Essay Writing Guide

Essay Outline

Last updated on: Jun 10, 2023

A Complete Essay Outline - Guidelines and Format

By: Nova A.

13 min read

Reviewed By: Melisa C.

Published on: Jan 15, 2019

Essay Outline

To write an effective essay, you need to create a clear and well-organized essay outline. An essay outline will shape the essay’s entire content and determine how successful the essay will be.

In this blog post, we'll be going over the basics of essay outlines and provide a template for you to follow. We will also include a few examples so that you can get an idea about how these outlines look when they are put into practice.

Essay writing is not easy, but it becomes much easier with time, practice, and a detailed essay writing guide. Once you have developed your outline, everything else will come together more smoothly.

The key to success in any area is preparation - take the time now to develop a solid outline and then write your essays!

So, let’s get started!

Essay Outline

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What is an Essay Outline?

An essay outline is your essay plan and a roadmap to essay writing. It is the structure of an essay you are about to write. It includes all the main points you have to discuss in each section along with the thesis statement.

Like every house has a map before it is constructed, the same is the importance of an essay outline. You can write an essay without crafting an outline, but you may miss essential information, and it is more time-consuming.

Once the outline is created, there is no chance of missing any important information. Also, it will help you to:

  • Organize your thoughts and ideas.
  • Understand the information flow.
  • Never miss any crucial information or reference.
  • Finish your work faster.

These are the reasons if someone asks you why an essay outline is needed. Now there are some points that must be kept in mind before proceeding to craft an essay outline.

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Prewriting Process of Essay Outline

Your teacher may ask you to submit your essay outline before your essay. Therefore, you must know the preliminary guidelines that are necessary before writing an essay outline.

Here are the guidelines:

  • You must go through your assignments’ guidelines carefully.
  • Understand the purpose of your assignment.
  • Know your audience.
  • Mark the important point while researching your topic data.
  • Select the structure of your essay outline; whether you are going to use a decimal point bullet or a simple one.

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How to Write an Essay Outline in 4 Steps

Creating an essay outline is a crucial step in crafting a well-structured and organized piece of writing. Follow these four simple steps to create an effective outline:

Step 1: Understand the Topic

To begin, thoroughly grasp the essence of your essay topic. 

Break it down into its key components and identify the main ideas you want to convey. This step ensures you have a clear direction and focus for your essay.

Step 2: Brainstorm and Gather Ideas

Let your creativity flow and brainstorm ideas related to your topic. 

Jot down key pieces of information, arguments, and supporting evidence that will strengthen your essay's overall message. Consider different perspectives and potential counterarguments to make your essay well-rounded.

Step 3: Organize Your Thoughts

Now it's time to give structure to your ideas. 

Arrange your main points in a logical order, starting with an attention-grabbing introduction, followed by body paragraphs that present your arguments. 

Finally, tie everything together with a compelling conclusion. Remember to use transitional phrases to create smooth transitions between sections.

Step 4: Add Depth with Subpoints

To add depth and clarity to your essay, incorporate subpoints under each main point. 

These subpoints provide more specific details, evidence, or examples that support your main ideas. They help to further strengthen your arguments and make your essay more convincing.

By following these four steps - you'll be well on your way to creating a clear and compelling essay outline.

Essay Outline Format

It is an easy way for you to write your thoughts in an organized manner. It may seem unnecessary and unimportant, but it is not.

It is one of the most crucial steps for essay writing as it shapes your entire essay and aids the writing process.

An essay outline consists of three main parts:

1. Introduction

The introduction body of your essay should be attention-grabbing. It should be written in such a manner that it attracts the reader’s interest. It should also provide background information about the topic for the readers.

You can use a dramatic tone to grab readers’ attention, but it should connect the audience to your thesis statement.

Here are some points without which your introduction paragraph is incomplete.

To attract the reader with the first few opening lines, we use a hook statement. It helps engage the reader and motivates them to read further. There are different types of hook sentences ranging from quotes, rhetorical questions to anecdotes and statistics, and much more.

Are you struggling to come up with an interesting hook? View these hook examples to get inspired!

A thesis statement is stated at the end of your introduction. It is the most important statement of your entire essay. It summarizes the purpose of the essay in one sentence.

The thesis statement tells the readers about the main theme of the essay, and it must be strong and clear. It holds the entire crux of your essay.

Need help creating a strong thesis statement? Check out this guide on thesis statements and learn to write a statement that perfectly captures your main argument!

2. Body Paragraphs

The body paragraphs of an essay are where all the details and evidence come into play. This is where you dive deep into the argument, providing explanations and supporting your ideas with solid evidence. 

If you're writing a persuasive essay, these paragraphs will be the powerhouse that convinces your readers. Similarly, in an argumentative essay, your body paragraphs will work their magic to sway your audience to your side.

Each paragraph should have a topic sentence and no more than one idea. A topic sentence is the crux of the contents of your paragraph. It is essential to keep your reader interested in the essay.

