Creating an outline is an essential part of the writing process, but it can be daunting when you don’t know where to begin. These five steps will help get you started!

1. Craft a thesis statement. A thesis is the central focus of your paper, and it will help you organize the rest of your ideas. Your thesis should be succinct and focused. Refer to our “How to Write a Thesis Statement” source for more information.

2. Write out your main ideas. These are the essential points you will cover in the body paragraphs of your paper. Depending on the paper’s length, you could have anywhere from three to six different ideas to discuss.

3. Organize your outline. This is a chance for you to arrange your ideas in the way you will present them. Include a section for an introduction; your main ideas; and a conclusion. Make sure the order of your body paragraphs has a cohesive flow and that transitions between different sections make sense.

4. Add supporting information. Include specific details that you will incorporate into your body paragraphs, as well as any quotes that will strengthen your argument. Don’t forget to use in-text citations when using quotes or ideas that are not your own.

5. Review and revise. Now take the time to review your outline to make sure you’ve included everything you plan to cover in your paper and to find mistakes that need fixing. Pro tip: Reading your paper aloud helps you catch errors that might have missed by simply reading it in your head. Make changes as necessary.

You’ve completed your foolproof outline! You’re now on your way to constructing a meaningful and thought-out paper that will wow the professor!