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Different Types Of Outlines For Essays Paragraph

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Seven Types of Outlines

Check out the infographics of the seven main types of outlines (thanks to and think about how you might use them.

If you’re here, it’s probably because you want to learn a thing or two about pre-writing. Pre-writing is sometimes referred to as “outlining,” “planning,” “storyboarding,” or any number of other names. All of those things fall under the broad category of pre-writing. Things you do before you create a real “draft.”

Everyone has a different style when it comes to their writing process. The one main thing that determines which method you ultimately choose, is whether or not it works. What we’re going to do, is take a look at a few different methods, with the help of our friends at, and then take a couple of them out for a test-drive.

1. The Traditional Approach

This method involves dividing your story up into smaller parts, and creating mini-summaries for each part. This is great for longer stories, especially if you already have a good idea of where your story goes.

This method is ideal for getting all of your thoughts down, when an idea starts coming and you are worried that you’ll forget it.

There are many variations on this method--some people find that writing each chapter on a different page, or a new index card helps them stay organized; some writers find it beneficial to organize their mini-summaries with more structure, while others do not.

2. The Synopsis

This method is closer to a stream-of-consciousness approach (moving through the entire storyline at top-speed, trying to get all of the ideas out). The synopsis approach is a bit more refined than that, and focuses on creating a concise representation of your story that will help you, as the writer, remember the myriad details you ultimately want to include.

This method is especially useful for shorter stories. It can also be used to help plan further pre-writing techniques. A progression from a synopsis to a more detailed outline is common. (Some authors even complete that pattern in reverse, creating synopses as a later step to help promote their story.)

The trick to this method is to be aware of the most important elements of the story--not all stories will be driven by the same elements. Some stories depend on setting, characters, conflicts, mysteries, or other devices--some stories will hinge on different aspects or combinations of elements. If you haven't yet determined the driving forces behind your story you will figure them out by the time you finish a synopsis.

3. The Snowflake Method

This type of outline can be either highly organized and systematic, or messy and free-wheeling. The general idea is to start small, and expand out. This is great for when you come up with a specific idea for a story--a conflict, perhaps--and you want to explore the idea more. For some, this method is an active brain-storming exercise, in which the author is organizing and creating ideas at the same time.

The great part about this method is that in its more detailed format, it forces the writer to consider many different parts of the story.

The process generally starts with a one sentence summary of the story. Next, a full paragraph summary, and summaries for each character. (Each character should have a motivation or need of some kind; be faced with a conflict)

From here, continue to expand. Take a look at your one-paragraph synopsis. Does it need to be altered? Expand that summary so that each sentence is a paragraph. Eventually you will be expanding to individual scenes, and you’ll be ready to write a full draft!

4. The Three-Act Structure

This method of pre-writing is useful for organizing a story that hasn’t been fully developed yet. One of those stories where you know you have something, but you’re not completely sure what, yet.

This is another method that involves organizing and expanding at the same time. This method helps to make sure that your story has a dynamic plot-structure, and follows the basic three-act structure. Basically, you want to create a main conflict, with action that builds up to a climax, and ends with a resolution. This is a very simple description of a story-line, and can help writers to scaffold the ideas they have onto a concrete structure.

You may want to create more stringent guidelines for your outline--perhaps you want to include the plotlines of each character for each act, or maybe you decide to include a sub-conflict in each act. That depends on the writer, and, ultimately, the story.

5. The Hero's Journey

This method is somewhat more specialized than many of the others, and lends itself well to a certain type of story--namely, the Hero Story.

While this may seem restrictive, there are many stories that follow this basic format--and they don’t all end up sounding the same either!

The basic structure of this model is three parts. Part one, the hero receives some sort of call-to-action but refuses--“I’m not in that business anymore…” In part two, the hero finds motivation and undergoes a series of trials--training montage! In the third part, the hero triumphs over evil and returns to the life he or she used to lead--or something close to it.

This is a great model to expand from, if all you have so far is the basis for your hero story. And remember, a hero story doesn’t have to be a cliche!

