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What's Next? - Ordering and Developing Ideas

Many students learn to create a formal outline before they draft a word; some hate doing so and others find it useful. You will have to decide what works for you and when it does (and doesn't). Depending on your preferences for outlining, your knowledge of the topic, and your awareness of the expected form of the paper, here are several suggestions for ordering and developing your ideas:

  • Read your collection of ideas, and simply number them in a likely order or write a more formal outline.
  • Check your tentative thesis and ask "What will I have to explain in order to support this opinion and in what order will I have to present these explanations?"
  • Think about your audience, and ask "What questions, and possibly objections, will they have and in what order should I answer them?"
  • Consider some of the common patterns of order and development, such as problem and solution, cause and effect, compare and contrast, general to specific, simple to complex, and known to unknown (or the opposite of the last three suggestions); which one is most appropriate for your topic?
  • Start drafting and let your intuition create an initial order. Next read over the draft and create an outline afterward by following and revising the initial order.
  • Examine the order you have created using one of the suggestions above then ask "How long should each of these sections be?" We tend to overwrite as we begin and, later as we hurry to finish, we may not develop some important ideas fully.