The topic sentence is followed by the supporting points and opinions, which are then justified with strong evidence.

3. Conclusion

When it comes to wrapping up your essay, never underestimate the power of a strong conclusion. Just like the introduction and body paragraphs, the conclusion plays a vital role in providing a sense of closure to your topic. 

To craft an impactful conclusion, it's crucial to summarize the key points discussed in the introduction and body paragraphs. You want to remind your readers of the important information you shared earlier. But keep it concise and to the point. Short, powerful sentences will leave a lasting impression.

Remember, your conclusion shouldn't drag on. Instead, restate your thesis statement and the supporting points you mentioned earlier. And here's a pro tip: go the extra mile and suggest a course of action. It leaves your readers with something to ponder or reflect on.

5 Paragraph Essay Outline Structure

An outline is an essential part of the writing as it helps the writer stay focused. A typical 5 paragraph essay outline example is shown here. This includes:

  • State the topic
  • Thesis statement
  • Introduction
  • Explanation
  • A conclusion that ties to the thesis
  • Summary of the essay
  • Restate the thesis statement

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Essay Outline Template

The outline of the essay is the skeleton that you will fill out with the content. Both outline and relevant content are important for a good essay. The content you will add to flesh out the outline should be credible, relevant, and interesting.

The outline structure for the essay is not complex or difficult. No matter which type of essay you write, you either use an alphanumeric structure or a decimal structure for the outline.

Below is an outline sample that you can easily follow for your essay.

Essay Outline Sample

Essay Outline Examples

An essay outline template should follow when you start writing the essay. Every writer should learn how to write an outline for every type of essay and research paper.

Essay outline 4th grade

Essay outline 5th grade

Essay outline high school

Essay outline college

Given below are essay outline examples for different types of essay writing.

Argumentative Essay Outline

An  argumentative essay  is a type of essay that shows both sides of the topic that you are exploring. The argument that presents the basis of the essay should be created by providing evidence and supporting details.

Persuasive Essay Outline

A  persuasive essay  is similar to an argumentative essay. Your job is to provide facts and details to create the argument. In a persuasive essay, you convince your readers of your point of view.

Compare and Contrast Essay Outline

A  compare and contrast essay  explains the similarities and differences between two things. While comparing, you should focus on the differences between two seemingly similar objects. While contrasting, you should focus on the similarities between two different objects.

Narrative Essay Outline

A narrative essay is written to share a story. Normally, a narrative essay is written from a personal point of view in an essay. The basic purpose of the narrative essay is to describe something creatively.

Expository Essay Outline

An  expository essay  is a type of essay that explains, analyzes, and illustrates something for the readers. An expository essay should be unbiased and entirely based on facts. Be sure to use academic resources for your research and cite your sources.

Analytical Essay Outline

An  analytical essay  is written to analyze the topic from a critical point of view. An analytical essay breaks down the content into different parts and explains the topic bit by bit.

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Outline

A rhetorical essay is written to examine the writer or artist’s work and develop a great essay. It also includes the discussion.

Cause and Effect Essay Outline

A  cause and effect essay  describes why something happens and examines the consequences of an occurrence or phenomenon. It is also a type of expository essay.

Informative Essay Outline

An  informative essay  is written to inform the audience about different objects, concepts, people, issues, etc.

The main purpose is to respond to the question with a detailed explanation and inform the target audience about the topic.

Synthesis Essay Outline

A  synthesis essay  requires the writer to describe a certain unique viewpoint about the issue or topic. Create a claim about the topic and use different sources and information to prove it.

Literary Analysis Essay Outline

A  literary analysis essay  is written to analyze and examine a novel, book, play, or any other piece of literature. The writer analyzes the different devices such as the ideas, characters, plot, theme, tone, etc., to deliver his message.

Definition Essay Outline

A  definition essay  requires students to pick a particular concept, term, or idea and define it in their own words and according to their understanding.

Descriptive Essay Outline

A  descriptive essay  is a type of essay written to describe a person, place, object, or event. The writer must describe the topic so that the reader can visualize it using their five senses.

Evaluation Essay Outline

Problem Solution Essay Outline

In a problem-solution essay, you are given a problem as a topic and you have to suggest multiple solutions on it.

Scholarship Essay Outline

A  scholarship essay  is required at the time of admission when you are applying for a scholarship. Scholarship essays must be written in a way that should stand alone to help you get a scholarship.

Reflective Essay Outline

A reflective essay  is written to express your own thoughts and point of view regarding a specific topic.

Getting started on your essay? Give this comprehensive essay writing guide a read to make sure you write an effective essay!

With this complete guide, now you understand how to create an outline for your essay successfully. However, if you still can’t write an effective essay, then the best option is to consult a professional academic writing service.

Essay writing is a dull and boring task for some people. So why not get some help instead of wasting your time and effort?  5StarEssays.com is here to help you. All your  do my essay for me  requests are managed by professional essay writers.

