3. Creating a Thesis Statement & Outline
I.What is a thesis statement?
A thesis statement is usually a sentence that states your argument to the reader. It usually appears in the first paragraph of an essay.
II. Why do I need to write a thesis statement for a paper?
Your thesis statement states what you will discuss in your essay. Not only does it define the scope and focus of your essay, it also tells your reader what to expect from the essay.
A thesis statement can be very helpful in constructing the outline of your essay.
Also, your instructor may require a thesis statement for your paper.
III. How do I create a thesis statement?
A thesis statement is not a statement of fact. It is an assertive statement that states your claims and that you can prove with evidence. It should be the product of research and your own critical thinking. There are different ways and different approaches to write a thesis statement. Here are some steps you can try to create a thesis statement:
1. Start out with the main topic and focus of your essay.
Example: youth gangs + prevention and intervention programs
2. Make a claim or argument in one sentence.
Example: Prevention and intervention programs can stop youth gang activities.
3. Revise the sentence by using specific terms.
Example: Early prevention programs in schools are the most effective way to prevent youth gang involvement.
4. Further revise the sentence to cover the scope of your essay and make a strong statement.
Example: Among various prevention and intervention efforts that have been made to deal with the rapid growth of youth gangs, early school-based prevention programs are the most effective way to prevent youth gang involvement.
IV. Can I revise the thesis statement in the writing process?
Sure. In fact, you should keep the thesis statement flexible and revise it as needed. In the process of researching and writing, you may find new information that falls outside the scope of your original plan and want to incorporate it into your paper. Or you probably understand your thoughts more and shift the focus of your paper. Then you will need to revise your thesis statement while you are writing the paper.
V. Why do I need to make an outline when I already have a thesis statement?
An outline is the "road map" of your essay in which you list the arguments and subtopics in a logical order. A good outline is an important element in writing a good paper. An outline helps to target your research areas, keep you within the scope without going off-track, and it can also help to keep your argument in good order when writing the essay.
VI. How do I make an outline?
You list all the major topics and subtopics with key points that support them. Put similar topics and points together and arrange them in a logical order.
Include an Introduction, a Body, and a Conclusion in your outline. You can make an outline in a list format or a chart format.
Next Chapter: 4. Choosing Appropriate Resources
An outline is a map of your essay. It shows what information each section or paragraph will contain, and in what order. Most outlines use numbers and/or bullet points to arrange information and convey points.
Why create an outline?
Outlining is a tool we use in the writing process to help organize our ideas, visualize our paper’s potential structure, and to further flesh out and develop points. It allows the writer to understand how he or she will connect information to support the thesis statement and the claims of the paper. An outline provides the writer with a space to consider ideas easily without needing to write complete paragraphs or sentences.
Creating your outline:
Before beginning an outline, it is useful to have a clear thesis statement or clear purpose or argument, as everything else in the outline is going to work to support the thesis. Note: the outline might help inform the thesis, and therefore your thesis might change or develop within the outlining process.
Organize your outline in whatever format fits into the structure needed for the type of paper you are writing. One common outline format uses Roman numerals, letters, and numbers. Other outlines can use bullet points or other symbols. You can use whatever organizational patterns work best for you and your paper, as long as you understand your own organizational tools. Outlines can be written using complete sentences or fragments or a mix of the two.
Remember! After creating your outline, you may decide to reorganize your ideas by putting them in a different order. Furthermore, as you are writing you might make some discoveries and can, of course, always adjust or deviate from the outline as needed.
As you can see in the outline below, the writer chose to separate the outline by topics, but could have utilized a different structure, organizing the outline by separate paragraphs, indicating what each paragraph will do or say.
A. Background information
- Reason 1
A. Use quotes from x
B. Use evidence from y
- Reason 2
1. They might say…
A. Connect back to thesis
B. Answer the “so what” or “what now” question
C. End on a memorable note
Note: The sample outline above illustrates the structure of an outline, but it is quite vague. Your outline should be as specific as possible.
- Summary/ Synopsis of proposed project
• Specific aims and objectives
• Experimental approaches to be used
• The potential significance
- Specific Aims
- Background and Significance
• Significance to current project
• Significance to long-term research objectives
• Critical evaluations of existing knowledge
• Forward progress
- Preliminary Data
• Description of prelim data to justify the rationale
• Demonstrate feasibility of the project
- Experimental Design and Methods
• Details of design and procedures
• Means of data analysis and interpretation
• New methodology and its advantages
• Potential technical difficulties or limitations/ alternative approaches
Note: Outlines can look quite different. You might use Roman numerals to indicate the main point or function of that section, and then letters to indicate separate sub-points, and then even bullet points or numbers to indicate specific information, like using certain quotes, sources, evidence, or examples.
Los Angeles Valley College Writing Center, “How to Make an Outline” 2/2/15
Northwestern University Collaborative Learning and Integrated Mentoring in the Biosciences, “A Basic Proposal Outline”
San Jose State University Writing Center, “Essay Planning: Outlining with a Purpose” Spring 2014