Finding a Thesis and Outlining the
1. Arrive at a thesis
A. Your thesis needs to make a point about the subject.
1. Write down the subject of your paper: creationism, evolution, political correctness, etc.
2. Write down the topic, which is a narrowed down version of the subject: creationism as acceptable theory, evolution as fact, political correctness and humor, etc.
3. Now write down what you want to prove about this topic.
a. Remember that your point needs to reflect your information.
b. Remember that the more specific the thesis the easier the paper is to write.
4. Write your thesis.
a. One way to state your thesis is to complete this statement: I want to prove about political correctness and humor that political correctness makes humor dangerous.
b. When you insert the thesis into your paper, you will omit the redundant words “I want to prove about political correctness and humor that . . .”
B. Check your thesis statement against these elements:
1. It makes a specific, provable point about your topic.
2. It is a complete sentence.
3. It is not a question.
4. It reflects the research that you have done and analyzed.
5. It is a statement that can be developed analytically.
C. Check your thesis statement periodically.
1. The thesis statement is not fixed in stone once you arrive at it.
2. As you research and become more familiar with your topic, you may want to adjust or even change your thesis statement to a different point.
3. However, always remember that any changes in a thesis statement will affect the content of the entire paper.
A. The rough outline establishes what you will do in the introduction, the body of the paper, and the conclusion.
B. The outline for the introduction should consist of a reference to an attention-getter and the thesis.
1. Even if you are not sure what you will use as an attention-getter, leave a space for it.
2. You have a thesis already, so include it as a subpoint of your introduction.
3. The order is not important at this point.
a. Either the thesis or the attention getter can come first.
b. Usually the attention getter will come first in the introduction.
C. The outline for the body of the paper should consist of references to the main points and to minor developing points.
D. The outline for the conclusion should consist of a reference to the need for a summary of the overall argument and a reference to a closing attention-getter.
1. It is impossible to write the conclusion to a paper until the entire paper is written, but remind yourself that you need a conclusive summary statement.
2. If you run across a good quote or ending example to use as a closing attention-getter, make a reference to it or remind yourself that you need a closing attention-getter.
E. Use either the standard outline form or a modified form that establishes the above order for your paper.
Standard Outline Form
A. Attention-getter gets the readers’ attention to your paper and thesis. Quotes are good, as are exaggerated examples, or even stories. However, make sure that you can see a connection between your attention-getter and your thesis.
B. Thesis: The thesis for your rough outline can be a rough approximation of the thesis for your paper. Remember that your thesis is not engraved in stone and can change if you find the development of the paper changing. However, remember that when you change your thesis at a point in the paper, you must rewrite everything before that point so that it still connects to your thesis.
A. Background information: Here’s where you want to give definitions of key terms or historical background to your thesis. Ask yourself if readers need to know something about your topic before they can understand your thesis. Give that information first.
1. Define ambiguous terms, such as “mother” or “home.” Readers must accept your definition—so long as it is logical and documented—and they will base their understanding of the paper on that definition.
2. If you need to give historical background, give names, dates, and places. Be sure the background is relevant and is necessary to understanding the rest of the paper.
B. Major point 1: makes a specific point to develop a major portion of the thesis.
1. Supporting point 1: gives a point about how the major point connects to the thesis.
a. Example 1: specific examples allow readers to “see” your point.
b. Example 2: whenever possible try to give a follow-up or second example. However, if such an example doesn’t fit or is redundant, exclude it.
i. If you think of some analysis as your are outlining, include that analysis in this level of the outline.
2. Supporting point 2.
C. Major point 2.
1. Follow the pattern given under B.
A. Summary of key points of the thesis: Draw together your major points and link them to your thesis.
B. Closing attention-getter: End with some strong example, statement, or quote that connects to your paper and is interesting to the reader.
Outline for Sample Paper
A. Attention getter: Joke about cows and horns (“Bells”).
B. Thesis: Because jokes can offend anyone, they are dangerous in a politically correct society.
A. Definition of political correctness.
1. How definition is desirable.
2. How definition applies to sense of humor.
B. Explanation of safe joke
1. Offends teachers.
2. Offends students.
3. Offends cows.
C. Lawyer jokes
1. Why lawyer jokes exist
2. Lawyer jokes
3. How jokes can be dangerous
D. Reason for humor
1. Ease tension
a. Joke to ease tension
b. How joke works
c. How joke is dangerous
d. How tension is dangerous
2. Belittling others
b. How joke works
c. How joke is politically incorrect
d. How joke should be safer
A. Review how jokes are dangerous because of political correctness
B. Closing attention-getter: Joke about self
5. Use the outline form to write your last outline which includes references to your sources.
A. Fill out the parts for the introduction and as many of the main points as you will have.
B. Indicate from where the information will come with parenthetical citations.
1. As you fill in the respective areas of the outline form, use parenthetical citations to indicate from where each piece of information will come.
2. Do the works cited entries as you fill in the parenthetical citations.
C. Do the closing attention getter, but the summary is optional.