7.1 Evolving an Outline (~15-30 minutes)
Your Personal Packet contains all the content that will serve as the foundation of your Position
Paper. Now that you have the content organized, you are ready to build your Position Paper and
move it through the writing process. As always, your Instructor will provide specific information
A solid outline prepares you to construct and submit a successful paper. Begin by reviewing the
structure and sequencing of your outline to confirm that you selected the best evidence and
claims and listed them in the best order. Our basic framework is a good place to start:
Three major points of background context
Claim and evidence
Claim and evidence
Claim and evidence
Opposition and refutation
The assignment calls for 750-1250 words. At approximately 250 words a page, that gives us
about 4-5 pages, which at about 3 paragraphs a page, is roughly 10-15 paragraphs. Our outline
already has us prepared for an introduction, context, three claims with evidence for each, a
refutation, and a conclusion.
Different writers approach building out an outline differently. One way to start is with the context
and develop it before moving into the claims and evidence. Because the context can be
expanded or condensed to fit the assignment length as needed, some writers prefer to start with
a claim and expand each claim and its evidence individually and equally before moving to the
refutation and then the context. Finalizing the conclusion and introduction last is pretty standard.
The Position Paper requires inclusion and integration of five sources, which should be defined in
the outline already. The goal of our paper is to present a convincing argument, and while
integrating source material is an important element of argumentative writing, the source material
being cited shouldn’t simply be dropped in and connected with topic and transition sentences.
As we know, the reasoning that links the evidence to the claims and the claims to the position is
a very important part of the overall argument and needs to be clear.
Writing for clarity is always a useful goal; clarity includes both accessible language and wellorganized ideas. Remembering that your goal is to communicate clearly encourages you to
keep your audience in mind and reminds you that using big words is not necessary. If your
writing is to dense that your audience can’t understand it, you have not succeeded in
communicating with your audience. The evidence and reasoning should speak for themselves,
so to bring them together only requires explaining the connection. The goal of your writing is to
showcase your thinking and your ability to construct an argument for an audience by connecting
claims to a position and supporting them with evidence. The writing shouldn’t get in the way and
should contribute to the task, but the thinking is the intellectual skill being demonstrated, and the
outline serves the role of solidifying the thinking before delivering it through writing.
Starting with a carefully constructed outline and developing it intentionally one section at a time
will also allow the revision process to focus on advancing and polishing a solid submission into
a spectacular submission. Outlining can also help you avoid extensive revision and last-minute
efforts to modify the paper so that it fulfills the assignment. Once you have built the basic
elements and know that you have included all the specific required directions from your
Instructor, you can work to elevate your submission with innovative, creative elements that
demonstrate your ability to construct an exceptional submission. One way to do that is to add
touches that are tailored to your audience.
As you review your Position Paper with ethos, pathos, and logos in mind, you might consider
how you can apply these rhetorical appeals to tailor your assignment to your Instructor, who is
your main audience. Consider the feedback you received from your Instructor on the Group
Presentation and how it can be used to tailor the Position Paper. Also think of what you learned
about visual design. Do you include visual elements as part of your evidence? If not, can and
should you? Knowing that your submission is solid gives you room to play by adding bits of
humor or other rhetorical moves to appeal to your audience.
Finally, give yourself enough time to take breaks and revisit your writing with fresh eyes and a
rested mind. Because you have outlined, you don’t have to worry about getting lost and not
being able to find your way back to where you left off. Short sessions of concentrated writing
can be more effective than extended sessions when you are tired, anxious, or distracted. You
can even plan to build out a section at a time to avoid the potential pain of a marathon writing
session, especially at the last minute. With your presentation experience and a solid Personal
Packet, populating your outline and finalizing your paper should be a relatively painless process.
Executing a planned writing process should allow you to highlight your advanced thinking and
writing skills in a product you are proud to submit.
Print a completed draft of your Position Paper, and bring it to class.
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