Chapter 11: Developing a Convincing Argument

11.3 Organizing Your Ideas

Learning Objectives

  • Revise your working thesis
  • Create an outline including your thesis and main and supporting points
  • Determine an appropriate organizational structure for a persuasive essay that uses critical analysis to connect your ideas and information taken from sources

For this section, you will need to refer back to Section 10.2: The Structure of a Persuasive Essay to help you piece your supporting and opposing ideas together.

Creating an Introduction and Thesis

The persuasive essay begins with an engaging introduction that presents the general topic. The thesis typically appears somewhere in the introduction and states the writer’s point of view.

Re-evaluate Your Working Thesis

A careful analysis of your notes will help you re-evaluate your working thesis and determine whether you need to revise it. Remember that your working thesis was the starting point—not necessarily the end point—of your research. You should revise your working thesis if your ideas changed based on what you read. Even if your sources generally confirmed your preliminary thinking on the topic, it is still a good idea to tweak the wording of your thesis to incorporate the specific details you learned from research.

Jorge realized that his working thesis oversimplified the issues. He still believed that the media was exaggerating the benefits of low-carb diets. However, his research led him to conclude that these diets did have some advantages. Read Jorge’s revised thesis.

Although following a low-carbohydrate diet can benefit some people, these diets are not necessarily the best option for everyone who wants to lose weight or improve their health.

Tip: Avoid forming a thesis based on a negative claim. For example, “The hourly minimum wage is not high enough for the average worker to live on.” This is probably a true statement, but persuasive arguments should make a positive case. That is, the thesis statement should focus on how the hourly minimum wage is low or insufficient.

Self-Practice Exercise 11.8

H5P: Evidence

Use your working thesis and the revised outline from Self–Practice Exercise 11.7 and list the types of evidence you might use in support of that thesis. Essentially, you are expanding your outline to include more source information.

Synthesizing and Organizing Information

By now, your thinking on your topic is taking shape. You have a sense of what major ideas to address in your paper, what points you can easily support, and what questions or subtopics might need a little more thought. In short, you have begun the process of synthesizing information—that is, of putting the pieces together into a coherent whole.

It is normal to find this part of the process a little difficult. Some questions or concepts may still be unclear to you. You may not yet know how you will tie all of your research together. Synthesizing information is a complex, demanding mental task, and even experienced researchers struggle with it at times. A little uncertainty is often a good sign! It means you are challenging yourself to work thoughtfully with your topic instead of simply restating the same information.

Synthesizing Information

You have already considered how your notes fit with your working thesis. Now, take your synthesis a step further. Organize your notes with headings that correspond to points and subpoints you came up with through dialectics and compiled in your outline, which you presented to your instructor. As you proceed, you might identify some more important subtopics that were not part of your original plan, or you might decide that some points are not relevant to your paper.

Categorize information carefully and continue to think critically about the material. Ask yourself whether the sources are reliable and whether the connections between ideas are clear.

Remember, your ideas and conclusions will shape the paper. They are the glue that holds the rest of the content together. As you work, begin jotting down the big ideas you will use to connect the dots for your reader. (If you are not sure where to begin, try answering your major research question and subquestions. Add and answer new questions as appropriate.) You might record these big ideas on sticky notes or type and highlight them within an electronic document.

Jorge looked back on the list of research questions that he had written down earlier. He changed a few to match his new thesis, and he began a rough outline for his paper.

Topic: Low-carbohydrate diets

Main question: Are low carbohydrate diets as effective as they have been portrayed to be by media sources?

Thesis: Although following a low-carbohydrate diet can benefit some people, these diets are not necessarily the best option for everyone who wants to lose weight or improve their health.

Main points:

  • How do low-carb diets work?
    • Low carb diets cause weight loss by lowering insulin levels, causing the body to burn stored fat.
  • When did low-carb diets become a “hot” topic in the media?
    • The Atkins diet was created in 1972 by Richard Atkins, but it didn’t gain wide-scale attention until 2003. The South Beach diet and other low-carb diets became popular around the same time, and led to a low-carb craze in America from 2003 to 2004.
  • What are the supposed advantages to following a low-carbohydrate diet?
    • They are said to help you lose weight faster than other diets and allow people to continue to eat protein and fats while dieting.
  • What are some of the negative effects of a low-carb diet?
    • Eating foods high in saturated fats can increase your cholesterol levels and lead to heart disease. Incomplete fat breakdown can lead to a condition called ketosis, which puts a strain on the liver and can be fatal.

You may be wondering how your ideas are supposed to shape the paper, especially since you are writing a research paper based on your research. Integrating your ideas and your information from research is a complex process, and sometimes it can be difficult to separate the two.

Some paragraphs in your paper will consist mostly of details from your research. That is fine, as long as you explain what those details mean or how they are linked. You should also include sentences and transitions that show the relationship between different facts from your research by grouping related ideas or pointing out connections or contrasts. The result is that you are not simply presenting information; you are synthesizing, analyzing, and interpreting it.

Plan How to Organize Your Paper

The final step to complete before beginning your draft is to choose an organizational structure. For some assignments, this may be determined by the instructor’s requirements. For instance, if you are asked to explore the impact of a new communications device, a cause-and-effect structure is obviously appropriate. In other cases, you will need to determine the structure based on what suits your topic and purpose.

The purpose of Jorge’s paper was primarily to persuade. With that in mind, he planned the following outline.

  1. Introduction
    1. Background
    2. Thesis
  2. Purported Benefits of Low-Carbohydrate Diets
    1. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrition guidelines
    2. Potential flaws in USDA nutrition guidelines
      1. Effects of carbohydrates on blood sugar, insulin
      2. Relationship to metabolism and obesity
  3. Research on Low-Carbohydrate Diets and Weight Loss
    1. Short-term effectiveness for weight-loss
    2. Long-term effectiveness not established
  4. Other Long-Term Health Outcomes
    1. Cholesterol and heart disease
    2. Blood pressure
    3. Diabetes
  5. Conclusion

Essay 3: outline (2.5%)

Review the organizational structure discussed in Chapter 10: Persuasion. Working with the notes you organized earlier, follow these steps to begin planning how to organize your paper.

  • Create an outline that includes your working thesis, major subtopics, and supporting points.
  • The major headings in your outline will become sections or paragraphs in your paper. Remember that your ideas should form the backbone of the paper. For each major section of your outline, write a topic sentence stating the main point you will make in that section.
  • As you complete step 2, you may find that some points are too complex to explain in a sentence. Consider whether any major sections of your outline need to be broken up and jot down additional topic sentences as needed.
  • Review your notes and determine how the different pieces of information fit into your outline as supporting points.
  • Add any sources you have identified that you plan on using to support your ideas.


  • Please share the outline you created with a classmate.
  • Examine your classmate’s outline and see if any questions come to mind or if you see any area that would benefit from an additional point or clarification. Return the outlines to each other and compare observations.
  • After you have discussed your formal outline with a classmate, submit it to your instructor for approval.

You will receive up to 2.5% toward your final grade depending on how thoroughly you have conducted a dialectical discussion and developed your outline.


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Writing for Success - 1st Canadian H5P Edition Copyright © 2021 by Tara Horkoff is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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