Place your order now, and our team of expert academic writers will help you.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the three types of outlines.

Here are the three types of essay outline;

  • Working outline
  • Speaking outline
  • Full-sentence outline

All three types are different from each other and are used for different purposes.

What does a full-sentence outline look like?

A full sentence outline contains full sentences at each level of the essay’s outline. It is similar to an alphanumeric outline and it is a commonly used essay outline.

What is a traditional outline format?

A traditional essay outline begins with writing down all the important points in one place and listing them down and adding sub-topics to them. Besides, it will also include evidence and proof that you will use to back your arguments.

What is the benefit of using a traditional outline format and an informal outline format?

A traditional outline format helps the students in listing down all the important details in one palace while an informal outline will help you coming up with new ideas and highlighting important points

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As a Digital Content Strategist, Nova Allison has eight years of experience in writing both technical and scientific content. With a focus on developing online content plans that engage audiences, Nova strives to write pieces that are not only informative but captivating as well.

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How to Format an Essay

Last Updated: August 26, 2022 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Carrie Adkins, PhD and by wikiHow staff writer, Aly Rusciano . Carrie Adkins is the cofounder of NursingClio, an open access, peer-reviewed, collaborative blog that connects historical scholarship to current issues in gender and medicine. She completed her PhD in American History at the University of Oregon in 2013. While completing her PhD, she earned numerous competitive research grants, teaching fellowships, and writing awards. There are 11 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 85,180 times.

You’re opening your laptop to write an essay, knowing exactly what you want to write, but then it hits you—you don’t know how to format it! Using the correct format when writing an essay can help your paper look polished and professional while earning you full credit. There are 3 common essay formats—MLA, APA, and Chicago Style—and we’ll teach you the basics of properly formatting each in this article. So, before you shut your laptop in frustration, take a deep breath and keep reading because soon you’ll be formatting like a pro.

Setting Up Your Document

Step 1 Read over the assignment’s guidelines before you begin.

  • If you can’t find information on the style guide you should be following, talk to your instructor after class to discuss the assignment or send them a quick email with your questions.
  • If your instructor lets you pick the format of your essay, opt for the style that matches your course or degree best: MLA is best for English and humanities; APA is typically for education, psychology, and sciences; Chicago Style is common for business, history, and fine arts.

Step 2 Set your margins to 1 inch (2.5 cm) for all style guides.

  • Most word processors default to 1 inch (2.5 cm) margins.

Step 3 Use Times New Roman font.

  • Do not change the font size, style, or color throughout your essay.

Step 4 Change your font size to 12pt.

  • Change the spacing on Google Docs by clicking on Format , and then selecting “Line spacing.”
  • Click on Layout in Microsoft Word, and then click the arrow at the bottom left of the “paragraph” section.

Step 6 Put the page number and your last name in the top right header for all styles.

  • Using the page number function will create consecutive numbering.
  • When using Chicago Style, don’t include a page number on your title page. The first page after the title page should be numbered starting at 2. [4] X Research source
  • In APA format, a running heading may be required in the left-hand header. This is a maximum of 50 characters that’s the full or abbreviated version of your essay’s title. [5] X Research source

Step 7 Use a title page with APA or Chicago Style format.

  • For APA formatting, place the title in bold at the center of the page 3 to 4 lines down from the top. Insert one double-spaced line under the title and type your name. Under your name, in separate centered lines, type out the name of your school, course, instructor, and assignment due date. [6] X Research source
  • For Chicago Style, set your cursor ⅓ of the way down the page, then type your title. In the very center of your page, put your name. Move your cursor ⅔ down the page, then write your course number, followed by your instructor’s name and paper due date on separate, double-spaced lines. [7] X Trustworthy Source Purdue Online Writing Lab Trusted resource for writing and citation guidelines Go to source

Step 8 Create a left-handed heading for MLA Style essays.

  • Double-space the heading like the rest of your paper.

Writing the Essay Body

Step 1 Center the title of your paper in all style formats.

  • Use standard capitalization rules for your title.
  • Do not underline, italicize, or put quotation marks around your title, unless you include other titles of referred texts.

Step 2 Indent the first line of each paragraph by 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) for all styles.

  • A good hook might include a quote, statistic, or rhetorical question.
  • For example, you might write, “Every day in the United States, accidents caused by distracted drivers kill 9 people and injure more than 1,000 others.”

Step 4 Include a thesis statement at the end of your introduction.

  • "Action must be taken to reduce accidents caused by distracted driving, including enacting laws against texting while driving, educating the public about the risks, and giving strong punishments to offenders."
  • "Although passing and enforcing new laws can be challenging, the best way to reduce accidents caused by distracted driving is to enact a law against texting, educate the public about the new law, and levy strong penalties."

Step 5 Present each of your points in 1 or more paragraphs.

