IV. How to Prepare An Outline

Perhaps the most direct way to plan an outline with any research paper that has a contemporary issue as its centerpiece is to separate the paper into three parts: a past, a present and a future. Another approach is to explain the central issues, describe the problems endemic in the issues, and provide possible solutions.

The outline cannot be formulated until a great amount of research is gathered. If notes are placed on cards, the major divisions and subdivisions should present themselves. The outline at this point will be only in tentative and rough in form, but the thesis statement and the preliminary works cited should serve well to allow you to flesh out the organization of the paper.

The introduction will be a jumping off point for what you will be presenting in your paper; your conclusion will be the culmination of the information you have presented, including insights gained from the vast array of knowledge you have acquired. The body sections of the outline should be a breakdown of the various areas, aspects and subjects you plan to discuss in your term paper.

The preliminary outline will function merely as a general guideline to your reading. As your reading progresses and you gain more information, you can revise and extend your outline accordingly. If you find that your source material does not contain enough information to develop a major topic sufficiently, you may have to delete that topic entirely and substitute one that is better covered. Your reading may also suggest an entirely new topic that you may want to develop. Make notes or revisions on your outline as you pursue your reading, so you have all the information in one place when you are ready to prepare your final outline.

Keep your thesis statement before you at all times so that you can judge the relevance of your material when preparing your preliminary outline and also when taking notes on your reading. If, as a result of your reading, you find that major topics need revising, you may need to revise your thesis statement accordingly.

The following examples of outlines feature student work from the 2001-2002 academic year:

 Sample Outline 1 || Sample Outline 2 || Emphatic Order

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