Basic Essay Writing Guide – Step 2: Organizing Your Ideas with an Outline Or Diagram


Once you have the topic or subject of your essay, you’re ready to begin organizing your thoughts and ideas into an outline or diagram. You’ll want to get your ideas down so you can sort through them later, so get a pencil and paper ready!

The basic premises of an outline or diagram is to get your ideas organized, but how your thoughts and ideas go down on paper may change by the time your essay is completed. This may seem like a lot of word upfront, but it will give you a clear direction when writing your essay. One method may work better over the other for you, but lets look at both methods and how best to set them up.

The Outline

  1. Write your topic or subject at the top of the page.
  2. Using Roman numerals, such as I, II, III, etc write these down the page with space in between each. Skip a few lines at least between each of them so there is enough room to write the ideas down next to them.
  3. The Roman numerals should have the main ideas or points of your topic next to them. These are the points that you want to make in your essay.
    1. For a persuasive essay, these should be your best arguments on your chosen topic.
    2. For an explanation essay, these should be the steps that are taken to complete the task or explain how something works. These may need to be grouped into categories of steps, such as beginning, middle and end.
    3. For a compare and contrast essay, these should be the major points of similarities and differences between the chosen topics.
    4. For a descriptive or informational essay, these should be broken into the categories you will be describing.
    5. For a classification essay, these should be the different classes your information is broken into.
  4. After you have completed these steps, there should next be A, B, C, etc below the Roman numerals.
  5. Next to these letters should be the facts that support your main ideas.

Outline Example for a Essay or Thesis

Outline Example for a Essay or Thesis

Once the outline is complete, then you will be ready to move onto step 3.

>Go to Step 3: The Introduction

The Diagram

  1. In the middle of the page draw a circle.
  2. In the circle write the subject or topic of the essay.
  3. Draw three or four lines coming off the circle, make sure there is room between each line around the circle.
  4. Off of each line, draw another circle.
  5. Inside these circles write the main ideas of the essay about your topic. Again, these are the main points you want to make in the essay.
    1. At this point, these circles will follow the same format as the outline form above in step 3, a through e.
  6. From these circles there will be more lines and circles, the same as the step 4 above with the letters after the Roman numerals.
  7. These circles will have the facts that support the main ideas of your topic.
Diagram Example for a Essay or Thesis

Diagram Example for a Essay or Thesis

Once this is completed, you can move onto step 3 of writing your essay.

>Go to Step 3: The Introduction

20 Responses to Basic Essay Writing Guide – Step 2: Organizing Your Ideas with an Outline Or Diagram

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  12. Sherri

    It seems that most people prefer the diagram. I prefer the roman numerals though. I guess it’s almost the same as drawing the diagram. For me the difference is it’s more convenient and you can point out the info that will come first.

  13. JohnK

    I also use the diagram. It save me a lot of time and efforts. And I think everybody should use this method to write high quality college essays

  14. Dave

    This method will made my word easier for sure. I draw some lines, but this is something different. Thank you for improving my essay writing .

  15. naomi

    I like the diagram method…. it helps me to organize my thoughts better

  16. harry

    hmmmm very interesting! i prefer the outline method

  17. Ben

    Oh, that’s a great idea of outlining your ideas with a diagram. They didn’t teach that to me in school!

  18. undercoveragent

    We were taught to us the diagram method at school, however, my teacher called it a Spider Diagram as when fully drawn it looks kinda like a spider.

  19. Fil

    I guess an outline is really important in organizing your thoughts. The diagram is interesting. It’s an easier way of checking the ideas that are the most important up to the supporting details. Great!

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