What Does an Analytical Essay Outline Consist of?

When you're looking for advice on writing an analytical essay one of the tips you'll see over and over again is "Make a good outline first." There's a reason for this - it's the most important advice you'll get. Analytical essays depend more on structure than most other types of writing and without an outline to guide you it's very easy to get badly off course.

What your outline lets you do is plan your essay in detail before you actually start writing it. By making headings for the information you need, then noting the information you already have, you can easily see what research you need to do. This saves time, because you aren't going to find yourself half way through writing the essay and suddenly realizing that you're going to have to start again because you're missing your most important argument. It also lets you work out in detail what order you are going to write things in and exactly what will be included in each section.

So, that's the purpose of the outline. What does it consist of? It's easiest to show this by breaking it down into parts.

  1. The Introduction. This is a single paragraph that gives an outline of what the essay is about, says what method was used and briefly states its conclusions. It doesn't include any details, just general statements.When making the outline the introduction is done last. This seems odd but really isn't. All the information contained in the introduction comes from later parts of the essay.
  2. The Thesis. This is the statement that the essay is discussing. If you already know what your conclusion will be you need to pick a thesis that lets you logically reach that conclusion. When you write the final essay the thesis is actually the last sentence of the introduction, but in making the outline it should be separate.
  3. The Main Body. This is where you present your evidence and discuss it point by point. When working on the outline you should list the points you want to discuss in order of importance; the most important should be discussed first. By doing this you start off with a strong argument, which has a good chance of convincing your readers, then use the others to reinforce it. If you start off with a  weak argument it will be harder to change people's minds later.
  4. The Conclusion. This is where you discuss what you think the main body leads to. It should be a short paragraph that briefly restates the main arguments in one or two sentences then gives the conclusion itself in short, clear sentences. Try to finish with suggestions for further reading.

If you use this outline template and add as much detail to it as you can before you start writing your final essay will be properly structured; it will also be easy to write, because by that stage you've done most of the work.

Posted by December 6th, 2016