The outline for the Debate paperthe organization of the paperis really quite simple. Heres 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. Dont just copy this. Instead, fill in the information on your research question and your sources.
(By the way, I dont care so much about whether you follow the rules for a formal outline. This template uses a mix of formal and informal styles. If youre curious about rules for formal outlines, see Developing an Outline at the Purdue University Online Writing Lab.)
- State what the research question is.
- Give an overview of what the different sources say about the question.
- Give a quick summary of the source (a sentence or a few at most)
- State how it answers the question
- If it does not answer the question directly, explain what ideas or information it provides that contributes to an answer.
- Critique the source:
This should be very briefyou only have room for a couple of sentences on each point.
- Evidence: Is it sufficient, relevant and representative?
- Reasoning: Are the assumptions valid? Do the conclusions add up?
You dont 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.
Second Sourcesame as the first
(Continue until you have 5 - 7 sources.)
- Sum up again how the different sources answer the research question.
- State your answer to the research question.
- This will be the thesis of your final research paper. Think of this part of the conclusion as a summary of your research paper, like the summaries of all your sources.
Thats it. A bunch of sources, each one summarized and critiqued, with an explanation of how it answers the research question (or, if it doesnt 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
- 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. Dont do that. See Organization: Debate vs. Research for a comparison of the two papers.
- 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:
- Evidencesufficient, relevant, maybe not all representative.
- One major invalid assumption.
- Argues that global warming is most important effect.
The more of this kind of detail you can get into your outline, the easier it will be to write your paper.
After you have the outline and have drafted the basic content of each paragraph., work on making it more than just a list. Dont 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 sources focus, or show the contrast between this source and the previous onesomething to give it variety while still focusing on the essential elements of the assignment.