6. The Freytag Model

This model is similar to the hero’s journey, and the three-act structure. It gives the writer some structure to guide their organization, but leaves the specifics up to the writer. If you want one section to be longer or shorter, that’s up to you. You can also skip over large sections with just a quick note, that will be expanded upon later. But the underlying goal is to make note of the over-arching sections of your story.

This model aims at creating an exposition or introduction (setting the stage); rising action, or development of conflict; climax (where the conflict comes to boiling-over point); falling action (the response to this conflict); and denouement (the resolution and tying up of loose ends).

With these sections accounted for, you have a pretty good idea of how your story is going to fit together, and you can add more details as you go.
Check out what Kurt Vonnegut has to say about the Shapes of Stories.

7. Draft Zero

Draft zero. The draft before the draft. This is the anti-outline, and some people find it liberating, creatively engaging, and hectic.

The point of this method is to just write. Ramble your story, and don’t worry about mistakes. They will be fixed later.

While using this method, feel free to use symbols, cross-outs, drawings, notes, and whatever other short-hand devices you might know. The point is to just get the story onto paper.

Some writers enjoy this method when they have been thinking about a story for a long time and know where it will go. Other writers use this method to try to fill in the blanks of their story on the fly.

But do real authors actually do this stuff? Do you really need to do all this planning if you’re a good writer?


Just like us, depending on the writer, and the type of story, famous authors use all sorts of pre-writing methods. Many stories will go through a number of these pre-writing methods before developing into a full draft.

Some authors start relatively sparsely:

(Henry Miller's Tropic of Capricorn plan)

While others end up with rather complex outlines:

(Joseph Heller's plot chart for Catch-22)

And some stories require a bit of creativity to outline effectively:

(Jack Kerouac's outline for what would become The Town and the City)

One thing is constant--good writing comes in many stages. No one writes a good story on their first try.

(Thanks to for the images!)

Check out some more hand-written outlines and diagrams from famous authors here and here.



What is a Cause and Effect Essay?

A cause and effect essay is the type of paper that author is using to analyze the causes and effects of a particular action or event. A curriculum usually includes this type of exercise to test your ability to understand the logic of certain events or actions.

If you can see the logic behind cause and effect in the world around you, you will encounter fewer problems when writing. If not, writing this kind of paper will give you the chance to improve your skillset and your brain’s ability to reason.

“Shallow men believe in luck or in circumstance. Strong men believe in cause and effect.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

In this article, we’ll find out how to create an outline for your cause and effect essay – the key to successful essay writing.

Types of the Cause and Effect Essay

Before writing this kind of essay, you need to draft the structure. A good structure will result in a good paper, so it’s important to have a plan before you start. But remember, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel: just about every type of structure has already been formulated by someone.

If you are still unsure about the definition of the essay, find that out with our guide: What is an Essay?

Generally speaking, there are three types of cause and effect essays. We usually differentiate them by the number of and relationships between the causes and the effects. Let’s take a quick look at the various kinds:

  1. Many causes, one effect

This kind of essay illustrates how different causes can lead to one effect. The idea here is to try and examine a variety of causes, preferably ones that come from different fields, and prove how they contributed to a particular effect. If you are writing about World War I, for example, mention the political, cultural, and historic factors that led to the great war.

By examining a range of fundamental causes, you will be able to demonstrate your mastery of the topic.

Here is how to structure this type of essay:

  • Introduction
  • Body
    • Cause #1
    • Cause #2
    • Cause #3 (and so on…)
    • The effect of the causes
  • Conclusion
  1. One cause, many effects

This type of cause and effect essay is constructed to show the various effects of a particular event, problem, or decision. Once again, you will have to demonstrate your comprehensive knowledge and analytical mastery of the field. There is no need to persuade the reader or present your argument. When writing this kind of essay, an in-depth knowledge of the problem or event’s roots will be of great benefit. If you know why it happened, it will be much easier to write about the effects.

Here is the structure for this kind of essay:

  • Introduction
  • Body
    • The Cause
    • Effect #1
    • Effect #2
    • Effect #3 (and so on…)
  • Conclusion
  1. Chain of causes and effects

This is the most challenging type. You need to maintain a chain of logic that demonstrates a sequence of actions and consequences, leading to the end of the chain. Although this is usually the most interesting kind of cause and effect essay, it can also be the most difficult to write.

