C. Creating an Outline


  • Construct an argument that answers the writing prompt by arranging your notes linearly.
  • Unless your teacher wants a 5 paragraph essay (an introductory paragraph, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion paragraph), don’t feel constrained by that model.


Now that you’ve grouped your notes, thought about your transitions, and developed a high-powered thesis, its time to build the scaffold upon which you’ll structure your paper: the outline.

Some teachers prefer a standard 3 body paragraph format. Three is a nice number aesthetically, but there is nothing particularly magical about having three body paragraphs. Unless your teacher states that you must have a certain number of body paragraphs, don’t feel constrained by this 3 paragraph format. The number of body paragraphs you have should be determined by your research and how you grouped your notes, not by an arbitrary number. Have one main claim expressed in each paragraph.

Tip: Keep in mind that the outline needs to be flexible. Don’t feel constrained by your outline once it’s created. If you get a surge of inspiration part way through writing your paper and decide to take your paper in a new direction, go ahead and change your outline.

There are several different ways to format an outline, but the MLA method (below) is a solid way to do it. Note how easily all the previous work you’ve done (grouping your notes and thinking about transitions) slides into the outline format:


Links to sample outlines:



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