Essay First Draft Outline Example

A first draft is a rough sketch of your future piece of writing. Sometimes your first draft may become the final one due to it being rather satisfactory, but in most cases, it requires further work. A first draft is a way to elaborate on the main points of your essay stated in your outline, giving them a sample form. It may seem paradoxical, but while being one of the most important stages of the writing process, most first drafts don’t require a tremendous attention to detail.

Steps for Writing a First Draft of an Essay

  1. Take a closer look at your assignment and the topic if it was given to you by your instructor. Revise your outline as well. This is needed for your clearer understanding of the tasks you must accomplish within the draft, and to make sure you meet the requirements of the assignment.
  2. Sketch out the introduction of your essay. At this point, don’t get stalled on form; introductory part should inform readers about what the topic is, and state your point of view according to this topic. The introduction should also be interesting to read to capture readers’ attention, but this task has more to do with thoughtful and scrupulous writing, and thus should be left for later.
  3. Based on your outline, start transferring your ideas to paper. The main task here is to give them the initial form and set a general direction for their further development, and not to write a full paper.
  4. Chalk out the summarizing paragraph of your essay. It should not contain any new ideas, but briefly reintroduce those from the main body, and restate your thesis statement.
  5. Read through the draft to see if you have included the information you wanted to, but without making any further corrections, since this is a task for the second and final drafts.

Key Points to Consider

  1. While an outline is needed to decide on what to write, the first draft is more about answering a question: “How to write?” In the first draft, you shape your ideas out, and not simply name and list them, as you did in an outline.
  2. When you start writing your thoughts down, it may happen that one idea or concept sparks new connections, memories, or associations. Be attentive to such sidetracks; choose those of them that might be useful for your writing, and don’t delve in those that are undesirable in terms of the purpose of your paper (academic, showing opinion). A successful piece of writing is focused on its topic, and doesn’t include everything you have to say on a subject.
  3. Making notes for yourself in the margins or even in the middle of the text is a useful practice. This can save you time and keep you focused on the essence of your essay without being distracted by secondary details. For example, such notes could look like this: “As documented, the Vietnam War cost the United States about … (search for the exact sum of money and interpret it in terms of modern exchange rates) U. S. dollars.”
  4. When you finish crafting your first draft, it is useful to put it aside and completely quit thinking about writing for a certain period of time. Time away will allow you to have a fresh look at your draft when you decide to revise it.

Do and Don’t

Do
  • Do revise your first draft if it looks too long. Indeed, if your first draft is lengthy—which is actually a rough sketch—imagine how long your paper will become if you expand on each idea chalked out and fill it with factual data.
  • Do reread the draft several times and return to the requirements of your assignment and topic if you feel you are getting stalled. Use brainstorming techniques to get out of writer’s block.
  • Do leave empty space in the text when writing. It may happen that you come across certain details that are necessary for your essay, but can be left out at the moment. To avoid being distracted by thoughts that are not connected with your focus, leave blank space in their place—you will be able to return to them later.
  • Do set a time limit for yourself. A reasonable deadline will help you work more intensely and make everything in time, and at the same time you will avoid overworking and intellectual exhaustion.
  • Do write the first draft as rapidly as you can. This point refers to the procedure of writing itself. When you stop to think over a certain phrase, you will most likely dig into details, analysis, and comparisons; you will start seeking for the best option for this particular phrase, thus forgetting about the rest of the draft.
Don’t
  • Don’t pay too much attention to punctuation, grammar, spelling, word choice, style of writing, and other minor peculiarities which completely don’t matter in the first draft; your thoughts on the subject is what matters at this point.
  • Don’t write your thoughts down in details. Usually it is enough to write down a couple of concise sentences to be able to return to a certain idea later without losing the discourse.
  • Don’t consider crafting a first draft of an essay as unnecessary. Even if you have an outline written, a draft is still necessary; while an outline helps you to figure out what to write about, the first draft can help you understand how to write. The first draft helps you to shape out your thoughts, and thus is a crucial part of the essay writing process.
  • Don’t wait for a special occasion to come for inspiration to draft your essay. You may feel discouraged, but treat it as “do or die.” Otherwise, you will constantly find justifications for doing nothing.

Common Mistakes When Writing a First Draft of an Essay

– Editing and revising a draft in process of writing. If you stop after each sentence to think it over, you will most likely lose your flow; besides, many people have an internal editor or critic who can’t stand it if the material is written imperfectly. Therefore, first you should deal with the whole draft, and only after that proofread and edit it.

– Paying too much attention to secondary arguments, factual material, and other minor peculiarities. The main goal of the first draft is to sketch out your main ideas; you can fill it with details later. If you think you will forget about an important fact or remark, make brief notes in margins.

– Ignoring the role of a first draft in the essay writing process. Though it may seem you are wasting time working on a draft, you are working on the essay itself. You need to understand how your outline works in full written form.

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An essay outline is probably the most important friend you will have while writing your essay. It is the scaffolding of your paper and the skeleton of your ideas. It is the framework by which you will write a killer essay. And frankly, it is difficult to write one without an outline.

How to Write an Outline


An outline is a general plan of the material that is to be presented in a speech or a paper. The outline shows the order of the various topics, the relative importance of each, and the relationship between the various parts.


Order in an Outline



There are many ways to arrange the different parts of a subject. Sometimes, a chronological arrangement works well. At other times, a spatial arrangement is best suited to the material. The most common order in outlines is to go from the general to the specific. This means you begin with a general idea and then support it with specific examples.


Thesis Statement of Summarizing Sentence


All outlines should begin with a thesis statement of summarizing sentence. This thesis sentence presents the central idea of the paper. It must always be a complete, grammatical sentence, specific and brief, which expresses the point of view you are taking towards the subject.


