World History


Then Again




Getting Organized



I. Developing a Thesis.

Because of the difficulties associated with writing an extended essay, it is imperative that you have a well developed thesis before you begin writing. It is the center around which your entire work is organized. It determines what is relevant to your paper and what isn't. If you aren't sure what you're writing about, you can't write a well organized essay.

When you began this project, you developed a research agenda. As you have been exploring your topic you have probably, at least in the back of your mind, altered your research agenda somewhat. Given the state of your knowledge at this moment, how would you answer the question which is the focus of your research? If you can give a one or two sentence answer to that question, you have found your thesis statement.

For example, suppose you had set out to explore how Gilligan's Island reflected the political concerns of the 1960s. You had narrowed your research further and were focusing on the relation of Gilligan's Island to the problems of the middle class. You set as the focus of your research the question, "How does Gilligan's Island reflect the concerns of middle class America?" You might answer this by saying, "Gilligan's Island was a microcosm of middle class America, which felt isolated, abandoned and barely able to survive. It was constantly threatened by invasion from outside and could do little to protect itself. It could only be rescued by an appeal to a government which was very distant and difficult to contact."

Your paper will consist largely of convincing your reader that your thesis is true.

II. From reasons to outline.

Once you have determined your thesis, the next step is to provide an argument that proves it. State your thesis. In three or four sentences, state why you believe your thesis is true. Each of these sentences will become the topic sentence for a major division of your essay. Because you are working with an extended essay, you should then ask yourself why you believe each of these topic sentences is true. The reasons you give here will form the sub-sections of your argument.

Once you have a thesis and an argument it is necessary to arrange the argument in a logical fashion. You should arrange the points of your argument in a way which will persuade the reader that your thesis is true.

III. Outlining.

Once you have decided how you will organize your paper, you should try to outline it. One of the most difficult parts of writing an extended research paper is producing a work which is a single literary unit and not simply a bunch of ideas thrown together. It is especially difficult to see how some part functions in the paper as a whole unless you have some idea of what the whole paper will be like in the end. This is the function and the importance of an outline. It is a sketch of the whole structure of the paper. With a good outline you will know where you are in the paper as you write and how the various sections of the paper relate to one another and to the thesis. The outline also helps you to eliminate irrelevant material before it winds up as part of the paper.

    I. In general, one begins the first major division of the paper as Roman I.

      A. The Subdivisions of each major divisions are marked with Upper Case letters such as A and


        1. Further subdivisions are marked with an Arabic 1 or


    II. The next major division is Roman II.

      A. Its Subdivisions, like those of the subdivisions of Roman I are marked by Upper Case letters.




          a. Further divisions can be marked with lower case letters and

            i. lower case roman numerals.

          b. You may wish to treat the introduction and conclusion as part of your outline.

        3. Or you can treat them separately.

    III. As an aid in writing your paper, you might also wish to mark your note cards so that you will know where they will be used in the paper. Indeed, to help you get started with your outline you might take your note cards and place them in piles according to topics. Each pile of cards might develop into one section of the paper.

    IV. Do not regard your outline is not fixed for all times. As you continue to research, as you continue to improve your understanding of the topic, your thesis will change and so should your outline. Both thesis and outline become permanent only in the final paper.

IV. Your Assignment.

You are to develop an outline for your research paper. You will receive 5 points if this outline has a clearly stated thesis. While your paper may have as many divisions as you need to make a persuasive argument, you will receive 1 point for each clearly expressed major division (3 points maximum) and 1 point for each clearly expressed sub-division (7 points maximum).

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