English 102

Debate Paper Outline

The outline for the Debate paper—the organization of the paper—is really quite simple. Here’s what it would look like.

This is a template. It tells you the format, but does not tell you the content. That depends on your research. Don’t just copy this. Instead, fill in the information on your research question and your sources.

(By the way, I don’t care so much about whether you follow the rules for a formal outline. This template uses a mix of formal and informal styles. If you’re curious about rules for formal outlines, see Developing an Outline at the Purdue University Online Writing Lab.)

  1. Introduction
  2. First source
  3. You don’t have to do it in this order. For example, you might start with the summary, do the critique and then say how it relates to your question.

  4. Second Source—same as the first

(Continue until you have 5 - 7 sources.)

  1. Conclusion

That’s it. A bunch of sources, each one summarized and critiqued, with an explanation of how it answers the research question (or, if it doesn’t exactly answer it, how does it relate), and a brief statement of how you expect your final research paper to answer the research question.

Things to Watch Out For

  1. The single most common mistake people make in this assignment is that they write a draft of their research paper, not focused on the sources but focused on their own thesis. Don’t do that. See Organization: Debate vs. Research for a comparison of the two papers.
  2. In your outline, list as much of this material as you can, based on the reading you have done so far. For example, under one source you might write:
  3. The more of this kind of detail you can get into your outline, the easier it will be to write your paper.

  4. After you have the outline and have drafted the basic content of each paragraph., work on making it more than just a list. Don’t start every paragraph with "In my next source..." Instead, use the opening of the paragraph tie each one back to the research question, or introduce the source’s focus, or show the contrast between this source and the previous one—something to give it variety while still focusing on the essential elements of the assignment.