- Clarity. If you can't write a clear sentence summarizing the
paragraph's point, you certainly can't write a clear paragraph.
- Flow of argument. It is much easier to quickly judge whether the
present order of paragraphs (as sentences in the outline) really makes the
argument in the most effective way. You may be able to
omit one or more paragraphs and still make your arguments.
- Efficiency. Revision of the plan of paper is much easier and
quicker if you have only to delete or re-order sentences.
Doing this on the completed draft involves much more work.
- Since a concept must be explained when it first appears,
interchanging paragraphs will necessitate moving definitions.
- Paragraphs should smoothly flow into each other.
Reordering paragraphs may necessitate extensive rewriting.
- Writing to length. With a sentence outline you can easily
judge how long the manuscript will be and modify it
to keep the essential material within the prescribed length.
- Time. All the above -- clarity, argument flow,
efficency, length management -- can done faster using a sentence outline.
The outline should have the following form:
Abstract: The abstract contains a few, carefully
written sentences summarizing the major points in the paper. It is
followed by a list of (preferably numbered) sentences each of which
summarizes the major point of a paragraph in the paper.
- Each sentence must be a sentence -- that is, it has a subject
("each sentence"), a verb ("must be"), and a complement ("a sentence").
- The sentence should be as specific as possible so that the main
points/features of the paragraph are clear.
- Each sentence is the "topic sentence" of the
paragraph and usually appears as the first sentence of the paragraph.
- If one numbered item contains two sentences, make sure you are
not squeezing two paragraphs into one. For a paper of n double-spaced
pages, there should be 2n to 3n paragraphs.
- The sentences should be organized to construct coherent arguments
toward your paper's conclusions.
- There must an introductory paragraph that sets the paper in
context; in this paragraph the topic sentence can be at the end.
- Generally, the next paragraph presents the principal results or
conclusions to be presented in the text of the paper.
- The final paragraph should deftly summarize only the
results defended in the body of the paper.
- The outline should be double spaced.
- For this course, you should include at the end the most important
references you will use. These can be cited in individual sentences of
the outline, if you want, in order to make clear where they are
Your comments and
suggestions are appreciated.
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