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Stage 2. Plan the Essay & Develop Ideas

Conduct a Literature Review


The purpose of a literature review is to understand the state of existing knowledge on a topic. If you do not know the current state of knowledge on a topic, you will be unable to find where gaps in knowledge exist. An initial literature review will help to:


  • Define the topic area and identify the key theories, concepts, ideas
  • Outline the major issues/debates
  • Identify unresolved questions and problems
  • Summarize, analyze, and most importantly synthesize the arguments and ideas of others
  • Identify the key sources and experts
  • Explain what we know and what needs to be explored 

Literature Review (Purdue OWL). Presents a series of questions to help students revise and organize their literature review. 


Literature Reviews (UNC – Chapel Hill Writing Center). Explains the form and construction of literature reviews.


Writing Literature Review (PennState, Program in Writing & Rhetoric). Scroll down the webpage to “Writing Literature Review” to access handout and PowerPoint slides on effective strategies for writing literature reviews.


Writing a Review of Literature (University of Wisconsin – Madison). Provides a brief overview of writing a review of literature.  



Develop a Thesis


Develop a Strong Thesis Statement (Purdue OWL)


Thesis Statements (UNC – Chapel Hill Writing Center)


Developing a Thesis Statement (University of Wisconsin Writing Center)


Purpose vs. Thesis Statement (University of Wisconsin Writing Center). Provides guidelines to learn the difference between a purpose statement and a thesis statement. 



Establish & Organize an Argument


Finding the Good Argument OR Why Bother With Logic? (Writing Spaces.org). Chapter in Writing Spaces; Readings on Writing, Volume 1, a peer-reviewed open textbook series on writing. The essay discusses the blocks to ethical argumentation and offers three models: classical rhetoric, Toulmin, and pragma-dialectics that provide theoretical and practical methods for recognizing and inventing good arguments.


Analysis & Argument (University of Richmond Writing Center). Presents content on reasoning and its errors, arguments, and analysis.


Building and Organizing Academic Arguments Webinar (Walden University). Webinar presents how to construct an academic argument through your writing and focuses on thesis statements, organization, using evidence, and paraphrasing. Requires Adobe Connect. 


Argument Handout (UNC – Chapel Hill Writing Center). Provides a handout that defines what an argument is and explains why you need one in most of your academic essays.


Establish an Argument Using Research and Evidence (Purdue OWL). Provides resources that will help you develop and refine your arguments, and discusses what type of evidence to use and how to elevate sources of evidence.


Organize Your Argument (Purdue OWL). Demonstrates how to use the Toulmin Method of logic for organizing an argument.


Logic in Argumentative Writing (Purdue OWL). Presents how to use logic within writing, including logical vocabulary, logical fallacies, and other types of logos-based reasoning.




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