Outlining is one of several techniques for organizing your main points, examples, evidence, and background information into a coherent structure. Most word processing software has outlining features that make it easy to draft and revise an outline as you write.
Some writers begin writing with a simple list of points. They gradually supplement and reorganize this list as they write to develop a working thesis and emphasize connections among their points. Other writers draft sentences and paragraphs from the beginning and use the cut and paste features of their word processing software to organize their material as they work.
Concept mapping is another technique that some find useful for developing and structuring ideas. A discussion of this technique can be found in the Gathering & Noting Ideas module.
Outlining and concept mapping can help you structure your essay in a way that shows the relationship among your ideas and leads your reader through them clearly, rather than presenting them as a set of unrelated facts.