To Have Or To Be Essay Outline

Great writing starts with a great outline

By Lisa Brown

Once you’ve decided on your topic and wrote down an impactful thesis, it’s time to create the foundation upon which you will write your content.

Writing an outline for an essay or a book is very similar as the only difference is the length or amount of words.

With an essay, you are usually required to write an introduction, three paragraphs and a conclusion. As you know, writing a book includes many chapters, but ultimately, you also need a beginning, middle and ending.

Even though the middle might be where the difference comes in, the process is almost identical.

Don’t be afraid to use a free paraphrase generator as these tools help us prepare more effectively. Now, let’s get into how you create your outline.

Start with all the basic information

Write down the date, name, class or module, and any extra information you feel is necessary. This does not include any information about the essay or book yet, but it’s necessary to have on your outline.

You might be working on various class essays or projects at the same time, and you want to quickly look at this information and see which one it is you are working with. This is also important for your teacher or publisher to check who is sending the information.

Thesis / Synopsis

Your thesis argument should be solid and provide the reader with information on what to expect when they read your essay or book. It does not need to be a long, drawn out statement, but it should communicate a clear message.

You can find a paraphrasing tool online free of charge, to help you word your thesis better. When you write down your thesis, be sure that you are able to argue your point.

When writing a book, you might relate to this section more if you think of it as a synopsis. This is a short summary of what your book is about.

Some publishers will have a set number of words, while others leave it up to the author. Check with the publishing house you want to work with and make sure your synopsis fits their requirements.

First paragraph / Chapter

Your opening paragraph is probably one of the most important sections of your writing project. This is where you hook the reader and create the spark.

Many readers will form an opinion about your writing on the first paragraph, and it is important to convince them that your thesis is correct. Once you have convinced the readers of your thesis, you are able to keep them interested throughout the essay or book.

Focus on your strongest point in your first paragraph to set all doubts aside. There are times I have to reword my essay if there isn’t enough punch to my first paragraph.

As this paragraph also stands as your introduction, it is important to introduce the readers to your way of thinking. Once you’ve stated your most valuable fact, you can move on to the rest of your paragraphs or chapters.

The Body / Middle

Now that you have started with your most compelling paragraph and fact, it is time to add more information. Do not think that the body of your work does not need to be strong.

If you are writing an essay or a book, there are always other people competing with you. If you are a student in the class, you want to be one of the top students. Being an author is not any easier because there are many writers out there trying to get published.

Do proper research to prove your thesis, and this is the section where you will state most of those facts. Seeing as this is just the outline for what will eventually be the final product, you need to make sure you understand the flow and structure. You can jot down ideas or facts and insert it into these paragraphs.

Your work needs to have a flow to it, and this is where you create that flow. The body is where you organize your thoughts. You already know your thesis and your opening fact, but what else do you want to say and in which order do you want to say it?

The Conclusion

After you’ve created an outline for all of your chapters, it is time to start your conclusion. Your conclusion should basically sum up all the facts you stated in the essay or book.

Do not be afraid to remind the reader of you most impactful facts. This is a summary of what has been discussed and to leave the reader on a high. You cannot start with a bang and then slowly lose your audience at the end.

Use the hook you started with and let them know why they chose to write your piece till the end.

Call to Action

Once you have convinced your readers that your thesis is correct, what actions would you like for them to take? You provided great facts in your writing, and the audience will start thinking about your point of view more. Now you have to direct them to test your theory for themselves.

There is no difficulty in creating a great outline once you have your structure right. You can also go online and look at some examples and apply it to your own work. There is no right or wrong way to do an outline if you have a flow to your work.

You do an outline to prevent rambling in your writing or stating random facts that do not create any type of flow. Your final draft will come much later than your outline so do not rush the process. With that being said, your outline also makes writing later much easier.

You can take each heading as a new project and focus on your transition to the next section. When you write the ending sentence of a paragraph, think about the opening sentence of the next one. This way you know that there will be no sharp endings, but rather a smooth transition between paragraphs.