  • Use transitions between paragraphs so your paper flows well. For example, say, “In addition to,” “Similarly,” or “On the other hand.” [12] X Research source

Step 6 Complete your essay with a conclusion.

  • A statement of impact might be, "Every day that distracted driving goes unaddressed, another 9 families must plan a funeral."
  • A call to action might read, “Fewer distracted driving accidents are possible, but only if every driver keeps their focus on the road.”

Using References

Step 1 Create parenthetical citations...

  • In MLA format, citations should include the author’s last name and the page number where you found the information. If the author's name appears in the sentence, use just the page number. [14] X Trustworthy Source Purdue Online Writing Lab Trusted resource for writing and citation guidelines Go to source
  • For APA format, include the author’s last name and the publication year. If the author’s name appears in the sentence, use just the year. [15] X Trustworthy Source Purdue Online Writing Lab Trusted resource for writing and citation guidelines Go to source
  • If you don’t use parenthetical or internal citations, your instructor may accuse you of plagiarizing.

Step 2 Use footnotes for citations in Chicago Style.

  • At the bottom of the page, include the source’s information from your bibliography page next to the footnote number. [16] X Trustworthy Source Purdue Online Writing Lab Trusted resource for writing and citation guidelines Go to source
  • Each footnote should be numbered consecutively.

Step 3 Center the title of your reference page.

  • If you’re using MLA format , this page will be titled “Works Cited.”
  • In APA and Chicago Style, title the page “References.”

Step 4 List your sources on the references page by author’s last name in alphabetical order.

  • If you have more than one work from the same author, list alphabetically following the title name for MLA and by earliest to latest publication year for APA and Chicago Style.
  • Double-space the references page like the rest of your paper.
  • Use a hanging indent of 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) if your citations are longer than one line. Press Tab to indent any lines after the first. [17] X Research source
  • Citations should include (when applicable) the author(s)’s name(s), title of the work, publication date and/or year, and page numbers.
  • Sites like Grammarly , EasyBib , and MyBib can help generate citations if you get stuck.

Formatting Resources

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  • ↑ https://www.une.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/392149/WE_Formatting-your-essay.pdf
  • ↑ https://content.nroc.org/DevelopmentalEnglish/unit10/Foundations/formatting-a-college-essay-mla-style.html
  • ↑ https://camosun.libguides.com/Chicago-17thEd/titlePage
  • ↑ https://apastyle.apa.org/style-grammar-guidelines/paper-format/page-header
  • ↑ https://apastyle.apa.org/style-grammar-guidelines/paper-format/title-page
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/chicago_manual_17th_edition/cmos_formatting_and_style_guide/general_format.html
  • ↑ https://www.uvu.edu/writingcenter/docs/handouts/writing_process/basicessayformat.pdf
  • ↑ https://www.deanza.edu/faculty/cruzmayra/basicessayformat.pdf
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/mla_style/mla_formatting_and_style_guide/mla_in_text_citations_the_basics.html
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/apa_style/apa_formatting_and_style_guide/in_text_citations_the_basics.html
  • ↑ https://library.menloschool.org/chicago

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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, the 3 popular essay formats: which should you use.

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Not sure which path your essay should follow? Formatting an essay may not be as interesting as choosing a topic to write about or carefully crafting elegant sentences, but it’s an extremely important part of creating a high-quality paper. In this article, we’ll explain essay formatting rules for three of the most popular essay styles: MLA, APA, and Chicago.

For each, we’ll do a high-level overview of what your essay’s structure and references should look like, then we include a comparison chart with nitty-gritty details for each style, such as which font you should use for each and whether they’re a proponent of the Oxford comma. We also include information on why essay formatting is important and what you should do if you’re not sure which style to use.

Why Is Your Essay Format Important?

Does it really matter which font size you use or exactly how you cite a source in your paper? It can! Style formats were developed as a way to standardize how pieces of writing and their works cited lists should look. 

Why is this necessary? Imagine you’re a teacher, researcher, or publisher who reviews dozens of papers a week. If the papers didn’t follow the same formatting rules, you could waste a lot of time trying to figure out which sources were used, if certain information is a direct quote or paraphrased, even who the paper’s author is. Having essay formatting rules to follow makes things easier for everyone involved. Writers can follow a set of guidelines without trying to decide for themselves which formatting choices are best, and readers don’t need to go hunting for the information they’re trying to find.

Next, we’ll discuss the three most common style formats for essays.

MLA Essay Format

MLA style was designed by the Modern Language Association, and it has become the most popular college essay format for students writing papers for class. It was originally developed for students and researchers in the literature and language fields to have a standardized way of formatting their papers, but it is now used by people in all disciplines, particularly humanities. MLA is often the style teachers prefer their students to use because it has simple, clear rules to follow without extraneous inclusions often not needed for school papers. For example, unlike APA or Chicago styles, MLA doesn’t require a title page for a paper, only a header in the upper left-hand corner of the page.

