Essay Outline Guidelines

July 28, 2017

2nd Meeting

At the second group meeting each study group member provides a copy of their reading research notes to the others so everyone has the research notes of every other person in the study group. Do this efficiently by saving the research reading notes on a flash-drive or a low-cost CD and exchanging with your friends that way.

The next step is to listen as each group member in turn tells the group what they discovered during their research.

This feedback session is very important so don't rush the discussion! Take time to listen carefully to each other and make sure that each person adds something to the group learning.

Essay Outline

The study group then moves to a brainstorm to decide what is relevant to the assignment essay and what to leave out. The purpose of the brainstorm is to get a detailed outline for your individual essay writing and although a brainstorm in a small group has limitations, you can still use the basic brainstorming method to generate some synergy.


Rather than having a shouting match you should use standard brainstorm rules. One person records the ideas, another person acts as the facilitator whose job it is to draw out ideas from the group …one at a time, and the other 2 members think widely and contribute!

A problem with brainstorms is that the recorder can't write fast enough so allow time to record ideas before producing more!


All members take a turn to contribute ideas, including the facilitator and recorder. The aim is to get all the points for the essay outline so follow the standard group management rules that you would use for a larger brainstorm session:

  • Everyone has a turn to speak.
  • All ideas get recorded.
  • All ideas are accepted.
  • No judgmental comments!
  • Build on ideas given by others.
  • Add details as well as general ideas.
  • Aim for quantity (many ideas).
  • Stop when ideas go out of focus.


By 'focus' I mean that ideas at first will be general but as all the general ideas are recorded the next level of ideas will be about smaller details within larger categories. When the details are very specific and the members have exhausted all their thoughts the new contributions will tend to drift back to more general statements.

That's the time to stop the recording because the meeting has probably passed through the point of focus.


Hopefully you will now have lots of ideas on a large sheet that all members can see.

The next task is to select the main ideas which can be used as the main points in the essay writing. Circle these ideas on the sheet and give each one a number, 1, 2, 3,…etc.

Now work through the other ideas on the sheet and add them to one of the main points you made above. Underline them as they are used and reference them as 1.1, 3.1, 2.4 etc so you know which heading they can be used with. Some will fit several headings so you choose one that is a 'best fit'.

Do this until you are left with the 'no fit' ideas. At this stage decide whether to discard the 'no fits' or whether to make a new heading and include them.

Then write the brainstorm summary main points and sub-points on a jotter-pad or notebook and you are ready to start the first draft writing of your essay.

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