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Getting Started

What is an Outline?

An outline is a tool to help you plan your paper by organizing and developing your ideas. Outlining helps you see the big picture of your ideas and ensures that you have a solid structure for your paper before you start writing. While the level of detail in an outline may vary, the goal is usually to get your ideas and structure down rather than worry about full sentences.  

See an example of an essay outline and a fillable outline template you can download below:

Creating an Outline

Follow these steps to help you create your outline:

Once you've finished brainstorming, take some time to review your ideas and the research you have. Group similar information to help you see possible main points you can include in your paper. Cross out information that isn't as strong, seems redundant, or doesn't relate as well to other ideas. From the ideas you have left, you can begin to develop your thesis.


An image showing a list of ideas that are grouped based on similar themes using colours.

In this example, this student grouped information using colour:

  • blue for emotional benefits,
  • yellow for social benefits, and
  • pink for academic benefits.

Now you can see that there are three main points: emotional, social, and academic benefits of therapy dog programs.

While this student had another point (learning about a new job), they didn't really have enough information to support it, so they chose not to include it in their paper.

Developing a thesis is an important step because it presents your argument and outlines the main points you will address. A standard thesis requires the topic, focus, and main points:

Topic: What or who is my paper about?


Focus: The argument, opinion, position, or scope of your paper


Main Points: The supporting points your paper will include to prove your argument  

The brainstorming process allows the main points to become clear: that therapy dog programs help students emotionally, socially, and academically. From there, you can establish an argument - the point you want to make about the topic: Conestoga should implement therapy dog programs.


Conestoga College should implement therapy dog programming to help students emotionally, socially, and academically.

Due to the emotional, social, and academic benefits, Conestoga College should offer therapy dog programming to support student mental health.

Learn more about thesis statements.

Once you have a thesis and know what you want to prove in your essay, develop your analysis for any research you want to use. Analysis is crucial to developing and sustaining a persuasive argument. Analysis should be your own voice and should explain what the evidence means and/or why it's important.

Analysis makes sense of evidence by breaking it down and lets you explain what the evidence means and why it's important

Learn more about integrating and analyzing evidence.

When choosing the order of your main points, and as such, your body paragraphs, it is always important to think about what will make the most sense for your reader.

Learn more about essay structure and ordering body paragraphs.

Now you can use an outline template to organize and develop your ideas.  


  • Add (or delete) body paragraphs as needed. 
  • Add bullet points as needed. 
  • Using point form is usually okay (but check with your faculty just in case). The goal is to get your ideas down and organize them rather than worry about sentence structure and grammar. 


Moving From Outline to Essay

Paper Template

Once you feel confident with the ideas in your outline and the overall organization, you can turn your outline into an essay using full paragraphs. Use this paper template to help you make the transition from outline to essay:

Transitions and Cohesive Devices

Cohesion describes how specific sentences and ideas are connected. As you develop full paragraphs, use transition words and other cohesive devices to develop flow and logically tie ideas together.

Transition words and phrases are useful tools to help create cohesion in your writing. Here are some transition words and phrases that are commonly used in academic writing:

Transition Words
Meaning Function
to introduce an additional idea Also, besides, furthermore, moreover, in addition, another (+ noun), an additional (+ noun)
to introduce an opposite idea on the other hand, however, in contrast, instead, nevertheless, nonetheless, in spite of
to introduce a comparison Similarly, likewise, also, too
to introduce an example for example, for instance, to illustrate,
to emphasize Indeed, another, even more, above all, indeed, more importantly,
to introduce a conclusion or summary in conclusion, in summary, to conclude, to summarize,
to clarify chronological order first (second, etc.), next, last, finally, first of all, meanwhile, after that, since then, previously, then, later, before, to begin,
to indicate order of importance more/most importantly, above all,
to introduce an alternative Otherwise, alternately, conversely, nevertheless, however,
to introduce a cause or reason as a consequence of…, as a result of…, the effect of x on y is…, because of…, due to…
to introduce an effect or result Accordingly, thus, as a result, therefore, as a consequence, consequently,
to introduce a concession However, nonetheless, of course,
to introduce strong contrast However, in contrast, in / by comparison, on the other hand, on the contrary,
to summarize or conclude in summary, in brief, therefore, as a result, to sum up, in conclusion, altogether, as has been mentioned,

Repeating key words helps tie together the flow of thoughts in an essay. Although repeating a few key words can be useful, don’t overdo it!

Using appropriate pronouns (he, she, it, you, they…) connects ideas while avoiding needless repetition. Check for pronoun/noun agreement to make sure you have used the correct pronoun.

Using demonstratives, or pointing words, like this, these, and those helps you refer back to concepts, ideas, research, etc. that you previously mentioned in your writing, allowing you to create more connections for your reader. Be sure to include a noun after the demonstrative so it is clear what you are referring to.


… because petting animals encourages the production of chemicals essential to brain function, like prolactin, oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine. These mood-stabilizing chemicals assist…