When writing an academic essay outline, start by choosing an argument. List each paragraph's first or topic sentence to summarize its main point and further the essay's main argument. This strategy makes it easier to categorize information to be included in the essay and to spot points that are irrelevant to the argument. List the minor points to be used to support each topic sentence.
Organize paragraphs in a way that presents the academic essay's overarching argument coherently and fluidly. If information is presented without order, readers may have trouble fully understanding the argument of the essay, even if all paragraphs make relevant points and contain ample supporting information. Paragraphs that introduce new ideas or that provide information key to understanding the argument should come first, while paragraphs requiring background knowledge and those that build on other ideas introduced in the essay should come later.
An academic essay does not merely consists of observations on a given topic. An academic essay must above all make an argument and further that argument through the use of evidence and analysis. Consider whether the essay answers a question as opposed to just presenting information. Ask yourself whether the essay attempts to prove something.