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Preparing an outline will help you think over your notes, consider them from several perspectives, and devise/revise an organizational plan appropriate to your topic, audience, and assignment. An outline that accompanies the final draft of a paper can also function as a table of contents for the reader.
This kind of outline helps you answer the questions: What do I know a lot about already? Here is an example of a tentative outline a student used to begin doing research for an essay comparing three different political theories: neo-Marxism, pluralism, and elitism.
The writer already knew about two of the theories, but needed more information about the third.
Many writers use an outline to help them think through the various stages of the writing process.
An outline is a kind of graphic scheme of the organization of your paper.
She summarized the draft, paragraph by paragraph, and then took a look at what the outline revealed. She decided to be consistent by combining paragraphs 3 and 4.
Paragraph 1 -- General introduction to political theories, Thesis: neo-Marxism most useful Paragraph 2 -- Description of neo-Marxism Paragraph 3 -- Description of pluralism Paragraph 4 -- Coalitions of interest groups Paragraph 5 -- Description of elitism Paragraph 6 -- Pluralist analysis of U. She also noticed that the second half of the paper seemed to jump around from theory to theory, presenting each theory's analysis and then each theory's weaknesses.
Regardless of the degree of formality, however, the function of an outline is to help you consider the most effective way to say what you want to say. Conclusion Notice in a formal outline, whenever a point is subdivided, there are at least two subpoints.
Outlines usually grow out of working plans for papers. Logic and convention state that when you divide a point, you can divide it into no fewer than two subpoints.
Regardless of the kind of formal outline you choose, convention states that you begin with a statement of your thesis and indicate increasing levels of support in this order: I., A., 1., a., (1), (a).
In scientific papers, however, a decimal system is also commonly used.