Outlining an essay before you write it helps you organize the essay so it flows easily and with a sense of purpose. The five-paragraph essay is a standard essay structure that setups its purpose in an introductory paragraph, provides support in three body paragraphs, and forms broader conclusions in the final paragraph. A five-paragraph essay outline should include all of these components and help you design the basic structure of each.
Begin by writing out the titles of each of the five paragraphs. Space the paragraph titles out so you have room to write notes underneath each. These five titles should be: "Introduction," "Body Paragraph 1," "Body Paragraph 2," "Body Paragraph 3" and "Conclusion."
Write the essay's overall thesis statement next to or underneath the "Introduction" title. This statement should represent the purpose of the essay in a single sentence. For example, "The eco-consumerism movement has re-branded standard materialism with a facade of environmental ethics" works as a broad thesis statement to be included in an introduction and then supported by the body paragraphs.
Write topic sentences for each body paragraph to the right of each body paragraph title. Use this opportunity to ensure each body paragraph builds on the previous paragraph. For example: "Body Paragraph 1: There has been a significant rise in eco-consumerism in the past decade," "Body Paragraph 2: Eco-consumerism has changed the way companies market their products," and "Body Paragraph 3: The profitability of eco-consumerism is a greater motivator of eco-friendly business practices than genuine concern for the environment."
List the supporting information that you plan to include in each body paragraph underneath the body paragraph titles in brief phrases. Use bullet-points to create a clear list structure. This information includes: examples that you plan to use to support the paragraphs' topic sentences, scholarly literature you plan to draw from, quotes you plan on using, and any other information that helps build your argument.
List any broader implications of the essay underneath the "Conclusion" title. Write why the information in the essay matters or deserves attention. List any related questions that arise out of the information in the essay and deserve further exploration.
- If your outline must be turned in for a grade, revise it carefully to remove spelling or grammatical errors. Use the style guide recommended by your instructor.
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