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
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: