The outline is NOT a marked component. That is to say, its aim is not to hem you in, but to help you in writing your essay. So, don’t make it too formal—give it an organic form:
Include notes (typed or handwritten) that you add over time so that you don't forget your observations.
Include passages that you write, possible titles of chapters, keywords, names of key works, etc.
In short, include anything that can go into the essay under any form. As your study develops the outline becomes richer and a better reflection of your essay. Draw arrows to connect parts, etc. Circle things, highlight, use post-it notes. Use different font sizes to reflect priorities, hierarchies, etc.
Essay contents A) TITLE
Titles are important—think of your title as ‘the banner’ of your essay. They are not always easy to arrive at. Even great writers struggle with them.
Make a list of possible titles. Keep adding to it. Keep thinking about them and fiddling with them (combining them for example). You’ll make your final decision closer to the final stages.
The title and the essay are in constant negotiation with each other. I often notice that my title doesn’t describe my essay well. But—this is more important—sometimes it works the other way ‘round: I notice that a passage/point/ argument doesn't fit comfortably under my title and then, while questioning it, I realize that perhaps I don't really need that passage after all—now I can see that it should have never been part of my essay!
Titles can be poetic (meaning short/concise or relatively abstract): The City Shaped (Kostof); or very descriptive: The Impact of Railways on Victorian Cities (Kellett); or a combination of the two: 13 ways - Theoretical Investigations in Architecture (Harbison).
Note that you can choose to use a title and a subtitle (poetic title, followed by explanatory/descriptive/more specific subtitle).
There is a delicate balance between what your title reveals and what it conceals and it's up to you to decide which direction you want to push this balance towards, so that it reflects the character/style of your essay and your writing.
You don’t have to, but you can include your abstract in your essay.
The main objective is to write 3-4 sentences to describe your essay, which should help you explain your study clearly to anyone—most of all to yourself, but also to people outside the field, who know little or nothing about art, architecture, design, film, etc.
"The World [is a film that] takes place in a Chinese theme park with replicas of monuments.” (Setting the scene and identifying the key work(s) in your study)
“The fake monuments, placed outside their original contexts, undermine our notions about history and collective memory." (Identifying the conflict)
“This essay looks at the human use of—and interaction with—this artificial environment, and identifies the ways identity, ideology and our consciousness of the city are shaped by made-up histories.” (Stating the aim)
I have one sentence left. I can use it imaginatively to make my abstract more accessible, or more intriguing, by referring to a detail/example, or by adding a slight twist:
“But the way monuments are re-contextualized and ‘read’ by the inhabitants of the park adds a new layer of perception and promotes the thought that new histories will be written, which may be just as real.”
Here you can find the actual essay, if you want to see how it corresponds to that abstract.
C) INTRODUCTION (10% of total word count)
It is usually written last, but that’s not a strict rule (sometimes the beginning is a good place to begin, but in any case you will have to revisit the introduction near the end and make adjustments).
Make your intro count! Don’t use it to simply list what will be discussed later. Get straight to the point. Capture the reader’s imagination. Use a demonstration: describe an artwork/