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American Government: Thematic Essay: Outlines

Outlines: Why Do We Need Them

You have an idea of WHAT you want to say; now you could use help organizing HOW best to say it.  That’s where a well-crafted outline comes in. The outline will help you map out your ideas in preparation for writing the final paper.  These ideas will also help you plan your research.

There are two main styles of outline: sentence outlines and topic outlines.


Creating an outline will help you:

-Clarify ideas

-Develop the main points that support your thesis

-Stay on task

-Explain the importance of your research essay in the broader context of your topic and subject area

-Avoid plagiarism by matching facts with sources



Getting ready to begin Read the assignment guidelines carefully and be sure you understand what you are being asked to do.  Tip: When you have finished writing your outline, go back over the assignment rubric to make sure you “ticked all the boxes”  for the required TOPIC Outline Format.


Introduction: Background….Thesis

Support #1 - #5:  Topic Sentence...Evidence...Analysis


Conclusion:  Summarize...Reword Thesis


Outlines: Why Do We Need Them?

In a Nutshell

Introduction - should include attention grabber, background and thesis


Supporting Paragraphs (Body) - should include topic sentence, evidence (details and specifics) and analysis (demonstration of how they relate to thesis)


Conclusion - should summarize your main points, restate your thesis (from the introduction) using different wording, and explain the truth and application of the issue in terms of current history


Topic sentence - a sentence that summarizes the main idea of a paragraph.  It organizes the paragraph

Evidence - info you will extract from your research; it should be relevant to, and supportive of, your point

Signal phrase - a phrase or sentence that introduces a quotation, paraphrase or summary

Quote vs paraphrase - verbatim words are quotes; your own words are paraphrases

Thesis statement - represents the main message of your paper and asserts a perspective on your topic

Topic vs subject - a topic defines a particular aspect of a broader subject; a topic is a piece of a subject

Analysis - a detailed examination of the evidence

Evidence - information that gives additional weight to the point(s) you are making


Adding In Info From Your Sources

As you review the facts and evidence in the outline, you can add in details and turn these points into full sentences.  You must credit the source regardless of whether you use a direct quote or decide to paraphrase. Use in-text citation points to support the evidence.   


To move from your own words to the words of a quote,  use SIGNAL PHRASES as lead- ins.  Signal phrases contain a)  the name of the person saying the quote and b) a verb or “action word” like claims, argues, believes.  Ex. Person “X” claims ...


Now, how can you provide a detailed examination or analysis of the elements?  One way is to use the “5 W’s and How.” (Who, What, Where, When, Why and How) Use these questions as prompts to be answered in your  information gathering process.