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How to Make a Thesis Outline

by Colby Stream, Demand Media

    College upperclassmen and graduate students write lengthy research papers that are specific to their field. Such a paper, called a thesis, requires the student to conduct research in two ways. First, students always research what other researchers are saying about their subject. Second, students sometimes conduct their own primary research, especially at the graduate level. Once this research is finished, students should begin organizing a logical thesis by developing an outline with points that prove the main argument -- itself often called the "thesis."

    Step 1

    Create the outline in a word-processing document. Choose an option that begins the outline with Roman numerals, then uses letters and numbers for the additional levels you add to the outline. This will make the thesis outline easier for you to read.

    Step 2

    Use one sentence to describe how you will introduce the paper. You might use a quotation or an anecdote, or you can just explain your topic and its significance. Include one more point under your “Introduction” section that includes your thesis statement, or the point about which you intend to persuade others.

    Step 3

    Present the background information for your topic by listing each major idea on its own line. Under each of those main ideas, list at least three subpoints that you will include in the paragraph for that main idea. This section should not only explain the topic, but explain other research relevant to your thesis.

    Step 4

    Explain your findings. Again, each major point should be on its own line of the outline with at least two or three subpoints. Start with how you conducted research, then explain what you found when conducting that research. End this section by explaining how your research proves your thesis statement.

    Step 5

    Conclude your thesis outline by reiterating the major points that prove your thesis. Then include a point about why your thesis is important -- that is, what new insights does your paper offer? Finish by writing one or more points about what parts of your subject require further research, and include subpoints about how that further research would intersect with your current paper.

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    • Include citations in your outline. For example, if you use primary or secondary research to back up a major point, list the citation for that research next to the subpoint that backs up your major point. This helps you find the research easily when writing your thesis.

    About the Author

    Colby Stream has been a writer since 2007. His work has appeared in "The Arbiter," the student newspaper of Boise State University, as well as various websites. Stream graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in communication as a presidential civic leadership scholar.

    Photo Credits

    • Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images

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