MLA style doesn’t have any specific requirements for how to write your essay, but an MLA format essay will typically follow the standard essay format of an introduction (ending with a thesis statement), several body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

One of the nice things about creating your works cited for MLA is that all references are structured the same way, regardless of whether they’re a book, newspaper, etc. It’s the only essay format style that makes citing references this easy! Here is a guide on how to cite any source in MLA format. When typing up your works cited, here are a few MLA format essay rules to keep in mind:

  • The works cited page should be the last paper of your paper.
  • This page should still be double-spaced and include the running header of your last name and page number.
  • It should begin with “Works Cited” at the top of the page, centered.
  • Your works cited should be organized in alphabetical order, based on the first word of the citation.

APA Essay Format

APA stands for the American Psychological Association. This format type is most often used for research papers, specifically those in behavioral sciences (such as psychology and neuroscience) and social sciences (ranging from archeology to economics). Because APA is often used for more research-focused papers, they have a more specific format to follow compared to, say, MLA style.

All APA style papers begin with a title page, which contains the title of the paper (in capital letters), your name, and your institutional affiliation (if you’re a student, then this is simply the name of the school you attend). The APA recommends the title of your paper not be longer than 12 words.

After your title page, your paper begins with an abstract. The abstract is a single paragraph, typically between 150 to 250 words, that sums up your research. It should include the topic you’re researching, research questions, methods, results, analysis, and a conclusion that touches on the significance of the research. Many people find it easier to write the abstract last, after completing the paper.

After the abstract comes the paper itself. APA essay format recommends papers be short, direct, and make their point clearly and concisely. This isn’t the time to use flowery language or extraneous descriptions. Your paper should include all the sections mentioned in the abstract, each expanded upon.

Following the paper is the list of references used. Unlike MLA style, in APA essay format, every source type is referenced differently. So the rules for referencing a book are different from those for referencing a journal article are different from those referencing an interview. Here’s a guide for how to reference different source types in APA format . Your references should begin on a new page that says “REFERENCES” at the top, centered. The references should be listed in alphabetical order.

body_bookshelves

Chicago Essay Format

Chicago style (sometimes referred to as “Turabian style”) was developed by the University of Chicago Press and is typically the least-used by students of the three major essay style formats. The Chicago Manual of Style (currently on its 17th edition) contains within its 1000+ pages every rule you need to know for this style. This is a very comprehensive style, with a rule for everything. It’s most often used in history-related fields, although many people refer to The Chicago Manual of Style for help with a tricky citation or essay format question. Many book authors use this style as well.

Like APA, Chicago style begins with a title page, and it has very specific format rules for doing this which are laid out in the chart below. After the title page may come an abstract, depending on whether you’re writing a research paper or not. Then comes the essay itself. The essay can either follow the introduction → body → conclusion format of MLA or the different sections included in the APA section. Again, this depends on whether you’re writing a paper on research you conducted or not.

Unlike MLA or APA, Chicago style typically uses footnotes or endnotes instead of in-text or parenthetical citations. You’ll place the superscript number at the end of the sentence (for a footnote) or end of the page (for an endnote), then have an abbreviated source reference at the bottom of the page. The sources will then be fully referenced at the end of the paper, in the order of their footnote/endnote numbers. The reference page should be titled “Bibliography” if you used footnotes/endnotes or “References” if you used parenthetical author/date in-text citations.

Comparison Chart

Below is a chart comparing different formatting rules for APA, Chicago, and MLA styles.

How Should You Format Your Essay If Your Teacher Hasn’t Specified a Format?

What if your teacher hasn’t specified which essay format they want you to use? The easiest way to solve this problem is simply to ask your teacher which essay format they prefer. However, if you can’t get ahold of them or they don’t have a preference, we recommend following MLA format. It’s the most commonly-used essay style for students writing papers that aren’t based on their own research, and its formatting rules are general enough that a teacher of any subject shouldn’t have a problem with an MLA format essay. The fact that this style has one of the simplest sets of rules for citing sources is an added bonus!

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What's Next?

Thinking about taking an AP English class? Read our guide on AP English classes to learn whether you should take AP English Language or AP English Literature (or both!)

Compound sentences are an importance sentence type to know. Read our guide on compound sentences for everything you need to know about compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences.

Need ideas for a research paper topic? Our guide to research paper topics has over 100 topics in ten categories so you can be sure to find the perfect topic for you.

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Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.

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30 60 90 Day Plan

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Software Comparison

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Ultimate Guide to Writing Your College Essay

Tips for writing an effective college essay.

College admissions essays are an important part of your college application and gives you the chance to show colleges and universities your character and experiences. This guide will give you tips to write an effective college essay.

Want free help with your college essay?

UPchieve connects you with knowledgeable and friendly college advisors—online, 24/7, and completely free. Get 1:1 help brainstorming topics, outlining your essay, revising a draft, or editing grammar.

