|Mapping Mayhem: Organizing and Outlining
Organization helps us to see relationships and aids us in making connections between groups of ideas.
Good organization requires an overall concept or idea. This is often called the CONTROLLING idea because it controls your approach to the paper. Each paragraph will also have a controlling idea, a focal point which helps you determine the kind and amount of details you want to use.
A TOPIC is different from a central idea. For instance, “waterskiing” is a topic. “Waterskiing is dangerous” is a central idea.
There are several devices you can use to organize your thoughts. These include: time (using a chronological approach), deduction (identifying the thesis first, following with key points), induction (building up to the main idea at the end), comparison/contrast, or process (using a sequence of steps or events to dictate order).
It’s best to decide on an organizational approach based on the parameters of your assignment. So, first off, review the assignment. Then, when planning your organization, review your own goals. What information do you want to communicate? What are you adding to the larger conversation around this subject? Next, review your working thesis and identify the major points you are using to support that thesis.
Always rely on the central idea to determine what kind of point you want to make and how you can make that point.
Outlining helps you better see how your organization is working. By outlining you’ll be able to spot gaps in your research. You’ll also be better able to identify sections you need to rearrange to make your writing more effective.
The most common form of outline simply states the thesis and lists the major points you plan to make in support of your controlling idea. An INFORMAL outline is one that you use to help get you started. It’s often just a sketch of how you will proceed. A FORMAL outline is more often done when you’ve started writing. It becomes a way to test whether or not you have stayed on track. Both outlines are anchored by your thesis. You want to be sure each individual paragraph is supporting the thesis.
FLEXIBILITY is crucial whether outlining or organizing. Ralph Waldo Emerson observed, “the writer is an explorer. Every step is an advance into a new land.” Remember that writing is an ongoing process and the exploration never stops. Being willing to change your outline or organization as you continue to explore ideas and do research is only going to make your paper better.
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