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  • Writer's pictureDiving Bell

Student blog: Outlining your argument

This follows on from the two previous Student Blogs here and here, where I was going over how to write a decent introduction.

So you’ve given your thesis statement (a.k.a answer to the question) and your little statement of context. Now you’re outlining your points of argument.

Good essays answer the question and explain their answer. This is an argument. Bad essays repeat the question and say memorized, irrelevant things. This makes markers tired and shitty.

You cannot do this in an essay. Though it'd be funny to try.

Your points of argument must support your thesis statement.

Here’s the question we were looking at:

Through the telling and receiving of stories, we become more aware of ourselves and our shared human experiences. Explore this statement with close reference to your prescribed text.

If the thesis statement is:

1984 explores the telling of Winston’s story and the struggle between Winston and the Party to control what that story contains

Then your points of argument (a.k.a. paragraphs) can’t be stuff like ‘women’, ‘oppression’ and ‘totalitarian dictatorship’. That’s stupid and makes no sense. Imagine it was like an interview:

Interviewer: So, Mr Orwell, your novel’s really about how we tell stories and listen to them?

Orwell: Yes, it is. Winston tries to tell his story as a way to become self-aware. This self-awareness is power, which is why the Party doesn’t want him to have it. So they interfere in the way he tells his story.

Interviewer: Fascinating. But why?

Orwell: Because women.

Interviewer: Sorry?

Orwell: Yeah. And also oppression. Because Winston’s oppressed.

Interviewer: Errr…right. But we were talking about how the Party interferes in Winston’s ability to tell a story and so achieve self-awareness.

Orwell: Well, women, and also personal growth.

You get the point. It’s just stupid. Your points of argument have got to follow on from your thesis statement.

You only have to provide 3 reasons why!!! Hannah Baker would be laughing if...oh no, wait. No. No laughing for Hannah.

You may well have prepared three things that you want to say. That's nice, and you can use them IF THEY'RE RELEVANT.

Your intro is the first check of that relevance. If you've said something like 'The Merchant of Venice includes several stories where individuals narrate their personal experiences, but also show how these relate to the lives of a whole section of society', then the three sentences where you outline your three points of argument had better make grammatical sense.

An example

(Thesis statement) In Orwell’s 1984, attempts to tell stories lead Winston to understand how broken and distorted his experience of being human really is, and how the Party deliberately undermines the basis of shared human experience for the purpose of control. (Contextual statement) The novel reflects contemporary dictatorships which used ordinary people’s desire for stability and direction; Russia, Germany, Italy, Spain (in which Orwell fought), and Japan all used people’s preference for political simplicity to destroy the shared humanity of those under their control. (Outline of argument – Point 1) Winston’s journaling contains his attempts to tell his own story and achieve the self-awareness which the Party forbids. (Point 2) This self-awareness in turn leads him to Julia, whose stories reveal the lovers’ shared desire for freedom and loathing of life under the Party. (Point 3) Yet the story which Winston believes he has received from O’Brien is a lie, and by acting on this false story he loses everything.

See how the points really do actually back up the thesis statement, and develop one from the other? This is a connected argument, not just a list of pre-written bits n' bobs about the text that can't get you more than a Band 3.

Have a look at the shop for some sample essays that demonstrate outlining an argument:


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