Strategies for Planning an Essay and Creating an Outline

Strategies for Planning an Essay and Creating an Outline

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Strategies for Planning an Essay

Jack McCoy

You may be asking yourself what Jack McCoy from the series Law and Order has to do with essay writing. If you look at academic essay writing and an argument that a prosecutor puts together to present to a jury, you will see that they have a lot in common. When you write an essay, you are stating a claim and then providing support for it, right? Look at the similarities in the table below.

Academic EssayProsecution’s CaseWhat Takes Place
IntroductionOpening ArgumentContext is established so that the reader/jury knows what to expect.
Thesis StatementStatement of GuiltThe main point of the essay/argument is clearly stated.
Body ParagraphPresentation of EvidenceEvidence is introduced, authenticated (through citations for an essay; through establishing a chain of custody for a trial), and explained.
Body ParagraphPresentation of EvidenceSame as above.
Body ParagraphPresentation of EvidenceSame as above. Evidence is presented until the argument is fully developed.
ConclusionClosing ArgumentEvidence is summarized, conclusions are drawn, and the thesis/statement of guilt is paraphrased.

Give this idea some thought as you plan your literary analysis for this class. What argument are you making? What evidence will you present to prove that argument? How will you interpret that evidence to guide your reader through your thought process?

Strategies for Writing an Outline

Outline

You may be familiar with an outline that looks like the image above, which is the standard five-paragraph essay format. We’ll be using something similar it for this class. You will be given a choice of topics to work with and a blank outline form to complete. For each body paragraph, you should have at least three details and at least one correctly cited quote (direct or paraphrased) to support your claims.

Make sure to carefully consider all aspects of the topic you choose and spend enough time on your outline so that you can use it as a guide to write your essay in Week 3.Hart. W. (Photographer). (2010, May 17). Sam Waterston as Prosecutor Jack McCoy [digital image]. Retrieved from ‘Law & Order’ Creator Still Looking to Bring Original Back

‘Law & Order’ Creator Still Looking to …

First, you’ll need to choose a topic for your final essay, which will be at least 1,000 words in length. This is the topic you will use to create your outline in Week 2 and final essay in Week 3. Choose ONE of the topics below.

Option 1:

The American Dream lecture in Week 1 points out that Poor Richard’s Almanac was an annual publication that included calendar lists, home recipes, weather forecasts etc. What made Franklin’s almanac unlike other almanacs was the inclusion of Franklin’s witty parables and humorous writings.  Franklin proposes in “The Way to Wealth” that anyone who works hard, avoids debt, and works toward attaining a virtuous character can be successful and ultimately wealthy—that the American Dream is accessible to all.

Watch either The Color Purple or The Great Gatsby (locate the films using Netflix, Amazon, or your local library) and argue why or why not Franklin’s assertions are correct. Provide examples from the film and your own explanations to support your assertions. 

Your will have two choices for your thesis statement:

As is evident in the film The Color Purple (or The Great Gatsby), Franklin’s assertion that the American Dream is available to all people is incorrect because _________, ___________, and _________ (you will determine three points in support of your thesis, and those will become the topics of your three body paragraphs). 

As is evident in the film The Color Purple (or The Great Gatsby), Franklin’s assertion that the American Dream is available to all people is correct because _________, ___________, and _________ (you will determine three points in support of your thesis, and those will become the topics of your three body paragraphs).

Option 2:  

Write a comparison or contrast essay about two of the corresponding characters in the table below. You will choose three of the points of comparison from the pool below as your points of comparison or contrast. Keep in mind that the purpose of a comparison or contrast essay is to reveal something meaningful about the characters and their relationships to the text.   

You will be using a point-by-point style of comparison, and you will have two choices for your thesis statement:  

While some differences between __________ and __________ (names of characters in the pairing you chose) are evident, they are similar in the aspects of __________, __________, and __________ (you will determine three points of comparison from the pool, and those will become the topics of your three body paragraphs).  

While some similarities between  __________ and __________ (names of characters in the pairing you chose) are evident, they are different in the aspects of __________, __________, and __________ (you will determine three points of comparison from the pool, and those will become the topics of your three body paragraphs).

Choose one of the following pairings:Choose three of the following points of comparison:
1. Rip Van Winkle and Anton RosickyA. Motivation
2. Dame Van Winkle and Mrs. PetersB. Religion
3. Desiree Aubigny and Faith BrownC. Generosity
4. Young Goodman Brown and Armand AubignyD Trustworthiness
5. Dame Van Winkle and Mrs. HaleE. Independence/Dependence
F. Communication skills
G. Level of intelligence
H. Sense of adventure
I. Relationships with others
J. Conflicts/trials faced
K. Journeys, either physical or symbolic


For example, you might choose pairing #3 (Desiree Aubigny and Faith Brown) and points C, I, and B (generosity, relationship with others, and religion) as your points of comparison.

Now that you have selected a topic and thought about your thesis statement, the next step is writing an outline to help you plan the final essay.   Download and complete the appropriate outline for the topic you have selected.

When you are finished with your outline, submit it by clicking on the title of this page and submitting a Microsoft Word document. Do not type your outline into Blackboard using the “Text Submission” button; you must submit a file.  Outlines not submitted as Microsoft Word documents may be returned to you ungraded.

No Research

There is a no-research policy in place for this class. Using any material other than the assigned readings and lectures, even if it is correctly quoted and cited, will result in a failing grade for this assignment. Contact your instructor if you have questions about this policy.Essay Outline Choice 1.docx
Essay Outline Choice 2.docx

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