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Outline for death penalty research paper?

answers: 10
Mar 8, 2009, 06:24pm   #
Could anyone help me with an outline for death penalty, including where the citations should be placed?

To tell you the truth, I always make outlines last. Even when professors have required an outline first, I simply wrote the paper and then made an outline based on the completed paper.

The reason for this is because a paper is ALCHEMY involving several articles (i.e. the sources you cite) combined with your own thoughtful, educated reflection. That means you cannot plan the paper until after you have done the research.

Try this:

Read an article about capital punishment, and write 2 paragraphs about it. Then, repeat that process for 5 or 10 more articles. You will end up with several pages. Reread the pages, and compare the to one another, scrutinizing them, and coming up with conclusions. When you have worked with all this material, decide what is the most important insight you got from the whole experience; make that your thesis statement, and the beginning! Then, reflect on that same statement at the end, in the conclusion!

Suddenly, you have a whole paper. Make an outline based on the paper.

It is tough, because you have to write the whole paper (or at least a draft) before writing the outline, but it is a heck of a lot easier than trying to make an outline for a paper that does not yet exist.

The idea is to have your research change your thinking, so why plan the end result before doing the research?

As for citations, place them after every piece of info that you take from the sources. What citation style are you using? (MLA, APA, Chicago, Harvard, etc)
Mar 9, 2009, 01:16pm   #
So do you mean that if the teacher never requested an outline you would have no use at all for making one?

Isn't the point of an outline to plan out your paper before you start working so that you don't wander off track. If you, however, write the paper first then what is the use of writing an outline to help write a paper that is already written?
Mar 9, 2009, 02:02pm   #
I agree with kevin 100% here.

I could never envision myself using an outline.

The way I write, ideas formulate as I go along and sometimes I end up with a completely different approach than what I had anticipated.

My "outline", or the major points in my essay, don't become clear until I can write freely, with reason, and without any constricting script that I have to adhere to.

Understandably though, for major papers you want to have at least SOME idea of what you will be writing about.

But even in a long paper, I would not premeditate for too long. Just say I want to write about this. Form an opinion, start writing, and soon ideas and topics for paragraphs will pop up in your head.

It probably has to do with how you think. Some people can detach themselves from their writing, but others like myself have to be in the moment.

That said, I've never ever used an outline or formally "brainstormed" on paper, for anything.
Mar 9, 2009, 03:14pm   #
I get my "in the moment thinking" from freewrites that I usually do beforehand. I will sometimes find a topic then come up with a hypothesis for what I think my thesis will be. Then I do freewrites to get most of my body paragraph material and to see where my random thoughts will take me. Then I make any neccessary changes to my thesis and write an outline to organize all the randomness of my freewrites. THEN I rewrite the freewrites according to my outline to make the finished paper.
I usually dont start with an outline either (rather I start with freewrites) but before I turn those freewrites into a paper I write an outline. If I dont have some kind of guidline I will go off on irrelevant tangents. God bless you guys who can get away with freewriting papers!
Mar 9, 2009, 11:35pm   #
I don't normally start with outlines, either, but of course, like most people who say that, I'm sort of lying. What I really mean is I don't normally bother writing out an outline, but of course I already have a good idea of what I'm going to write before I start. So, pick a thesis. That could be

The death penalty is fully justified for some crimes and should be adopted by more states.


The death penalty is morally reprehensible and should be abandoned by all states.

Then, think of reasons that support your thesis. So,

The death penalty prevents repeat offenders.
The death penalty allows true justice
The death penalty acts as a deterrent when implemented well.


The death penalty can lead to irreversible errors
The death penalty takes away a criminal's chance of redemption
The death penalty coarsens the public's moral sensibilities.

Then, think about the objections to your arguments, as well as other arguments the opposing side might make. How do you counter them?

Then, organize your points in a way that seems logically coherent to you to complete your outline.

Citations, if you are using MLA, go in-text at the end of every quote or paraphrase, and at the end in a bibliography. Most styles are like that, though some use footnotes instead of in-text citations, so you will have to find out what citation system your teacher expects you to use.
Wow, you guys, I just pasted a link to this thread into my collection of links to important threads.

Great insights here.

Tyler asked a question that was directed to me, but others sort of answered it already. He asked, "would you have no use for outlines if the prof did not ask for them?" The answer that came to mind for me was, "No, not if it is a research paper. Research means "exploration," so don't be drawing a map of unexplored territory unti AFTER you explore it.

BUT, for all other writing projects an outline is key. Even if I am planning to trounce someone in argument, I make an outline. Hell yes. But not for research papers!
Mar 11, 2009, 12:20pm   #
If in fact you are researching a topic you know little about to begin with. In the case of a topic like the death penalty, the chances are pretty good the author already knows most of the arguments pro and con. The research will merely involving finding someone who has already stated those arguments, or who has carried out statistical analysis of key data related to them.
Yes, that is what the research would include, and even that can trip the student up a little... Even when writing about the death penalty, I simply start reading current articles, and type a paragraph for each. That way, I have no preconceived ideas (i.e. the paper is not limited by what I knew when starting the work, and I am able to proceed with an open mind).

More importantly, I don't set about looking for, say, empirical data to support the idea that capital punishment ultimately saves lives by deterring crime (or something) and then miss important points in whatever I happen to find during the search. I simply write a para or two for each source, and then I move those paragraphs (with their citations)into a logical order when I finish the first draft. They don't even have to all support my theses; I can use some of them as my punchig bags as I trounce the other side of the argument.

So, the question, really, is: Do I begin with the end in mind, or do I allow my research to be exploratory and amount to what it will? Depends on the purpose. Beginning with the end in mind is important for almost everything -- but writing a research paper is WAY easier if I just collect a lot of relevant info and loosely arrange it around my thesis statement, which I often make during the last few minutes of writing the first draft (rather than in an outline, ahead of time).

That is why, when trying to get a research paper written quickly and easily, I never set myself up for frustration by trying to follow an outline. It's like Babe Ruth pointing to where he will hit the home run: impressive, but unnecessarily difficult! :)
Mar 12, 2009, 09:57pm   #
There is something to be said for merely reading as much as possible about the topic before beginning to write, I suppose. And you'd pretty much have to do this if you didn't already know a bit about the topic. The only difficulty that might arise is that you might find contradictory sources, or sources pro and con that do not address each other specifically. This might give you two very strong but conflicting sets of research, making it difficult to craft a thesis in favor of one side or another. For instance, in the case of the death penalty, you might find an article that shows that the death penalty is a very effective deterrent in countries that carry out the sentence quickly and efficiently (Singapore, I believe, is an oft cited example, in contradistinction to the U.S., which uses the death penalty, but does so slowly after an unwieldy and unpredictable appeals process). You might also find another article that talks about how the death penalty can serve to morally normalize violence within a society. The two points each serve a different side of the debate, but the two don't really have anything to do with one another. Ideally, you'd have enough research to provide counter arguments for the points that didn't favor your thesis, but there's no guarantee that sources picked randomly will do this. Whereas, if you already know your thesis, and are somewhat familiar with the various arguments, you can refine your search criteria to make sure you cover all the points you plan to make.
Wow, "contradistinction" is a good word that I'll have to start using!!

Well, when trying to get through a paper, I can simply present the Singapore facts with emphasis on what supports my thesis... and when trying to "get through" a paper, a trick that I am proud of but perhaps should not be is the trick of adjusting the thesis to fit everything! But for a paper written to high standards, I agree with you that not every article will be appropriate...

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