I rediscovered the importance of an outline over the past few days of working on my thesis. Idiot me did not do an outline as I have one for all my papers in the past both undergrad and Graduate level. I have no idea why I thought i could tackle a project as large as Master’s Thesis with only a Table of Contents to use as a guide. I say rediscovered because I started writing and after about 20 pages I realized I have essentially been wasting my time because I tend to ramble when I do not have something to keep me focused.
After I realized I was rambling I stopped and took a brief break to figure out what I was doing wrong and how I could fix it. That is when it struck me that I donâ€™t have an outline. It was definitely a V-8/face palm moment. I then settled down and decided to write an outline.
I started using outlines when I was working on my undergrad and they have stood me in good stead. I use MSWord to write with and currently have Office2010 installed. When I outline I use the standard bullet format from Word and just tab to include sub-levels in chapters or sections; I also end to use colors to differentiate main ideas from subsidiary ones. Using colors drives my wife crazy because she thinks colors just clutter up the view. I guess my take on it is that people should do whatever works best for them. I find that using an outline ensures that I stay on track when I am writing and do not start to drift off into irrelevancies. Below is an example of the kind of outlines I generally make. This is an outline from a paper I wrote for my undergrad; the final paper itself is also posted on the this site so if you like you can compare the outline to the final product. The original file with all the colors is here as a PDF: MH 328_Term Paper Outline
The Battle of Buena Vista, February 22-23, 1847:Â A Study
Thesis Statement:Â The United States victory in the Battle of Buena Vista was the result of better use of the terrain and a greater understanding of what the troops were capable of by the American commander General Zachary Taylor.
a. Â Â Â Briefly describe the battle
b. Â Â Thesis Statement:Â The United States victory in the Battle of Buena Vista was the result of better use of the terrain and a greater understanding of what the troops were capable of by the American commander General Zachary Taylor.
2. Â Â Main Body
a. The Armies
i. Â Â Â Â American
ii. Â Â Â Â Mexican
b. The Battlefield
i. Â Â Â Â Terrain
ii. Â Â Â Â Dispositions
c. The Battle
i. Â Â Â Â Phase One:Â Initial Mexican Attack
ii. Â Â Â Â Phase two:Â American Defense
iii. Â Â Â Â Phase Three:Â Final Mexican Attack
iv. Â Â Â Â Phase Three:Â American Counterattack
v. Â Â Â Â Phase Four:Â Mexican Retreat & Defeat
d. Reason for Victory and Defeat
i. Â Â Â Â Mexican Loss
ii. Â Â Â Â American Victory
3. Â Â Conclusion
a. Â Â Â Restate rationale for American victory
b. Â Â Restate thesis