’tBefore we get to the good stuff, you should know exactly what an analytical essay is. Your middle school and high school teachers probably told you something like, “An analytical essay is writing that analyzes a text.”
Helpful, right? Um, not so much.
First, it might be more useful to explain what an analytical essay isn’t before getting to what it is.
An analytical essay isn’t a summary. Though this may seem obvious in theory, it’s more difficult in practice. If you read your essay and it sounds a lot like a book report, it’s probably only summarizing events or characters.
One way to figure out if you’re summarizing instead of analyzing is to look at your support. Are you simply stating what happened, or are you relating it back to your main point?
Okay, so what is an analytical essay, exactly?
Usually, it’s writing that has a more narrowed focus than a summary. Analytical essays usually concentrate on how the book or poem was written—for example, how certain themes present themselves in the story, or how the use of metaphor brings a certain meaning to a poem.
In short, this type of essay requires you to look at the smaller parts of the work to help shed light on the larger picture.
An example of a prompt—and the example I’m going to use for the rest of this post—could be something like: Analyze the theme of sacrifice in the Harry Potter series. (Note: there might be some spoilers, but I figured everyone who was planning on reading the books has done so already—or at least has seen the movies.)
One Way To Form Your Analytical Essay Outline
There are quite a few ways to organize your analytical essay, but no matter how you choose to write it, your essay should always have three main parts:
I’ll get into the nitty-gritty of this soon, but for all you visual learners, here is a nice representation of all the components that make a great analytical essay outline.
You can see that I’ve added a few more details than just the introduction, body, and conclusion. But hold your horses—we’re getting to those parts right now.
Introduction of Your Analytical Essay Outline
The purpose of your introduction is to get the reader interested in your analysis. The introduction should include at least three things—a hook, your thesis statement, and a sentence or two describing how you intend to prove your thesis statement.
1. You gotta hook ‘em from the start. The first part of your introduction should draw the reader in. This is called the hook.
The hook should be interesting or surprising. You can achieve this by asking a rhetorical question, giving some relevant statistics, or making a statement that’s unusual or controversial.
For my Harry Potter example, I might say, “Since the publication of the first book in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, some Christian groups have attacked the books for promoting witchcraft. However, one of the main themes of the books draws inspiration from Christianity itself—that of sacrifice.”
Okay, so that’s two sentences. But it’s got a little bit of controversy and relates to what the rest of the essay will discuss.
2. Get to the good stuff—write a killer thesis statement. Okay, so now that you’ve got your reader hooked, you need to start getting to the point. This is where the thesis statement comes in.
My thesis might be, “The theme of sacrifice is prevalent throughout the series and is embodied as sacrifice for the greater good, sacrifice for an ultimate gain, and sacrifice to keep a promise.”
3. It’s time to back up your thesis. Let the reader know how you’re going to prove your claim.
For my example, I would let the reader know that I intend to analyze the instances of Harry’s “death,” Voldemort’s sacrifice of his soul in exchange for immortality, and how Snape sacrifices in order to honor a promise made to Lily Potter.
These points will be the building blocks of the body paragraphs.
Body of Your Analytical Essay Outline
The body is where you can start to get really creative and play around with formatting.
In the flowchart, there are three body paragraphs. But that’s because I was trained in the 5-paragraph outline. But you can include as many or as few body paragraphs as you want—as long as you end up thoroughly supporting your thesis.
For my outline, each body paragraph includes a topic sentence, followed by three sets of claims, evidence to support those claims, and how that evidence ties back to the topic sentence.
Again, three is not necessarily a magic number here. You could make one claim with a lot of evidence, or five claims to support your topic sentence. But let’s get into it, shall we?
1. Develop a strong topic sentence. Each topic sentence in each body paragraph of your analytical essay outline should tell the reader exactly what that section is going to be about.
My first body paragraph might start with, “Harry Potter is willing to fulfill prophecy and make the ultimate sacrifice—that of his life—in order to save the rest of the wizarding world.”
2. Make your claim. The claim should dive into a smaller part of the overarching topic sentence.
The topic sentence I gave can be broken down into several smaller claims—that Harry knew that he was fulfilling prophecy, that he was actually willing to die, and that his death would be of profound significance.
3. Provide evidence from the text to back your claim. You can’t just go around making claims without any support. You can use quotes or paraphrase parts of the text to add evidence.
For evidence that Harry knew that he was fulfilling prophecy, you could cite the instance in the hall of prophecies with the quote, “and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives.”
4. Tie that evidence to the topic sentence. You have to make it absolutely clear why you included the evidence. If you don’t, your analytical essay runs the risk of being a summary.
For example, with the citing of the prophecy, I would tell the reader that Harry and his friends found said prophecy and figured out that it had to be about him (although there are objections that it could’ve been referring to Neville, but we’ll leave that out of this example). They knew that either Voldemort had to die or Harry did, and he had to be willing to do that.
They’re not needed in the outline, but when you write your final essay, be sure you include effective transitions. This will help your essay flow.
Conclusion of Your Analytical Essay Outline
After you’ve built up all of your body paragraphs, given the appropriate evidence to back your claims, and tied that evidence to your awesome topic sentences, you’re ready to wrap it all up.
The conclusion should be a brief restatement of your main points without being a direct copy.
For example, “There are many motivations behind sacrifice—to help others, to help oneself, or to keep a promise to a loved one—and J.K. Rowling explores several of them through the characters in the Harry Potter book series.”
This, of course, does not suffice as a full conclusion. To fill it out and give the reader a sense of closure, you can relate the theme to the real world or end with a final quote from the text or the author.
Use This Downloadable Analytical Essay Outline as a Guide
Easy, right? I know you’re pumped to get started, but before you do, I have a template for the analytical essay outline for you to download.
Download the Analytical Essay Outline Template PDF
Download the Analytical Essay Outline Template (.doc)
Of course, your instructor’s directions will trump mine, so if they say to do something a specific way, I won’t be offended if you take their advice over mine.
Need more help? Check out these analytical essay examples.
And don’t forget about the Kibin editors. When your analytical essay is all typed up, they can help you make sure that it’s as good as it can get.
Now… get to it!
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