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A Writer's Handbook

General Writing Idea Development

Most essays will start with a topic or subject, and after the purpose and audience for the essay have been decided, writers can move on from there.

  • Begin with a topic and a stance on the topic (depending on the purpose)
  • Organize a thesis
  • Create topic sentences and chunks for your body paragraphs
  • Find supporting examples with source evidence or discussion of examples depending on assignment logistics

Example Layout for Development

Organizing an Argument Paper

  • Topic:  Bratz Dolls – that they are too “old” for the girls they are marketed toward
  • My stance on topic:  I think the image of Bratz dolls portrays a sexier image of what a girl should look like to children who are playing with the toys
  • Organizing a thesis:
  • General:  Because Bratz Dolls portray an image that is not age appropriate for the young girls who are playing with them, the dolls should be recalled.
  • XYZ:  Bratz Dolls should be recalled due to the image they portray, the effect they have on the young girls who play with them, and the problems they can cause in social situations.

You can write a thesis both ways and see how your paper takes shape before choosing the one that best fits your paper.  Notice, both these argue the same point:  dolls need to be recalled – but they state that in two different ways.

  • Brainstorm:  Jot down ideas for intro/body/conclusion – anything that will help you organize the parts of the paper


  • Influences on young people
  • Examples of influences (TV, Games, toys)
  • Link to Bratz as a toy girls play with
  • Brief description of Bratz
  • What this image description conjures


Because Bratz Dolls portray an image that is not age appropriate for the young girls who are playing with them, the dolls should be recalled.  


  1. The look of the doll goes along with the “too old” image
  2. The accessories of the doll go along with the “too old” image
  3. The advertising of the doll goes along with the “too old” image

Make topic sentences for the ideas you think of for your body paragraphs.  Remember the formula (transition + link to thesis argument + example [even if you do not have an XYZ thesis, your example will be the topic of the paragraph as you have lined it up])

Topic sentences:

  1. To begin with, the basic look of the Bratz doll portrays an image of seductiveness and sensuality; the dolls should be recalled because this is not a positive image for the children who are playing with them.
  2. Additionally, the accessories of the Bratz doll give cause for recalling the toy due to their mature nature.
  3. Lastly, the advertising for the Bratz dolls displays a negative image that should not be portrayed to children of the toy’s target audience.

Chunks for your body paragraphs:  (Choose 2 or 3 different examples that will go along with each of your topics – don’t use the same example for any other paragraph).  These chunks will ensure your length in the paper

  1. Facial features (eyes slanted, lips pouty) and makeup, long legs and skinny waist, hairstyles
  2. Styles of clothes, makeup accessories
  3. From web (or commercials or TV):  sensual description of each doll (like a bio), advertised games online “love meter”

Next step:  Find sources that support your point or describe the topic you have in detail.  You can even write your sources down and take notes on what info they can give you to keep your information organized.

  1. – info on look of dolls, styles of clothing and advertising
  2. The New Yorker article “Little Hotties:  Barbie’s New Rival” – info on dolls’ description and facts supporting argument that they are negative images for girls.
  3. “Over-sexed and over here:  The tarty Bratz doll” – article blog credible because it is a mother’s experience

Start Writing The Paper.  Remember the first draft is NOT always your best work.

Exercise 5

Exercise 5: Change of purpose

How could you turn the argument style paper on the Bratz dolls into a differently purposed essay? Currently, the outline has the purpose of persuading an audience not to sell Bratz dolls.