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Sketch That Fruit Bowl: Write An Outline!

Sketch That Fruit Bowl: Write An Outline!

Is your paper as mixed up as fruit salad?


Is your reader unable to see what you're arguing?


Want to get a glimpse of your paper in its entirety?

Write an outline!

Why?

Outlines can create a more efficient flow of ideas, refine arguments, remove unnecessary information, and allow you to consider the entirety of your paper without having written it.

Like a painter making a sketch before she paints, an outline allows you to perfect all of those nuances before you lay down all of that writing. With an outline, you'll be able to see the whole picture you are describing with one glance, instead of reading it.

 

 

Step 1: Start by brainstorming and listing all of the arguments you can think of regarding your topic, drawing from your evidence.

Example (*Note that the arguments used in this example have very little factual basis, if any):

  • Oranges are more expensive than apples

  • Apples are more delicious than oranges

  • Oranges require more work than apples because you have to take off their skin

  • Oranges require more exploitive labor to pick than apples

  • Apples are less healthy for you than oranges

  • Apples stay fresh longer than oranges

  • Oranges are best served cold, but apples can be pleasant regardless of temperature

  • Apples are more popular

  • Apples are more often used in painting

  • Oranges look better sliced up than apples

  • You can remove the seeds from apples, but it is hard to do so from oranges

 

Step 2: Consider different ways of organizing your smaller arguments to prove your thesis

You may notice that some ways of organizing papers will be better for making your argument than others. Like a microcosm of your paper, each paragraph has a argument, a mini-thesis, and a mini-topic.

Example #1:

I. Advantages of oranges: Oranges are better than apples.

a. Oranges are more healthy

b. Sliced oranges look better sliced than apples

c. Apples require more exploitive labor to pick

d. Oranges are more delicious

II. Advantages of apples: Apples are better than oranges.

a. Oranges are more expensive

b. Oranges require more work to prepare (peeling off their skin)

c. It is easier to remove seeds form apples

d. Apples are painted in many paintings

e. Apples are more popular

f. Apples are great at any temperature

g. Apples stay fresh longer

This structure is the easiest to make, but it does not support a nuanced argument of a thesis. It is a laundry list of advantages, rather than a detailed weighing of fruits. A better argument can be made when you organize your arguments by thematic topics: durability, work, enjoyment, aesthetic value, and nutrition of the fruits.

Example #2:

I. Introduction

a. Topic: Comparing apples and oranges.

b. Thesis: Although oranges are more expensive and require more labor than apples, their nutritional value, deliciousness, and beauty make them the idea party fruit.

II. Nutrition of the fruits: Oranges are healthier.

a. Oranges are more healthy

III. Aesthetic value of fruits: Although apples are in more paintings, oranges look better when sliced.

a. Apples are painted in many paintings

b. Sliced oranges look better sliced than apples

IV. The cost of fruits: Oranges are more expensive.

a. Oranges are more expensive

V. Enjoyment of the fruits: Oranges are better for special occasions, but apples are good anytime.

a. Oranges are more delicious

b. Oranges are more aesthetically pleasing when sliced

c. Apples are great at any temperature

VI. Work to eat fruits: Apples require less work for consumers.

a. It is easier to remove seeds from apples

b. Oranges require more work to prepare (peeling off their skin)

c. Apples require more exploitive labor to pick

VII. Consumption of fruits: Apples are more popular.

a. Apples are more popular

VIII. Durability of the fruits: Apples are more durable.

a. Apples are great at any temperature

b. Apples stay fresh longer

You may already see how some of these smaller arguments could be used to create medium-sized arguments to argue your thesis. There is still some more to do!

 

Step 3: Consolidating paragraphs and ordering them

The paper should be organized in a way to make the transition of your paper easier, your examples less redundant, and your argument more credible.

Tips:

  • It is best to put points that might undermine your argument earlier in the paper so that you have ample time to give counterarguments.

  • If you have to prove something before you can analyze another part of your paper, you should do that first.

  • It's better to consolidate paragraphs or leave out analysis, than to repeat arguments.

Example:


I. Introduction

a. Thesis: Although apples are the standard fruit fare for many, oranges are healthier, better for parties, and raise fewer ethical issues, making them a better pick if you can afford it.

II. Work and cost to eat fruits: Apples require less work and money, but raise ethical concerns over the exploitive labor practices required to pick them.

a. It is easier to remove seeds from apples

b. Oranges require more work to prepare (peeling off their skin)

c. Apples require more exploitive labor to pick

d. Oranges are more expensive

III. Everyday consumption of fruits: Apples are more practical for everyday use, but oranges are healthier.

a. Apples stay fresh longer

b. Apples are great at any temperature

c. Oranges are more healthy

d. Apples are more popular

IV. Enjoyment of the fruits: Although apples are celebrated in art, oranges are better looking and tasting, making them work the extra cost.

a. Oranges are more delicious

b. Oranges are more aesthetically pleasing when sliced

c. Apples are painted in many paintings

d. Sliced oranges look better sliced than apples

V. Conclusion possibilities:

i. Looking toward the future conclusion: If everyone were to start eating oranges, maybe the costs would come down and everyone would be better off

ii. A bigger picture, philosophical truth: This goes to show that what is popular is not always right

iii. Another bigger picture, philosophical truth: This shows that our easy options are not always the right ones to choose.

 

Now just fill in all of the blanks in your sketch and you'll be done.

Now orange you glad you made an outline???!

Please enjoy the fruits of your labor and forgive my corny puns. They have no place in this paper.

 

John Cadigan
Student Learning Center, University of California, Berkeley
©2007 UC Regents

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.