Staying on Topic: Rough Draft vs. Outline Worksheet

Research Writing: Organization

Use this Rough Draft vs. Outline Worksheet to test your ability to identify when you stray off topic. Ten exercises ask you a series of questions that help the process of research writing go more smoothly.

Staying on Topic: Rough Draft vs. Outline


Read the example thesis, outline information and paragraph. Answer the questions that help you determine whether the paragraph is on topic and relevant to the thesis.

Thesis: Writing multiple drafts through the process of proofreading, editing and revising ensures the final draft of a research paper is written as well as possible.

Line from original outline: Editing for grammar mistakes

Paragraph: Proofreading for spelling errors is one part of the revision process. Using word-processing software ensures fewer spelling errors because of built-in spell checkers. However, it is a good idea to read with the intention of identifying typos or erroneous words; spell checkers do not always catch these mistakes. Avoiding grammar mistakes is also a must. Editing to eliminate grammatical errors creates a stronger paper that is more likely to receive a higher grade. Revising after identifying these mistakes, including any portion where the paper strays from the focus, is the next step after writing a rough draft.

Line from reverse outline: Proofreading for spelling errors and editing for grammar mistakes

  • Is the sample paragraph focused on one main point? Why or why not?

  • If there are multiple points in the paragraph, how many are there? What are they?

  • Does the topic sentence (the first one) show the main point of the paragraph as identified in the line from the original outline?

  • Could you create one or more additional paragraphs using any additional points addressed within the paragraph?

  • If there are additional points, would you eliminate any of them entirely? Why or why not?

  • How would you flush out any additional points into separate paragraphs?

  • Would you expand on the main point of the paragraph, or do you feel there is enough information?

  • Based on this sample, does the paragraph support the topic of the thesis? Keep in mind you would cover more than one point, but every point within your paper should stay relevant to your thesis.

  • What steps would you take after answering the first seven questions? Would you re-organize your paper? Your outline? Your thesis? Assume that the other paragraphs in the research paper are on topic.

  • Revise the paragraph by making the entire paragraph stay on topic by focusing on the main point. Omit or add information as necessary.