Preliminary Outline

A preliminary outline is another method (in addition to your tentative thesis statement) that will help you focus and direct your research. Based upon the reading you have done so far, you should have developed a few ideas about the various elements you want to include in your paper. Your thesis statement should be giving you some direction as well. A preliminary outline should expand upon your tentative thesis statement and identify the various elements you think you will need to cover to produce an effective paper.

The preliminary outline should follow general outlining form, but it should not be overly specific. As with the tentative thesis statement, you should anticipate that this outline will change as you do more research. Once you have completed an effective preliminary outline, make sure that you take notes that will provide information for each of the various elements you have identified.

General rules for outlining: Outlining is based on topics and subtopics. A topic might be divided into two or more subtopics. If you don’t have at least two subtopics, don’t create divisions at all. In other words, if you have a subtopic “A,” you must have at least a subtopic “B.” You cannot have a “1” without having a “2.”

Topics and subtopics should be in “fragment” form. They should represent major ideas you intend to cover in a paragraph or a section of your paper. They need not be sentences and they must not be questions!

The order of specificity: I, II, III, IV; A, B, C, D; 1, 2, 3, 4; a, b, c, d: i, ii, iii, iv. Each “level of specificity" should be indented another half an inch.

Begin this process by brainstorming. What do you know so far? What are you still looking to learn? How can the different pieces of the puzzle fit together into a good argument? Let these ideas contribute to a revision of your thesis statement and, ultimately, to a preliminary outline that clearly emerges from that revised thesis statement. Remember, as you read more and think more, your thesis statement and your outline may change, sometimes significantly!

A reminder: your (revised) tentative thesis statement and your preliminary outline should be meaningfully and obviously interrelated!

When you hand in your preliminary outline, include your (revised) tentative thesis statement! For an example…

Preliminary Outline
Mr. Dunne
Jan. 28, 2014

Tentative thesis:

A remarkably diverse collection of musical artists challenged South Africa’s system of apartheid by instilling pride and courage in black South Africans, by making white South Africans aware of and sympathetic to their black countrymen, and by revealing to the rest of the world the horrors of apartheid.

Preliminary Outline:

I. Diversity of artists
XXXXXA. Black South Africans
XXXXXB. White South Africans collaborating with black South Africans
XXXXXC. Europeans and Americans

II. Music inspiring black protest

III. Music appealing to white South Africans

IV. Musicians appealing to the outside world
XXXXXA. Mariam Makeba and her ordeals
XXXXXB. Peter Gabriel and “Biko”

V. Music and the end of apartheid