concepts, policies or theories
For this type of paper preparing an outline involves:
introducing the concepts, policies or theories being examined
collecting and assembling the evidence of your argument
writing the outline referring back to your main message
Papers reporting empirical data
These papers must adhere to a strict protocol which allows other
scientists to examine the validity of your experiment(s) and thereby
evaluate your results. Deviation from accepted protocols of
publishing will result in your manuscript being refused publication.
constantly to the key message produced in the previous section to remind
you what you are writing about.
The hypothesis is the tentative theory used to guide in the investigation.
It underpins your work and you must have one. If you don't, ask
yourself "Why did I carry out the experiment?"
Your key message, principal study objective and hypothesis should be
For example, if the key message sentence was:
The objective would have been:
And, the hypothesis would have been:
course, your hypothesis and objective should be established before the
experiment starts but it is important to re-visit them at this stage.
this outline stage it is important to briefly state the population
in which you worked, the sampling method you employed, the materials you used and, most importantly, the
methods you used
to carry out the study.
Spend some time thinking of the full range of findings of your work.
Some will be major and others minor but make sure to list everything that
comes to mind. Remember, this is only the outline stage and changes
can be easily made before starting to write the paper.
Now you have completed the
various sections of the outline it is time to see if they can be
summarised and combined into the abstract.
The abstract is the summary of your work. It is used by readers to
determine whether or not they want to read the whole paper. This
means it must be concise, easy to read and cover the important points of
this stage of the exercise you should be in a position to write an outline
See it as a short story taking the highlights of each of the sections
above. It should describe what was the purpose or objective of your study, how you
went about carrying out the work, what you found and the implications
of your results.
is at this point that you need to think again about the the key issues of
situation, problem, question and response
which were mentioned in the section on structure.
These key issues form the introduction to the paper but are not the
abstract. In addition to these items the abstract also includes a
brief summary of the findings.
For example, a draft abstract from a hypothetical paper would contain the
following headings and information:
Data on changes in forest cover are important to any country to
understand land use changes and make appropriate policy responses. Jamaica
has one of the world's highest rates of deforestation so these data are of
Recent analysis of pre-1990 land use data
revealed that there were fundamental errors in the data used in the 1990s.
What is the correct figure for deforestation, what are the implications
of incorrect data absorption and is it possible to make sure that similar
errors are not made in the future?
Study undertaken to calculate the correct
rate of deforestation during this period. Discussion with policy
makers regarding the effects of interpretation of incorrect deforestation
data. Measures undertaken to make sure similar problems do not occur
in the future.
Summary of findings:
Changes in forest cover
were investigated and revealed (insert main results). Discussions
with policy makers revealed (insert main results). The results of
this investiagation highlight the need for more accurate and reliable data
collection in the future.
give it to one of your colleagues who is not familiar with your work and
ask them whether it makes sense.