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Academic tutorial: how do you write an outline for an essay


The outline is a critical component to the overall paper. The purpose of the outline is to note the major points you will cover in your paper as well as what evidence you will provide to support all of your arguments. Consider that the better you write your outline the easier and faster your final paper will turn out.

The outline should include a handful of sentences for each of your main subjects:

  1. Abstract
  2. Introduction
  3. Literature review
  4. Body
  5. Conclusion or results section
  6. Discussion

Obviously what is covered will vary based on the type of writing you are doing. Humanities essays will likely not require an abstract and only have the conclusion rather than the results and discussion. It is important that you include each section as outlined by your assignment details. Beneath the titles you should include a single topic sentence that dictates the topic you will cover in the section and a few key pieces of evidence such as a statistic or quote.

When writing a research paper, you might be required to include an article review or literature review. An article review is a critical analysis of an article or a book. It is much more than a mere summary of what was inside the piece. It is a chance to evaluate the work in light of theoretical concerns or specific issues pertinent to your course. The review puts together different commentaries to map out the myriad positions on a particular topic and then defines your purpose or position in the remainder of the paper. When you include the article review or literature review in your research paper ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What was the specific topic in this article? What was the purpose it had overall? Who was the audience for which the article was written?
  2. *Note that you can refer to the acknowledgements, the preface, the index, and the bibliography for information answering these questions. Do not overlook the background of the author or the circumstances behind the publication of the article or book.

  3. Is there an explicit thesis stated by the author? Is it noticeable that the author has an axe to grind? Were there any theoretical assumptions? If so, were they discussed in an explicit manner?
  4. *Note that you can look over the preface statements for information to these questions and then follow up with the remainder of the text.

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