Here is the outline structure:

  • Introduction
  • Body
    • Cause #1
    • Effect #1 = Cause #2
    • Effect #2 = Cause #3
    • Effect #3 = Cause #4 (and so on…)
  • Conclusion

Cause and Effect Essay Outline Example

Let’s take a look at an example. Below, you will find an outline for the topic “The causes of obesity” (Type 1):

  • Introduction: Nowadays, people are overweight because of their increasing consumption of unhealthy food, a lack of physical activity, and their refusal to work with fitness trainers.
  • Body:
    • Causes:
      1. People are eating a lot of unhealthy food that is cheap, easy-to-consume and contains a lot of calories. (Include statistics: how many people regularly consume unhealthy food.)
      2. People don’t move enough. Causes: inactive jobs, laziness, and not enough information about the consequences.
      3. People don’t want to visit a specialist. If they did, they would be informed about the causes of obesity and offered a plan to solve the problem.
    • Effect: Until those problems are solved, people will become more and more obese. (Include a prognosis about obesity rates over the next decade.)
  • Conclusion: Junk food, a lack of physical activity, and a refusal to visit a doctor are the three leading causes of obesity. We hope that the situation will change. (Include some examples of what each person can do about the problem)

As you can see, we used a blended strategy here. When writing about the ever-increasing consumption of unhealthy food, it is logical to talk about the marketing strategies that encourage people to buy fast foods. If you are discussing fitness trainers, it is important to mention that people need to be checked by a doctor more often, etc.

How do I start writing once I have drafted the structure?

If you start by structuring each paragraph and collecting suitable examples, the writing process will be much simpler. The final essay might not come up as a classic five paragraph essay – it all depends on the cause-effect chain and the number of statements of your essay.

In the Introduction, try to give the reader a general idea of what the cause and effect essay will contain. For an experienced reader, a thesis statement will be an indication that you know what you are writing about. It is also important to emphasize how and why this problem is relevant to modern life. If you ever need to write about the Caribbean crisis, for instance, state that the effects of the Cold War are still apparent in contemporary global politics.

In the Body, provide plenty of details about what causes led to the effects. Once again, if you have already assembled all the causes and effects with their relevant examples when writing your plan, you shouldn’t have any problems. But, there are some things to which you must pay particular attention. To begin with, try to make each paragraph the same length: it looks better visually. Then, try to avoid weak or unconvincing causes. This is a common mistake, and the reader will quickly realize that you are just trying to write enough characters to reach the required word count.

Moreover, you need to make sure that your causes are actually linked to their effects. This is particularly important when you write a “chained” cause and effect essay (type 3). You need to be able to demonstrate that each cause was actually relevant to the final result. As I mentioned before, writing the Body without preparing a thorough and logical outline is often an omission.

The Conclusion must be a summary of the thesis statement that you proposed in the Introduction. An effective Conclusion means that you have a well-developed understanding of the subject. Writing the Conclusion can be one of the most challenging parts of this kind of project. You typically write the Conclusion once you have finished the Body, but in practice, you will sometimes find that a well-written conclusion will reveal a few mistakes of logic in the Body!

Cause and Effect Essay Sample

Be sure to check the sample essay, completed by our writers. Use it as an example to write your own cause and effect essay. Link: cause and effect essay sample: advertising ethic issues.

Tips and Common Mistakes from Our Expert Writers

  • Pay attention to the language you use. Informal writing is not the best choice for this type of essay because they are academic works. But be aware that using an obscure vocabulary and complicated constructions can make your essay difficult to read.
  • Express your own opinions on a topic, not ones that belong to a researcher. The best way to do this is to be familiar with all the different research on the theme and use your critical thinking skills to construct your own arguments about the problem.
  • Don’t think you can write an excellent essay if you haven’t investigated the topic thoroughly. Dedicate time to reading the works of researchers who have studied the problem before you. If you do this, your readers will see that your essay is well-researched, and you will look more professional.
  • Don’t let the essay become illogical. This can happen to both beginners and advanced students. Beginners often don’t know enough to make the essay exciting and convincing, while more advanced students sometimes try to write everything that they know (ideas, history, theory, or facts). Make sure that your essay is logical, clear, and concise.