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Descriptive Essay Outline

Updated: Apr 20, 2016
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The Descriptive Essay is written quite differently than the normal method of crafting the five-paragraph essay, which usually aims to make a case for something – some kind of an argument; however, the Descriptive Essay does not make an argument of any kind but can be written in five or so paragraphs.


It involves the student determining an image, and then describing it in the form of an essay so that any reader would be able to visualize it. The image could be a photograph, a scene or a view, a painting, almost anything that can be seen and visualized.


The student-writer writing this kind of essay must keep in mind that they are to describe the image’s most crucial elements, then naming its most prominent objects and their characteristics.


The student has completed a successful Descriptive Essay when their reader is able to imagine the described image in its entirety.



General Outline for a Descriptive Essay


(Note: Most times, the Descriptive Essay follows an outline that concentrates on just three main objectives, which in order are: 1) Generally describing the image; 2) Describing the image’s structure; and lastly 3) Describing the image’s elements and objects, getting more and more specific with each as the reader comes to ultimately see the image more clearly. The first objective can be told in one paragraph, but the other two objectives will invariably require more.)


I. Introduction Paragraph


Objective No. 1


Generally describing the image


Right away, the student should be able to generalize and explain what is happening in the picture:


Is it a picture of a young child playing on the beach on a hot summer day? Is it the view from a second-floor balcony of a college library looking down at several students head-deep in their studies? Is it a painting of a mountain range in fall, the leaves of trees in beautiful, different colors and patterns?


In this initial paragraph, the student is to be general yet specific – The image is a young couple walking the streets of Paris at sunset, the Eifel Tower sparkling in the background.


Describing what is happening in the image helps communicate to the reader what exactly they are supposed to be imagining.


II. Body Paragraphs


Objective No. 2


The writer can then focus on describing the structuring of the image.


This objective, which takes as many paragraphs as needed, is meant for the student-writer to further explain how the image is set up:


In the scene with the young child playing on the beach, where is the beach exactly? Is it in the right of the image, the sand and beach to the left, with the child playing in the middle? In the library image, how are the students scattered on the first floor? Are they grouped together or split apart? And are the mountains, in the other picture, only showing in the far right of the image? Is there a small village to the left?


Here, in this section, the student-writer describes the major parts of the image they’re describing – The young couple is taking a midnight stroll. They are walking over a brick bridge, holding hands, and at the end of the bridge are a group of patisseries and a long line of other cafes, bars and shops. …


For the reader to see the image in words, they must be told the placement of the main characteristics (especially its subjects, like people, mountains, etc.) and structuring of that image.



III. Subsequent Body Paragraphs


Objective No. 3


Finally, the student writing a Descriptive Essay must then focus on the elements of this image.


Once the first two objectives are completed, the student-writer should then break down the image. This includes objects, colors, shapes, textures, the physical relationship of people in the image, what they are wearing, the colors of their clothes, the expressions on their face, what it looks like they are doing, thinking, feeling; this includes, for example, the type of desks students are sitting at in a library, either plastic or a dark-brown, a wooden color, or if the students seem to be reading large books or from their notes, or taking a glass of water from plastic cup, or nodding off in dark-blue couch.


IV. Conclusion Paragraph


After the student-writer has successfully accomplished the three objectives, they are to include a Transitional Phrase (such as “Finally, or “In conclusion) to indicates the essay has come to a close.


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