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Writing a strong college admissions essay

Learn about the elements of a solid admissions essay.

Avoiding common admissions essay mistakes

Learn some of the most common mistakes made on college essays

Brainstorming tips for your college essay

Stuck on what to write your college essay about? Here are some exercises to help you get started.

How formal should the tone of your college essay be?

Learn how formal your college essay should be and get tips on how to bring out your natural voice.

Taking your college essay to the next level

Hear an admissions expert discuss the appropriate level of depth necessary in your college essay.

Student Stories

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Student Story: Admissions essay about a formative experience

Get the perspective of a current college student on how he approached the admissions essay.

Student Story: Admissions essay about personal identity

Get the perspective of a current college student on how she approached the admissions essay.

Student Story: Admissions essay about community impact

Student story: admissions essay about a past mistake, how to write a college application essay, tips for writing an effective application essay, sample college essay 1 with feedback, sample college essay 2 with feedback.

This content is licensed by Khan Academy and is available for free at www.khanacademy.org.

Purdue Online Writing Lab Purdue OWL® College of Liberal Arts

APA Sample Paper

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Welcome to the Purdue OWL

This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue University. When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice.

Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.

Note:  This page reflects the latest version of the APA Publication Manual (i.e., APA 7), which released in October 2019. The equivalent resource for the older APA 6 style  can be found here .

Media Files: APA Sample Student Paper  ,  APA Sample Professional Paper

This resource is enhanced by Acrobat PDF files. Download the free Acrobat Reader

Note: The APA Publication Manual, 7 th Edition specifies different formatting conventions for student  and  professional  papers (i.e., papers written for credit in a course and papers intended for scholarly publication). These differences mostly extend to the title page and running head. Crucially, citation practices do not differ between the two styles of paper.

However, for your convenience, we have provided two versions of our APA 7 sample paper below: one in  student style and one in  professional  style.

Note: For accessibility purposes, we have used "Track Changes" to make comments along the margins of these samples. Those authored by [AF] denote explanations of formatting and [AWC] denote directions for writing and citing in APA 7. 

APA 7 Student Paper:

Apa 7 professional paper:.

  • Essay Outline
  • Argumentative Essay
  • Interview Essay
  • Narrative Essay
  • Reflective Essay
  • Research Paper Essay
  • Self Introduction Essay

FREE Essay Templates & Examples

Template.Net’s Free Editable Essay Templates will give you the guidelines you need to write Professional Essays with the proper Intro, Body, and Conclusion in Short Paragraphs. Choose a Template Online, Fill in the Details, Customize and Edit, and Print the Document.

Get Access to All  Essay Templates

Free Essay Template, Outline, Download

With Template.net's Free Editable Essay Templates, you will be able to write great compelling essays for your academic requirements. Our template samples will help you with writing your research papers, theme statements, novels, argumentative essays, and university essays, all following proper essay writing formats with the right APA citations and characters. Choose a template from our template library, edit it, and download these for free.

Edit Essay Example Online for Free and Download

Our Free Editable Essay Templates from Template.net will help you write good informative essays for your academic needs. Template.net’s template library offers essay templates for high school, college, middle school, university, persuasive essays, introduction essays, Skelton, elementary, 5h grade, narrative essays, and 4th-grade essays. With our built-in editor tool, drag and drop basic elements like stock images, layouts, backgrounds, and even different font styles to bring your own flavor to the design. Finally, download your essay template in pdf.

Upgrade to Business

Generate accurate MLA citations for free

  • Knowledge Base
  • MLA format for academic papers and essays

MLA Format | Complete Guidelines & Free Template

Published on December 11, 2019 by Raimo Streefkerk . Revised on March 5, 2024 by Jack Caulfield.

The MLA Handbook provides guidelines for creating MLA citations and formatting academic papers. This quick guide will help you set up your MLA format paper in no time.

Start by applying these MLA format guidelines to your document:

  • Times New Roman 12
  • 1″ page margins
  • Double line spacing
  • ½” indent for new paragraphs
  • Title case capitalization for headings

For accurate citations, you can use our free MLA Citation Generator .

Download Word template Open Google Docs template

(To use the Google Docs template, copy the file to your Drive by clicking on ‘file’ > ‘Make a copy’)

Table of contents

How to set up mla format in google docs, header and title, running head, works cited page, creating mla style citations, headings and subheadings, tables and figures, frequently asked questions about mla format.

The header in MLA format is left-aligned on the first page of your paper. It includes

  • Your full name
  • Your instructor’s or supervisor’s name
  • The course name or number
  • The due date of the assignment

After the MLA header, press ENTER once and type your paper title. Center the title and don’t forget to apply title-case capitalization. Read our article on writing strong titles that are informative, striking and appropriate.

MLA header

For a paper with multiple authors, it’s better to use a separate title page instead.

