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Five Paragraph Outline

A classic composition format is the five-paragraph essay. It is not the only format for
writing an essay, of course; however, it is a useful tool for you to use and adapt, especially
as you begin to develop your compositions skills.

Writing an outline allows you to organize your main thoughts into single segments and
establish the order in which information will be written. Usually, most academic essays are
written in 5 paragraphs. The essay outline template provided will contain main points that
will be addressed within your work. As a writer, you should use those points to construct a
logical and coherent flow of ideas that will build off of one another to strengthen your
overall argument. The outline is a tool that you will use to assist you in the construction of
an essay draft.

Below is a sample showing the basic elements of a five-paragraph essay. After looking at
these basic elements, we will discuss how to apply these elements to an outline.

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Basic Elements

Paragraph 1: Introduction
The introductory paragraph should include the following elements:

1. A hook to get reader’s attention is how an essay begins and usually comprises the
first. Try to begin with a specific image or detail, a statistic, a story, a shocking fact, a
quote, a refutation of a common belief, etc.

2. Next, providing background information is necessary so that your readers can
understand the context of your thesis.

3. A thesis statement is necessary. This indicates your paper’s topic and makes
your paper’s purpose clear.
*Note: some professors may require a plan of development (also known as a road map),
which outlines the order of points in an essay. The plan of development can be in the same
sentence as the thesis or in a different sentence. Keep in mind, however, that some
professors may not want to see any plan of development. Be sure to specify all thesis
requirements with your professor before submitting

Paragraphs 2-4: Body Paragraphs
A body paragraph should include the following elements:

1. A topic sentence which explains the main, supporting point of the paragraph is
the first sentence of each body paragraph. The topic sentence gives an overview of the
paragraph and relates back to the thesis.

2. Sub points/supporting details represent the main point of the paragraph. The
purpose of sub points is to support the topic sentence of the paragraph.

3. These sub points themselves are supported by examples. Examples provide
evidence for your topic sentence, and ultimately your thesis; they consist of facts, details,
statistics, personal observation, experience, and expert opinions.

Paragraph 5: Conclusion
The conclusion should include the following elements:

1. The conclusion begins with the restatement of the thesis statement.

2. Closing remarks. There are many possible ways to close an essay. One common
method is to tie back to the hook (if the hook is a story, you can tell part of it in the intro
and finish it in the conclusion). Another commonly used tool is to recommend an action or
prompt your reader towards an action with a question.


After looking at these basic elements of a 5 paragraph essay, the implementation of these
elements will be applied to an outline.

Alphanumeric outlining is the most commonly used outline format. This formatting uses
characters and numbers to organize and structure paragraphs, main points, sub points, and
smaller supporting details. Alphanumeric outlining uses numbers and characters in the
following order: Roman numerals, capitalized letters, Arabic numerals, and lowercase

Outlining can be done in complete sentences, or it can be done just using key words and

Blank Outline Sample
I. Introduction

A. Hook

B. Background

C. Thesis

II. Topic sentence for body paragraph 1
A. Sub point/supporting detail

1. Example
2. Example

B. Sub point/supporting detail

1. Example
2. Example

C. Sub point/supporting detail
1. Example
2. Example

III. Topic sentence for body paragraph 2
A. Sub point/supporting detail

1. Example
2. Example

B. Sub point/supporting detail
1. Example
2. Example

C. Sub point/supporting detail
1. Example
2. Example

IV. Topic sentence for body paragraph 3
A. Sub point/supporting detail

1. Example
2. Example
B. Sub point/supporting detail
1. Example
2. Example
C. Sub point/supporting detail
1. Example
2. Example

V. Conclusion
A. Restate thesis

B. Closing remarks

Outline Sample
Adapted from a sample provided by Austin Community College

I. Introduction
A. Hook (Frederick Douglass quotation): “Those who profess to favor

freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without

plowing up the ground.”

B. Background

1. Biographic info about Douglass

2. Abolition movement

C. Thesis: Frederick Douglass played a crucial role in securing the abolition

of slavery and equality of African American rights through his actions,

ideas, and efforts as a lecturer, author/publisher, and politician.

II. Douglass as Lecturer
A. History as slave and acquisition of education

1. He “experienced slavery”

2. Literacy allowed expression

B. Early lectures, including initial speech before Garrison

1. Success of initial speech

2. Goals for future speeches

C. Effect of lectures on society

1. Open eyes

2. Encourage activism

III. Douglass as Author/Publisher
A. Narrative’s success and effect

1. Springboard for paper

B. Goals/hopes for paper

C. Garrison set-back and significance

D. Significance of Paper

IV. Douglass as Politician
A. Key trait for success

B. Goal of political activism

C. Efforts for Republican party

1. Significance of efforts

D. Black soldier enlistment crusade

E. Joining of Republican party

1. Significance of efforts

V. Conclusion
A. Restate thesis

B. Closing remark (reference quote from hook): Douglass worked hard,

plowing the ground for the seeds of freedom.

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