Outlining Your Essay – Process

Outline Process
(Specific requirements will be different depending on the assignment and your teacher, but this is a good basic process that can be adapted.)

Step 1: Write a thesis based on your research.

Step 2: Write out the minor assertions you have to prove OR the sub-topics you want to explore in order to prove your overall thesis. These assertions or sub-topics will become your topic sentences. They should correspond somewhat with the sub-topics on your note cards.

Ex/ My thesis is: In Lord of the Flies, Golding suggests that evil emerges out of the evildoer’s ability to purposely forget that both he and his victims are individuals.

Basic subtopics that will become my topic sentences (arranged CHRONOLOGICALLY – this is often the simplest way to organize a paper):

  1. In the beginning of the novel, the boys get to know each other as individuals (no evil)
  2. Jack can’t even kill a pig when he has a sense of himself; feels mercy (no evil despite the attempt)
  3. Later, when the boys paint their faces and start feeling less human and more savage, they can kill (beginnings of evil)
  4. The first murder on the island happens in the dark, with painted faces; perpetrators and victim are anonymous and alluded to as beasts, not humans (anonymity in darkness causes evil)
  5. The second murder happens from far above; victims are seen as distant targets, not as human (dehumanized victim)
  6. For the final attempted murder, all perpetrators have painted faces (making them anonymous) and are referred to as savages, not humans; they also think of their victim as the beast, not an individual (anonymity leading to evil)

Here’s an alternative, more theme-based organization I could use for the same thesis:

Thesis: In Lord of the Flies, Golding suggests that evil emerges out of the evildoer’s ability to purposely forget that both he and his victims are individuals.

  1. Piggy (throughout the novel) dehumanized in not having a real name and being bullied by everyone on the island.
  2. Simon being dehumanized when he is referred to as the beast.
  3. Jack and the hunters becoming anonymous when they paint their faces and become a tribe.
  4. Roger’s escalating violence throughout the novel as he is able to become anonymous and think of others as less human.
  5. Piggy’s final attempt to try to make Jack see reason and see his individual needs; the decision to try to look like civilized boys rather than painted savages.
  6. The increased reference to the boys as savages instead of by name as the book progresses and particularly in the last chapter.

Here’s a quick brainstorming template you can use for your own paper:

Thesis:

Assertion 1:

Assertion 2:

Assertion 3:

Assertion 4:

Assertion 5:

Assertion 6:

Step 3: You will ultimately end up with at least 6 topic sentences, for at least 6 body paragraphs. If you don’t have enough topic sentences, look to your note card topics for inspiration. See if there is a topic that is broad enough to divide into two topics.

Step 4: Check your topic sentences to make sure that they are all different from each other. If they aren’t all different, rework and reorganize to make them different. This step is very important. If you have multiple paragraphs that prove the same thing, you’ll probably have to cut that paragraph entirely and replace it.

Step 5: Check your topic sentences to make sure that they are all ASSERTIONS and that they all work to support your thesis. Revise if needed.

Step 6: Spread out your note cards. Arrange them into piles based on which topic sentence they could be used to support. If you have too many note cards for a single topic sentence, think about how you could split them into two paragraphs (that prove different things, of course). If you don’t have enough note cards for one of your paragraphs, decide if you need to do more research, if that paragraph can be combined with another, or if you should take out that paragraph and replace it with another.

Step 7: Decide what order you will put your paragraphs in. Write your outline.

Outline Format
(This format is for an outline with evidence and explanations; some assignments might require points as well.)

Thesis:

  1. Topic Sentence 1
    1. Quote 1 (with lead-in and citation)
      1. Brief explanation (2-3 sentences)
    2. Quote 2 (with lead-in and citation)
      1. Brief explanation (2-3 sentences)
    3. Quote 3 (with lead-in and citation) – some paragraphs may not have a 3rd quote
      1. Brief explanation (2-3 sentences)
  2. Topic Sentence 2
    1. Quote 1
      1. Brief explanation
    2. Quote 2
      1. Brief explanation
    3. Quote 3
      1. Brief explanation
  3. Topic Sentence 3
    1. Quote 1
      1. Brief explanation
    2. Quote 2
      1. Brief explanation
    3. Quote 3
      1. Brief explanation
  4. Topic Sentence 4
    1. Quote 1
      1. Brief explanation
    2. Quote 2
      1. Brief explanation
    3. Quote 3
      1. Brief explanation
  5. Topic Sentence 5
    1. Quote 1
      1. Brief explanation
    2. Quote 2
      1. Brief explanation
    3. Quote 3
      1. Brief explanation
  6. Topic Sentence 6
    1. Quote 1
      1. Brief explanation
    2. Quote 2
      1. Brief explanation
    3. Quote 3
      1. Brief explanation

Conclusion (restatement or extension of thesis; one sentence):

BACK to Senior Writing page

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s