Types of Outlines



The two main types of outlines are the topic outline and the sentence outline. In the topic outline, the headings are given in single words or brief phrases. In the sentence outline, all the headings are expressed in complete sentences.


Rules for Outlining



1. Subdivide topics by a system of numbers and letters, followed by a period.

Example:

I.

    A.

    B.

        1.

        2.

            a.

            b.

II.

    A.

    B.

2. Each heading and subheading must have at least two parts.

3. Headings for parts of the paper of speech such as, Introduction and Conclusion, should not be used.

4. Be consistent. Do not mix up the two types of outlines. Use either whole sentences of brief phrases, but not both.








Examples




Topic Outline


Choices in College and After


Thesis: The decisions I have to make in choosing college courses, depend on larger questions I am beginning to ask myself about my life’s work.

    I. Two decisions described

A. Art history or chemistry

1. Professional considerations

2. Personal considerations


B. A third year of French?

1. Practical advantages of knowing a  foreign  language

2. Intellectual advantages

3. The issue of necessity


    II. Definition of the problem

A. Decisions about occupation

B. Decisions about a kind of life to lead


    III. Temporary resolution of the problem

A. To hold open a professional possibility: chemistry

B. To take advantage of cultural gains already made: French










Sentence Outline



Choices in College and After



Thesis: The decisions I have to make in choosing college courses, depend on larger questions I am beginning to ask myself about my life’s work.

I. I have two decisions to make with respect to choosing college courses in the immediate future.


A. One is whether to elect a course in art history or in chemistry.

1. One time in my life, I planned to be a chemical engineer professionally.

2. On the other hand, I enjoy art and plan to travel and see more of it.


B. The second decision is whether to continue a third year of French beyond the basic college requirement.

1. French might be useful both in engineering and travel.

2. Furthermore, I am eager to read good books which are written in French.

3. How necessary are these considerations in the light of other courses I might take instead?


II. My problem can be put in the form of a dilemma involving larger questions about my whole future.


A. On the one hand I want to hold a highly-trained position in a lucrative profession.

B. On the other hand I want to lead a certain kind of life, with capacities for values not connected with the making of money.


III. I will have to make a decision balancing the conflicting needs I have described.


A. I will hold open the professional possibilities by electing chemistry.

B. I will improve and solidify what cultural proficiency in another language I have already gained, by electing French.

How to Write an Outline

An outline breaks down the parts of your thesis in a clear, hierarchical manner. Most students find that writing an outline before beginning the paper is most helpful in organizing one's thoughts. If your outline is good, your paper should be easy to write.

The basic format for an outline uses an alternating series of numbers and letters, indented accordingly, to indicate levels of importance. 

Here is an example of an outline on a paper about the development of Japanese theater:

OUTLINENOTES
I. Thesis: Japanese theater rose from a popular to elite and then returned to a popular art form.The thesis is stated in the first section, which is the introduction.
  • II. Early theatrical forms
    • A. Bugaku
    • B. Sarugaku
    • C. Primitive Noh
    • D. Authors and Audience
  • III. Noh theater
    • A. Authors
    • B. Props
      • 1. Masks
        • a. women
        • b. demons
        • c. old men
      • 2. Structure of Stage
    • C. Themes
      • 1. Buddhist influence
      • 2. The supernatural
    • D. Kyogen interludes
    • E. Audience
  • IV. Kabuki
    • A. Authors
    • B. Props
      • 1. make-up
      • 2. special effects
    • C. Themes
      • 1. Love stories
      • 2. Revenge
    • D. Audience
  • V. Bunraku (puppet) theater
    • A. Authors
    • B. Props
    • C. Themes
      • 1. Love stories
      • 2. Historical romances
    • D. Audience
The body follows the introduction, and breaks down the points the author wishes to make.
Note that some section have subdivisions, others do not, depending on the demands of the paper.
In this outline, II, III, & IV all have similar structure, but this will not necessarily be true for all papers. Some may only have three major sections, others more than the five given here.
VI. ConclusionYour conclusion should restate your thesis, and never introduce new material.








When you begin writing an essay outline, use the following model as a guide:

I. INTRODUCTION:

Thesis:_____________________________________________________.

II. BODY PARAGRAPH 1:

Opening Sentence:___________________________________________.

Detail 1:____________________________________________________.

Detail 2:____________________________________________________.

Detail 3:____________________________________________________.

III. BODY PARAGRAPH II:

Transition/Opening Sentence:_________________________________.

Detail 1:____________________________________________________.

Detail 2:____________________________________________________.

Detail 3:____________________________________________________.

IV. BODY PARAGRAPH III:

Transition/Opening Sentence:_________________________________.

Detail 1:____________________________________________________.

Detail 2:____________________________________________________.

Detail 3:____________________________________________________.

V. BODY PARAGRAPH IV:

Transition/Opening Sentence:_________________________________.

Detail 1:____________________________________________________.

Detail 2:____________________________________________________.

Detail 3:____________________________________________________.

VI. CONCLUSION:

Reconfirmed Thesis:_________________________________________.

If you use this rough guide and fill in the blanks as you are researching your essay, you will find writing the essay so simple. You have all you need in front of you. It is researched and organized. All you have to do now is fill in the blanks with transition words and smooth language.

SOURCES

http://www.bookrags.com/articles/2.html

http://www.essaywritinghelp.com/outline.htm

http://www.suite101.com/content/how-to-write-an-essay-outline-a98961

http://www.albany.edu/eas/170/outline.htm

http://www.lavc.edu/library/outline.htm



- Updated by Vince on Sat 20 Aug 2016


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