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Structuring an essay

People who are gifted writers can pick up a pen or sit at a computer, simply start writing, and end up with a perfectly structured essay. These people are few and far between, and I know I’m definitely not one of them! So for us mere mortals, it becomes important before we start writing something to come up with a rough structure for how our essay is going to unfold.

At its simplest, an outline is just a list (not necessarily in order) of the major topics or points you’re going to cover in your essay. For instance, for an informative essay on Tyrannosaurus Rex, we might come up with a simple topic outline like this:

The real Tyrannosaurus Rex


The world 65 million years ago

Tyrannosaurus - physical description

Hunter or scavenger?


Pretty simple - each point represents what we might talk about for a paragraph in the essay. Already the outline gives us a rough idea of how long the essay might be - five paragraphs, in this case. This type of outline is often called a working outline. It’s usually not perfect, and doesn’t always cover every major detail, but it’s OK - you can work with it for the moment.