Why are outlines important in introductions?

This is the second of three lessons about thesis statement Outlines. To complete this course, read each lesson carefully and then unlock and complete our materials to check your understanding.   

– Discuss the importance of academic outlines

– Highlight the connection between outlines and main ideas

– Provide examples of how topic sentences and outlines are connected

Lesson 2

This second lesson on thesis statement outlines provides further explanation as to the purpose of using them in academic essays, with discussion about how their careful construction can improve an essay’s coherence and cohesion. Defined simply, a successful thesis statement outline should first contain the most salient main ideas from the body section of that essay so that the reader is able to better predict and understand the overall argumentation. To do this, an outline must succeed in both sufficiently paraphrasing each main idea and in presenting them in the same order as they appear throughout the essay body.

It’s worth noting that a well-written academic essay usually first places its main ideas in the initial topic sentences of each body paragraph so that the reader will be clear of those paragraphs’ content. Before submission, each of those main ideas should then be paraphrased (usually in the form of noun phrases) and grouped within the thesis statement outline so that the reader is also clear of the arguments’ connection and progression throughout the essay. Such criteria can be demonstrated successfully by using Lesson 1’s example thesis statement (a)

Outlines 2.1 Thesis Statement A Main Ideas

What this example shows is that the three italicised main ideas in our example outline are synonymous with the main ideas in our body-paragraph topic sentences and yet use different words or syntax. Notice additionally that the main ideas presented in the example body section above are also presented in identical order in our outline, improving both coherence and cohesion for the reader.

However, it’s not always the case that there’s such a clear match between the number of main ideas in a thesis statement outline and the number of body paragraphs. Indeed, sometimes two main ideas may be grouped into one paragraph (particularly if the essay has arguments and counter arguments), which is a structure that may not be obvious from the introductory outline. Please note that in such a scenario it’s preferable to leave an outline a little uncertain rather than be too explicit in describing the essay structure. The two versions of example thesis statement (b) below should exemplify this for you:

Outlines 2.2 Thesis Statement B Correct
Outlines 2.2 Thesis Statement B Too Explicit

While the blue example on the left is successful yet somewhat ambiguous in its outlined paragraph structure, the orange example on the right is decidedly too explicit in its attempt to solve this issue. Although this orange example has more clarity in its argumentative structure, the use of explicit language such as ‘the first body paragraph’ is awkward and should generally be avoided in academic writing. Provided the writer had additionally created clear topic sentences at the start of each body paragraph, the reader should be able to easily determine the following structure from the more ambiguous outline:

Outlines 2.3 Argument Structure

Having now discussed the importance of outlines, the third and final lesson on this topic offers five pieces of advice for writing effective essay roadmaps every time.

2 of 3 Lessons Completed


Once you’ve completed all three lessons about outlines, you might also wish to download our beginner, intermediate and advanced worksheets to test your progress or print for your students. These professional PDF worksheets can be easily accessed for only a few Academic Marks.

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Our outlines advanced worksheet with activities and answer keys has been created to check a sophisticated understanding of this topic’s lessons. 

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