my monkied brain (katekat1010) wrote,
my monkied brain

How To Create A Research Paper Outline

(lit 101 for postmodernists that can't get a clue)

All outlines require a thesis. A thesis cannot be in the form of a question. A thesis must be an actual statement of some opinion. That you can prove. A thesis should be able to be distilled into one sentence (that sentence may require expansion, which will constitute your paper, but really, for a 10 page paper? One sentence is *plenty*). Remember, this is the concept you are going to prove with the rest of your discussion, so make it something that's worth proving.

Next, outline your arguments for proof. Why do you believe what you wrote? Why should your reader believe it? Start with the MAIN ideas. In a 10 page paper, you should really only have 3-5 specific points. Seriously, if you have more than that, your paper is going to be too long and you're making too many arguments. If you've got that many reasons for your thesis, pick the strongest ones. All of these become your first bullets.

After that, don't get bogged down in the details quite yet. Just outline your reasons for why you think you're right. They don't have to be complete sentences, but the have to be *complete thoughts*. And if you're going to use a single theory or multiple theories, each one should really be given it's own section. If you're going to use specific terminology, make sure to define it. Don't just run off listing a bunch of buzz words you don't understand. And if you think you understand them, but you can't clearly explain them, DON'T USE THEM. You don't understand these terms until you can make a halfway decent attempt at defining them for other people. These things make up your first sub bullets.

Then, what proves those reasons? Does another theory bolster yours? Each reason should have a justification in the text you're discussing or in some theory about the text you're discussing. Your interpretation of this stuff becomes your second set of sub bullets. Note, every one of your main bullets should at least have two sets of sub bullets. Seriously, it's not that hard.

The next set of sub bullets should be the actual quotes you're going to use. Easy enough right? These are the nitty gritty details, so it's fine to have two or three that buttress every argument. You can always refine these later. Really.

Finally, a conclusion. You may have been misled by helpful English teachers into believing that your conclusion is a simple restatement of your thesis. Not true. Your conclusion should be more than that, just by a tad. Sure, sum your paper up, but maybe talk about the further implications of your thesis. There's always an other "why" to be answered.

The main things NOT to do:

Don't try and write two papers to make it long enough. If your thesis is too simple to be 10 pages, simply ask "why" again. Don't add in random "free association" and expect someone to grade it like it makes sense. Also, don't turn in an outline that isn't an outline. We've all got copies of a word processing program, and all the current word processing programs have the ability to create sophisticated outlines. Easily.

Also, if you're infatuated with theory, know it before you try to spout it. Don't have some bullshit idea that you're going to do a postmodern feminist reading of the story but then have no definition of postmodern feminism, include no conclusion about what your reading implies, and for gods sake don't sit there and tell me that you don't want to do a psychological reading and then proceed to talk about the self and other. Hello - self and other? It is a psychological construction, dammit. And if you want to use it differently, go find some other theorist to back you up that it's not. I doubt you'll find one, but sure, try. I'm willing to admit there's a lot of theory out there I haven't read. But, most of all, don't be an annoying prissy girl who tells me she doesn't have "enough time" to re-write her outline so that it's ... intelligible. Because honey, just because you look up to her doesn't mean you're the next Octavia Bulter.

The sad part is that I'm a postmodernist myself. And she made me disgusted with postmodernists. Bleh.
Tags: rants, school

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