Start with an outline

An outline will make it easier to develop topic sentences and to arrange paragraphs in the most effective order.

You should begin your outline by stating the thesis of your text:

  • The English Civil War was caused by a combination of factors, including the empowerment and organization of Puritan forces, the absolutist tendencies of James I and the ineptitude of his son Charles I.

Next, list the topic sentences for each of the paragraphs (or sections) of the text:

  1. The war and its after-effects lasted twenty years.
  2. Historically, Protestants had believed themselves persecuted.
  3. In the 1620s Protestants dominated Parliament and attempted to enact legislation that would provide guidelines for both religious worship and political representation.
  4. During his reign in the early 1600s, James I had attempted to silence Protestant Puritan protests and to solidify the role of the monarchy as unquestioned head of state.
  5. Charles I’s lack of diplomacy and his advisers’ desire for personal power gave the Puritans the excuses they needed to declare war on the monarchy.

You might notice that the topic sentences derive directly from the thesis and explain, prove or expand on each of the thesis’ claims.

Once you have an outline at hand, you can follow three steps to help you write paragraphs effectively:

  1. Use your thesis to help you organize the rest of your text.
  2. Make sure your list of topic sentences shows how the material in each paragraph is related to your thesis.
  3. Eliminate material that is not related to your thesis and topic sentences.

Copyright notice for HyperGrammar 2

© Department of English, Faculty of Arts, University of Ottawa
A tool made available online by the Translation Bureau, Public Services and Procurement Canada

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