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Crafting the Thesis Outline

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Crafting an outline is an absolute must when it comes to thesis writing. Without a proper outline, a thesis will lack the necessary structure to convince and enlighten the reader. Whether it is an argumentative thesis statement or a personal account, the thesis outline will provide the backbone and direction necessary to make a thesis great.

Most importantly: the sandwich.

The most common technique for planning a paper is the “sandwich” method:

  1. Introduction. Explains what will be covered and gives a road map for the essay.
  2. Body. The meat of the essay. Each new point should have it’s own paragraph. If there is a point that has lots of little subpoints that need to be explored in depth, breaking up the paper into sections using headers is preferable unless otherwise stated.
  3. Conclusion. Sums up the thesis.

When writing the introduction, try to stay as general as possible. Don’t make any arguments in the introduction, just state the arguments that you will eventually make. In the thesis outline, this can just be a list of the arguments that will appear in the paper. This is a good place to start, as it begins the paper, the outline, and allows for the proper planning of subsequent sections.

Planning for the introduction is the easiest part of planning a thesis. If you are going to use an anecdote or other catchy opener, make note of this in your introduction. Draft this out before you actually include it in the paper, but don’t focus on it at this stage.

The body of the thesis is more complicated. Begin with the broadest points or arguments, gradually reducing towards the subpoints and sub-subpoints. Laying your thesis outline out on a sheet of paper will make it easy to see the way in which any given argument flows and relates to every other argument and position in your thesis. You’ll be able to catch logical flaws far easier this way.

There are a variety of ways to make an outline. Some work better than others. It depends on the type of paper.

  • Note form. Basic lists, the standard I./A)/1) format. Good for most types of theses, like analysis and anything that involves chronological history.
  • Double note form. A modified version of note form, double note form consists of two outlines, one for the primary argument and one for arguments that refute or are refuted by it. This is good for papers that take a strong stance and require logical and factual evidence to support the thesis.
  • Graphic organizer. The graphic organizer is a very general term. Any thesis outline that utilizes non-text elements can be a graphic organizer. Examples include flow charts, mind maps, and other non-traditional representations of information.

While writing the conclusion is the most complicated part of the paper, plotting the conclusion is the simplest part of the outline. Simply take the broad points that form the primary headings and list them on your outline. Relate it back to the introduction. Draft out any closing anecdotes.

Your thesis outline is complete.

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