At the top of every page, including the first page, you need to include your last name and the page number. This is called the “running head.” Follow these steps to set up the MLA running head in your Word or Google Docs document:

  • Double-click at the top of a page
  • Type your last name
  • Insert automatic page numbering
  • Align the content to the right

The running head should look like this:

MLA running head

The Works Cited list is included on a separate page at the end of your paper. You list all the sources you referenced in your paper in alphabetical order. Don’t include sources that weren’t cited in the paper, except potentially in an MLA annotated bibliography assignment.

Place the title “Works Cited” in the center at the top of the page. After the title, press ENTER once and insert your MLA references.

If a reference entry is longer than one line, each line after the first should be indented ½ inch (called a hanging indent ). All entries are double spaced, just like the rest of the text.

Format of an MLA Works Cited page

Generate accurate MLA citations with Scribbr

Prefer to cite your sources manually? Use the interactive example below to see what the Works Cited entry and MLA in-text citation look like for different source types.

Headings and subheadings are not mandatory, but they can help you organize and structure your paper, especially in longer assignments.

MLA has only a few formatting requirements for headings. They should

  • Be written in title case
  • Be left-aligned
  • Not end in a period

We recommend keeping the font and size the same as the body text and applying title case capitalization. In general, boldface indicates greater prominence, while italics are appropriate for subordinate headings.

Chapter Title

Section Heading

Tip: Both Google Docs and Microsoft Word allow you to create heading levels that help you to keep your headings consistent.

Tables and other illustrations (referred to as “figures”) should be placed as close to the relevant part of text as possible. MLA also provides guidelines for presenting them.

MLA format for tables

Tables are labeled and numbered, along with a descriptive title. The label and title are placed above the table on separate lines; the label and number appear in bold.

A caption providing information about the source appears below the table; you don’t need one if the table is your own work.

Below this, any explanatory notes appear, marked on the relevant part of the table with a superscript letter. The first line of each note is indented; your word processor should apply this formatting automatically.

Just like in the rest of the paper, the text is double spaced and you should use title case capitalization for the title (but not for the caption or notes).

MLA table

MLA format for figures

Figures (any image included in your paper that isn’t a table) are also labeled and numbered, but here, this is integrated into the caption below the image. The caption in this case is also centered.

The label “Figure” is abbreviated to “Fig.” and followed by the figure number and a period. The rest of the caption gives either full source information, or (as in the example here) just basic descriptive information about the image (author, title, publication year).

MLA figure

Source information in table and figure captions

If the caption of your table or figure includes full source information and that source is not otherwise cited in the text, you don’t need to include it in your Works Cited list.

Give full source information in a caption in the same format as you would in the Works Cited list, but without inverting the author name (i.e. John Smith, not Smith, John).

MLA recommends using 12-point Times New Roman , since it’s easy to read and installed on every computer. Other standard fonts such as Arial or Georgia are also acceptable. If in doubt, check with your supervisor which font you should be using.

The main guidelines for formatting a paper in MLA style are as follows:

  • Use an easily readable font like 12 pt Times New Roman
  • Set 1 inch page margins
  • Apply double line spacing
  • Include a four-line MLA heading on the first page
  • Center the paper’s title
  • Indent every new paragraph ½ inch
  • Use title case capitalization for headings
  • Cite your sources with MLA in-text citations
  • List all sources cited on a Works Cited page at the end

The fastest and most accurate way to create MLA citations is by using Scribbr’s MLA Citation Generator .

Search by book title, page URL, or journal DOI to automatically generate flawless citations, or cite manually using the simple citation forms.

The MLA Handbook is currently in its 9th edition , published in 2021.

This quick guide to MLA style  explains the latest guidelines for citing sources and formatting papers according to MLA.

Usually, no title page is needed in an MLA paper . A header is generally included at the top of the first page instead. The exceptions are when:

  • Your instructor requires one, or
  • Your paper is a group project

In those cases, you should use a title page instead of a header, listing the same information but on a separate page.

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.

Streefkerk, R. (2024, March 05). MLA Format | Complete Guidelines & Free Template. Scribbr. Retrieved April 1, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/mla/formatting/

Is this article helpful?

Raimo Streefkerk

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  1. 37 Outstanding Essay Outline Templates (Argumentative, Narrative

    Find free essay outline templates for argumentative, narrative, persuasive, and other kinds of essays. Learn how to structure and organize your essay with a clear plan before you write.

  2. How to Structure an Essay

    The basic structure of an essay always consists of an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. But for many students, the most difficult part of structuring an essay is deciding how to organize information within the body. This article provides useful templates and tips to help you outline your essay, make decisions about your structure, and ...

  3. How to Write an Essay Outline

    Learn how to plan the structure of your essay before you start writing with an essay outline. See templates and examples for different types of essays: argumentative, expository, and literary analysis.

