Working thesis and outline | Article writing homework help


Your essay should have a clear, specific working thesis—a main complex claim or guiding question you explore and develop in the essay—to help focus your topic. In a few sentences, articulate your thesis or thesis question that you are starting with at the top of your outline. Remember that a “working” thesis means that this idea may change as you write your essay.

Writing the Outline

Draft a bird’s-eye-view of how you might develop the discussion of your initial claim or guiding question. Doing an outline should help you see how might organize your ideas and evidence. This is supposed to help you brainstorm and give you a way to possibly begin the first draft. You are not, however, tied to your outline once you start writing; this assignment will hopefully be useful in developing your writing, not shutting it down.

You may not be able to deal with every aspect of your paper in detail right now, but do think in terms of:

  • an introduction, leading readers to your initial claim or question for the paper
  • providing specific evidence (examples, sources, details) to help you develop analysis and evolve your idea/theory (both primary and secondary sources play a part in this)
  • providing context for your readers by discussing what others have said about your topic
  • how your thesis evolves (and/or the way you answer your guiding question) –“thesis moments”
  • a conclusion that offers readers a take-away idea or theory – one that doesn’t just repeat what you’ve already in the paper, nor suddenly introduce a new topic (you may, of course, have to write your way to your conclusion).

Questions to help you offer your ideas as an outline:


  • What is the “big, burning question” or the hypothesis/initial claim this paper will explore?
  • Why is it important or interesting?
  • What might be an interesting way to introduce your readers to your essay topic?

Providing a context to help your readers understand the issue:

  • What have other writers said about this topic? How does it relate to your claim or question?
  • What information do readers need to understand the context of this idea/issue/subject?
  • What evidence (details, examples, experiences) can help readers see or understand this idea?

Sharing and analyzing the information you’ve discovered:

  • What evidence will you look at to explore your guiding claim or question?

Answering “so what?”:

  • How might you answer your opening question or refine the claim/thesis you started with?
  • What do you want your readers to be thinking about or better understand after they read this paper?
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