How To Write an Outline for an Argumentative Essay

Outline for an Argumentative Essay

Why It Is Important to Compose a Good Outline

The main thing every student must remember about argumentative essays is that you need to display decent research capabilities when creating one, in addition to writing skills and proper grammar. A strongly recommended first step is to create an outline. It forms the basic structure of the essay and contains its main elements, briefly described and connected with logical transitions. Once you finish and review it, it will be much easier to turn it into a high quality essay.

What Does a Typical Outline Consist Of?


This part of the essay should not take more than 20-25% of the text, so it should be outlined in just a few short sentences. Write down your main statement, mention why your topic should be interesting or captivating for your readers and include main points of how the topic will be introduced: 

  • title and author’s name – if you are reviewing a book,
  • main actors and timeline – when talking about a political or social event,
  • technical details – when talking about a computer- or Internet-related issues, and so on.

Background Paragraph

This part is not mandatory but generally it is useful to provide a broader context for your arguments. You might want to define key terms, explain your connection to the problem or your in-depth knowledge about it, or add some explanations about your sources if needed.

Supporting Evidence Paragraphs

Here is where the main part of your essay begins. It is crucial to keep your readers’ attention at this point so that they could fully appreciate the quality of your work. That is why you should make it well-structured and concise, not boring but going straight to the point. Better to follow these simple steps:

  1. Pick the first of your sources which strengthen your position. The order is up to you: it might be chronological or based on sources’ credibility, or use some other approach. The main rule is to keep the entire structure of the outline logical and understandable to your audience.
  2. Describe the information that you have retrieved from it to support your argument. Do not be wordy at this stage, you will turn it into a full-size text after having completed and reviewed your outline. But feel free to pick your citations so that you would not have to search for them later.
  3. Repeat the same for each one of your sources. Be sure to estimate the resulting volume of your essay in case you have any restrictions on the number of words, pages etc.
  4. Regardless of the order of your sources, make sure you highlight parallels or connections between them. This helps to show why you have chosen them and to improve the structure of your essay.

One of best practices of argumentative essay writing is paying attention to counterarguments, especially when they are evident and well known to your audience (e.g. when writing about the gun control controversy). Addressing opposite opinions in your essay usually makes it less biased and more persuasive. So pick up a few opposing sources and briefly review their arguments in your outline as well, following the same steps listed above.


This part is for summarizing the arguments and counterarguments from the main part. You will have to make a quick review of their main points, highlighting their strong and weak places when appropriate and showing how all of those defend your position. For an outline, it will be enough to make a list of these points followed by your short comments. New citations should also be added here in case you would need them.

The conclusion must also contain your explanation why you think that your arguments are fully supporting your main claim – the same one you have made in the introduction – and why your position is not weakened by the counterarguments you have reviewed. Express this in your outline in just a couple of sentences, making sure that your idea is clear for your readers. You will be able to add all smaller details and extra definitions when writing the full text. However, make sure that you do not bring too much new information or some additional claims that would require extra sources to get confirmed. Remember that your conclusion should summarize the main part and correspond to the introduction of your outline. Making it logical and well structured from the start will help you a lot when reviewing your outline and completing your essay. This way a greater part of the job gets done at the early stage!


Usually there are more or less strict requirements for source citing in argumentative essays. It is not mandatory to include a reference list into your outline; however it would be wise to write down all the necessary information about your source after you pick a citation from it. It will save you some time in the end!

Is It Hard to Make a Great Outline?

Following the steps and guidelines listed above is not rocket science! Remember, when writing an outline you just put your general ideas on the paper prior to composing the full text version with every small detail. It is actually much easier to carefully think it through first, make a brief but concise structure and after that to compose your essay word by word. This way you understand the purpose of each sentence and avoid making logical mistakes or providing unnecessary details. Thus a little effort with implementing this advanced approach saves you much time in the long run!

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