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RES104: Introduction to Research Writing: Writing the Paper

Why Outline??

Chances are if you're asking this question...the most immediate and important answer is because your professor is requiring it. Right? Right. But WHY are they requiring it? Good question...what makes an outline important?

  • Serves as a great brainstorming activity
  • Identifies main points of your argument
  • Helps you organize your research material
  • Show potential strengths and weaknesses in your argument

In other words, a well-structured detailed outline is a great bridge between the reading and understanding of your sources and the written draft of your paper. Without a good outline that gap is hard to bridge!

How do I get from my "research stuff" to my outline?

Step #1: List the points and research you want to include in your paper

Step #2: Create a working (tentative) thesis 

Step #3: Craft an argument that proves your thesis

Step #4: Include the evidence from your research that proves your point 

Step #5: Add appropriate in-text citations to your evidence 

But what about those Roman Numeral things?

Confused by the formatting of outlines? Here's an example of what one might look like.

Organizing your draft

Organizing shouldn't just happen before you start writing. Once you've got a draft done use the color blocking technique to check your balance and flow. First things first...attack your draft with a highlighter. Use the color pattern below (or substitute your own faves) to get started.

 
  • Pink--thesis
  • Green--introductory elements and/or conclusion
  • Orange--research/quotes
  • Blue--Writer's commentary/voice
     

So once we apply this color blocking to your paper, it might look a little like this:


 

Introduction and Thesis:

  XXXXXXXXX XXXXXXX XXXX XXXXX XXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXX XXXX XXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX  XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXX  XXXXXXX XXXXXXXX XXXXXX XXXXX XXXXXX XXXXX XX XXXXX XXXXXXX X XXXXXX XXXXX XXX XXXXXX XXXXX XXX XXXX XXX XX XXX XXXXX XXXXXXXX XXXXXX XXXXXXX

Body:

  XXXXXXXX XX XXX XXXX XXXXXXX XXXX XXX XXXXXXXX XXX XXXXXXXX XXXXXXX XXXXX X XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXX XXXXXX XXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXX XXX XX XXXXXXX XXXXXX XXXXX XXXXXX XXXXX XXXXXXXXX XXXXX XXXXXXXX XXX XXXXX XXXX XXX XX XXXXXXX XXXX XXXX XXXXX XXXX XXXX XXXXXXX XXXXX

 


Questions to ask after color blocking:

  • Is the pink section (thesis) positioned well within the yellow (introduction)?
  • What is the balance between orange (research) and blue (writer's voice), Does the orange overpower the blue, or is the blue overly dominant?

 

Outlines: Friend or Foe?

Research writing as a murder mystery

Wait...what are we doing again??

A big picture look at the research process

Forgot where you are in the process? Need a few tips to get you through to the next stage? Look no further.

Grammar comics to help you