By Peter J. Francis, HGPublishing Editor
By this point you should have some idea of what you want to say: this is your thesis. You might be struggling at this point. You have a bunch of facts or observations and no idea of how to tie it all together. Your thesis is an explanation. It tells why something happened (in a history paper); it tells what is important; it tells how to understand something (like a novel or poem). The thesis tells the reader what the whole point of the essay is. The thesis truly is the most important sentence in the essay.
Have you been given a topic? Go to the Thesis page to learn how to get from the essay question to the thesis. In a research paper, especially in social sciences, clarifying your thesis is important BEFORE you do your research. In an arts paper you need a certain familiarity with your material before you can narrow down your thoughts to a thesis but you will also need to have your thesis in mind as you gather evidence to prove it. In a persuasive essay, your thesis in the point that you want your reader to agree with after they have read your paper. Here are some topic ideas for persuasive essays. Once you have your thesis clear, you are ready to really write. This means we have arrived at the outline.
Step 4 is to make an outline. This is a point form, informal list of the things you need to say. It's hard to go into details because every outline will be very different. But just take your brainstorm and try to put things into some kind of logical order. It will be refined as you go along, but it give you a starting point.
In your outline you are trying to put together the evidence for your thesis. That means quoting from or making reference to the book, poem or story you are writing about. It's important that each paragraph in your essay presents and discusses some evidence related to your thesis.
If you are writing about a story or novel, what is the main plot? For each main plot area, find some evidence in the text which helps you to prove your thesis. For each quote you wish to make be prepared to write several sentences explaining how it supports your thesis. If you need to quote a long section, you need to talk a lot about it. Markers are not impressed by essays which are filled up with long quotes.
If you are writing about a poem, what is the the poet trying to convey? Is it a feeling, a comparison or an insight? You should be able to find specific words or lines that help you to establish that message.
If you are writing about a historical or sociological topic then you are going to be talking about the importance of something. You will be citing references to this thing and putting them into some kind of context (ie: proving your thesis.)
The important thing about the outline is that it will guide you as you write. Each point can become a topic sentence for a whole paragraph. (More on topic sentences in paragraphs here.) For example, if you are writing about "To Kill a Mockingbird," your thesis could be: To Kill a Mockingbird is a metaphor of America's coming to terms with its legacy of racism. Your outline would obviously include points about the use of the "n-word", about how the black people were treated, and about the mob who believed Tom Robinson was guilty just because he was black. But you might also be including a paragraph or two on how the children get to see the world from the black people's perspective. In this paragraph, you would mention how they visited Calpurnia's church and found out many black people could not read; that the church could not afford hymn books in any case. The outline might only have one point: "perspective," but that point would be a starting place for quite a few ideas that can be elaborated upon in the body of the essay.
Our editing and proofreading services start as low as $10. Visit our home page for details on our proofreading services from blogs to books. We offer free proofreading for short passages and free grammar help.