Get individual essay writing help on The Pensters, a brand new kind of a custom writing service.

Lisa Brown works as a content manager. She is specialized on writing useful articles for writers, students and people who want to improve their writing skills. Her hobby is reading, travelling and blogging. Lisa`s life motto is “Never stop learning, because life never stops teaching”.

Writers Workshop: Writer Resources

Writing Tips: Thesis Statements

Defining the Thesis Statement

What is a thesis statement?

Every paper you write should have a main point, a main idea, or central message. The argument(s) you make in your paper should reflect this main idea. The sentence that captures your position on this main idea is what we call a thesis statement.

How long does it need to be?

A thesis statement focuses your ideas into one or two sentences. It should present the topic of your paper and also make a comment about your position in relation to the topic. Your thesis statement should tell your reader what the paper is about and also help guide your writing and keep your argument focused.

Questions to Ask When Formulating Your Thesis

Where is your thesis statement?

You should provide a thesis early in your essay -- in the introduction, or in longer essays in the second paragraph -- in order to establish your position and give your reader a sense of direction.

Tip: In order to write a successful thesis statement:

  • Avoid burying a great thesis statement in the middle of a paragraph or late in the paper.
  • Be as clear and as specific as possible; avoid vague words.
  • Indicate the point of your paper but avoid sentence structures like, “The point of my paper is…”

Is your thesis statement specific?

Your thesis statement should be as clear and specific as possible. Normally you will continue to refine your thesis as you revise your argument(s), so your thesis will evolve and gain definition as you obtain a better sense of where your argument is taking you.

Tip: Check your thesis:

  • Are there two large statements connected loosely by a coordinating conjunction (i.e. "and," "but," "or," "for," "nor," "so," "yet")?
  • Would a subordinating conjunction help (i.e. "through," "although," "because," "since") to signal a relationship between the two sentences?
  • Or do the two statements imply a fuzzy unfocused thesis?
  • If so, settle on one single focus and then proceed with further development.

Is your thesis statement too general?

Your thesis should be limited to what can be accomplished in the specified number of pages. Shape your topic so that you can get straight to the "meat" of it. Being specific in your paper will be much more successful than writing about general things that do not say much. Don't settle for three pages of just skimming the surface.

The opposite of a focused, narrow, crisp thesis is a broad, sprawling, superficial thesis. Compare this original thesis (too general) with three possible revisions (more focused, each presenting a different approach to the same topic):

  • Original thesis:
    • There are serious objections to today's horror movies.
  • Revised theses:
    • Because modern cinematic techniques have allowed filmmakers to get more graphic, horror flicks have desensitized young American viewers to violence.
    • The pornographic violence in "bloodbath" slasher movies degrades both men and women.
    • Today's slasher movies fail to deliver the emotional catharsis that 1930s horror films did.

Is your thesis statement clear?

Your thesis statement is no exception to your writing: it needs to be as clear as possible. By being as clear as possible in your thesis statement, you will make sure that your reader understands exactly what you mean.

Tip: In order to be as clear as possible in your writing:

  • Unless you're writing a technical report, avoid technical language. Always avoid jargon, unless you are confident your audience will be familiar with it.
  • Avoid vague words such as "interesting,” "negative," "exciting,” "unusual," and "difficult."
  • Avoid abstract words such as "society," “values,” or “culture.”

These words tell the reader next to nothing if you do not carefully explain what you mean by them. Never assume that the meaning of a sentence is obvious. Check to see if you need to define your terms (”socialism," "conventional," "commercialism," "society"), and then decide on the most appropriate place to do so. Do not assume, for example, that you have the same understanding of what “society” means as your reader. To avoid misunderstandings, be as specific as possible.

