4.1 Structure

4.1.1 Outlining

Before you write your extended essay, you will want to think about the order in which you present your ideas. You will want your ideas to make the most sense to your reader, the examiner. In previous chapters you learned about notes, mind maps, reflection spaces and annotations. While these formats these formats are useful for the brainstorming phase, they do not tell a story or build an argument. Outlines, on the other hand, are perfect tools for helping you structure your ideas. 

From mind map to outline

Here is an example of a mind map from a History extended essay, Sample 3.1. Notice the differences between Figure 4.1.1a (the mind map) and Figure 4.1.1b (the outline). Discuss these differences with a classmate. What are some strategies the student has used to create his outline? 

Figure 4.1.1a - Mind Map on which Sample 3.1 is based. 

Strategies for outlines

Extended Essays on History are often structured differently from essays on Biology or English. There are different strategies per subject. Nevertheless there are certain trends in essay structure that can be seen across subjects. You may find one of these two structures useful for your outline, depending on whether your essay is analytical or investigative.


  • You can think of the outline as a coat hanger, on which you hang the content of your essay.
  • The headings of each section may change after you have written each section.
  • Notice that the outlines for the analytical and investigative essay have a few things in common: They present evidence both from primary and secondary sources in an effort to persuade the reader and answer the research question.  
Figure 4.1.1b - Outline on which Sample 3.1 is based. 
Notice how this essay structure is very linear; it describes and evaluates the events that led up to the genocide in Cambodia in 1975.