7 10 Page Essay Outline
Major points are the building blocks of your paper. Major points build on each other, moving the paper forward and toward its conclusion. Each major point should be a clear claim that relates to the central argument of your paper.
Sample Major Point: Employment and physical health may be a good first major point for this sample paper. Here, a student might discuss how dropping out of high school often leads to fewer employment opportunities, and those employment opportunities that are available tend to be correlated with poor work environments and low pay.
Minor points are subtopics within your major points. Minor points develop the nuances of your major points but may not be significant enough to warrant extended attention on their own. These may come in the form of statistics, examples from your sources, or supporting ideas.
Sample Minor Point: A sample minor point of the previous major point (employment and physical health) might address worker injury or the frequent lack of health insurance benefits offered by low-paying employers.
The rest of the body of your paper will be made up of more major and minor points. Each major point should advance the paper's central argument, often building on the previous points, until you have provided enough evidence and analysis to justify your paper's conclusion.
More Major and Minor Points: In this paper, more major points might include mental health of high school dropouts, healthcare access for dropouts, and correlation between mental and physical health. Minor topics could include specific work environments, job satisfaction in various fields, and correlation between depression and chronic illness.
The Introduction (2 paragraphs)
The first paragraph poses the research question. Often, it tells a brief story, then explains why that story needs interpretation. E.g., “In August 1814, a British force invaded Washington and burned the White House. Why was the city so poorly defended?”
Paragraph two explains how the paper will answer the question posed in the lead. The paragraph ends with the thesis statement: a one-sentence summary of the argument of the essay.
The Body (3 X 6 = 18 paragraphs)
It is often useful to break down the body of the essay into two, three, or four parts, each identified with a subhead. Three is an especially strong number. For example, Section I could state one side”s position in a debate, Section II could state the opposing case, and Section III could explain how the conflict was resolved.
Each body paragraph should begin with a topic sentence that supports both the main point of the section and the thesis of the paper. It may be helpful to write all eighteen topic sentences first, then flesh them out. (Of course, some may be dropped in the writing process, while others fragment into multiple paragraphs.)
The Conclusion (2 paragraphs)
Paragraph 1 of the conclusion reiterates your thesis, explaining why it is the best means of understanding the evidence you presented in the body.
Paragraph 2 explains why this argument matters, and how the story and its interpretation help us understand Faulkner’s universal truths—”love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice.”