Compare the original thesis (not specific and clear enough) with the revised version (much more specific and clear):

  • Original thesis: Although the timber wolf is a timid and gentle animal, it is being systematically exterminated. [if it's so timid and gentle -- why is it being exterminated?]
  • Revised thesis: Although the timber wolf is actually a timid and gentle animal, it is being systematically exterminated because people wrongfully believe it to be a fierce and cold-blooded killer.

Does your thesis include a comment about your position on the issue at hand?

The thesis statement should do more than merely announce the topic; it must reveal what position you will take in relation to that topic, how you plan to analyze/evaluate the subject or the issue. In short, instead of merely stating a general fact or resorting to a simplistic pro/con statement, you must decide what it is you have to say.

Tips:

  • Avoid merely announcing the topic; your original and specific "angle" should be clear. In this way you will tell your reader why your take on the issue matters.
    • Original thesis: In this paper, I will discuss the relationship between fairy tales and early childhood.
    • Revised thesis: Not just empty stories for kids, fairy tales shed light on the psychology of young children.
  • Avoid making universal or pro/con judgments that oversimplify complex issues.
    • Original thesis: We must save the whales.
    • Revised thesis: Because our planet's health may depend upon biological diversity, we should save the whales.
  • When you make a (subjective) judgment call, specify and justify your reasoning. “Just because” is not a good reason for an argument.
    • Original thesis: Socialism is the best form of government for Kenya.
    • Revised thesis: If the government takes over industry in Kenya, the industry will become more efficient.
  • Avoid merely reporting a fact. Say more than what is already proven fact. Go further with your ideas. Otherwise… why would your point matter?
    • Original thesis: Hoover's administration was rocked by scandal.
    • Revised thesis: The many scandals of Hoover's administration revealed basic problems with the Republican Party's nominating process.

Do not expect to come up with a fully formulated thesis statement before you have finished writing the paper. The thesis will inevitably change as you revise and develop your ideas—and that is ok! Start with a tentative thesis and revise as your paper develops.

Is your thesis statement original?

Avoid, avoid, avoid generic arguments and formula statements. They work well to get a rough draft started, but will easily bore a reader. Keep revising until the thesis reflects your real ideas.

Tip: The point you make in the paper should matter:

  • Be prepared to answer “So what?” about your thesis statement.
  • Be prepared to explain why the point you are making is worthy of a paper. Why should the reader read it?

Compare the following:

  • Original thesis:
    • There are advantages and disadvantages to using statistics. (a fill-in-the-blank formula)
  • Revised theses:
    • Careful manipulation of data allows a researcher to use statistics to support any claim she desires.
    • In order to ensure accurate reporting, journalists must understand the real significance of the statistics they report.
    • Because advertisers consciously and unconsciously manipulate data, every consumer should learn how to evaluate statistical claims.

Avoid formula and generic words. Search for concrete subjects and active verbs, revising as many "to be" verbs as possible. A few suggestions below show how specific word choice sharpens and clarifies your meaning.

  • Original: “Society is...” [who is this "society" and what exactly is it doing?]
  • Revised: "Men and women will learn how to...," "writers can generate...," "television addicts may chip away at...," "American educators must decide...," "taxpayers and legislators alike can help fix..."
  • Original: "the media"
  • Revised: "the new breed of television reporters," "advertisers," "hard-hitting print journalists," "horror flicks," "TV movies of the week," "sitcoms," "national public radio," "Top 40 bop-til-you-drop..."
  • Original: "is, are, was, to be" or "to do, to make"
  • Revised: any great action verb you can concoct: "to generate," "to demolish," "to batter," "to revolt," "to discover," "to flip," "to signify," "to endure..."

Use your own words in thesis statements; avoid quoting. Crafting an original, insightful, and memorable thesis makes a distinct impression on a reader. You will lose credibility as a writer if you become only a mouthpiece or a copyist; you will gain credibility by grabbing the reader with your own ideas and words.

A well-crafted thesis statement reflects well-crafted ideas. It signals a writer who has intelligence, commitment, and enthusiasm.


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