  4. PDF Essay Outline Template

    Offer some more specific background information (as needed). 3. Provide the title of the piece and the author's name if the essay is about a specific book/poem/article/passage. C. Thesis Statement 1. State your topic and position. Remember that a thesis = claim + reasons. 2. Outline your main points and ideas.

  5. How to Write an Essay Outline

    Essay Outline Template. The outline of the essay is the skeleton that you will fill out with the content. Both outline and relevant content are important for a good essay. The content you will add to flesh out the outline should be credible, relevant, and interesting. The outline structure for the essay is not complex or difficult.

  6. Example of a Great Essay

    This essay begins by discussing the situation of blind people in nineteenth-century Europe. It then describes the invention of Braille and the gradual process of its acceptance within blind education. Subsequently, it explores the wide-ranging effects of this invention on blind people's social and cultural lives.

  7. How to Outline an Essay: Basic Essay Outline Template

    Introduction: The introductory paragraph of your essay should outline the topic, provide background information necessary to understand your argument, outline the evidence you will present and include your thesis statement. Your thesis should be a concise summary of the main point of your essay. 2. First body paragraph: Each body paragraph ...

  8. How to Format a College Essay: Step-by-Step Guide

    Again, we'd recommend sticking with standard fonts and sizes—Times New Roman, 12-point is a standard workhorse. You can probably go with 1.5 or double spacing. Standard margins. Basically, show them you're ready to write in college by using the formatting you'll normally use in college.

  9. How to Format an Essay: MLA, APA, & Chicago Styles

    If your instructor lets you pick the format of your essay, opt for the style that matches your course or degree best: MLA is best for English and humanities; APA is typically for education, psychology, and sciences; Chicago Style is common for business, history, and fine arts. 2. Set your margins to 1 inch (2.5 cm) for all style guides.

  10. The 3 Popular Essay Formats: Which Should You Use?

    Formatting an essay may not be as interesting as choosing a topic to write about or carefully crafting elegant sentences, but it's an extremely important part of creating a high-quality paper. In this article, we'll explain essay formatting rules for three of the most popular essay styles: MLA, APA, and Chicago.

  11. Essay Format Template

    This essay format template is designed to simplify the process and ensure that your essays are well-structured and organized. It provides a clear structure for your introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion, as well as guidelines for incorporating evidence and references.

  12. The Beginner's Guide to Writing an Essay

    The essay writing process consists of three main stages: Preparation: Decide on your topic, do your research, and create an essay outline. Writing: Set out your argument in the introduction, develop it with evidence in the main body, and wrap it up with a conclusion. Revision: Check your essay on the content, organization, grammar, spelling ...

  13. Ultimate Guide to Writing Your College Essay

    Sample College Essay 2 with Feedback. This content is licensed by Khan Academy and is available for free at www.khanacademy.org. College essays are an important part of your college application and give you the chance to show colleges and universities your personality. This guide will give you tips on how to write an effective college essay.

  14. 7 Essay Outline Templates to Get Your Essay Going

    5. Persuasive essay outline. Download the template! Prove it to me. A persuasive essay's goal is to convince your readers that your viewpoint is the right one. It's kind of like an argument essay, except that you don't have to use well-researched facts in order to support your thesis.

  15. College Essay Format & Structure

    There are no set rules for how to structure a college application essay, but you should carefully plan and outline to make sure your essay flows smoothly and logically. Typical structural choices include. a series of vignettes with a common theme. a single story that demonstrates your positive qualities. Although many structures can work, there ...

  16. APA Sample Paper

    Crucially, citation practices do not differ between the two styles of paper. However, for your convenience, we have provided two versions of our APA 7 sample paper below: one in student style and one in professional style. Note: For accessibility purposes, we have used "Track Changes" to make comments along the margins of these samples.

  17. FREE Essay Templates & Examples

    Edit Essay Example Online for Free and Download. Our Free Editable Essay Templates from Template.net will help you write good informative essays for your academic needs. Template.net's template library offers essay templates for high school, college, middle school, university, persuasive essays, introduction essays, Skelton, elementary, 5h ...

  18. APA format for academic papers and essays

    Throughout your paper, you need to apply the following APA format guidelines: Set page margins to 1 inch on all sides. Double-space all text, including headings. Indent the first line of every paragraph 0.5 inches. Use an accessible font (e.g., Times New Roman 12pt., Arial 11pt., or Georgia 11pt.).

  19. ENG 190 Module Four Persuasive Essay Outline Template

    ENG 190 Module Four Persuasive Essay Outline Template. Directions for Using the Outline An outline is a tool that writers use to organize their ideas. For some writers, it works best to write out all their ideas and then organize them. For other writers, it works best to organize and then draft.

  20. MLA Format

    Start by applying these MLA format guidelines to your document: Times New Roman 12. 1″ page margins. Double line spacing. ½" indent for new paragraphs. Title case capitalization for headings. For accurate citations, you can use our free MLA Citation Generator. Download Word template Open Google Docs template.