Subject: What is the subject of your paper? The answer should include the name of the text or texts that you are considering and what about them you will be analyzing.
Objective or purpose: Why are you analyzing this or these particular things in this or these particular works? What do you hope to show or prove by addressing these?
Thesis or argument: What is your main point? This differs from subject and purpose by being a concise statement of the end result of your analysis. Your main point is not to show something or find out something; rather, it is what you have shown or what you found out. This can sometimes be difficult to state before you have actually finished writing the paper, and therefore you ought to make tentative claims while in the drafting stage of your argument. Say what you think happens. If, when all is said and done, you find that this in fact does not happen, and that your analysis has led you to a different main point, then change the thesis.
Topic sentences: Each paragraph you write begins with a topic sentence that should indicates what will be covered in this particular paragraph of your argument and gracefully moves the reader from the previous paragraph to an integration of new information. Topic sentences are crucial building blocks in an argument. In the drafting stage, sketch three main topic sentences that address the question or subject and a particular aspect or aspects of the text you are examining. As you develop your argument, flesh out the topic sentences to become accurate introductory statements and effective transitions. You can build your entire paper around solid topic sentences. You may find, however, that as you write the paragraphs themselves the information you present requires more than one paragraph, and hence more than one topic sentence. There is no set number of topic sentences for the assignment, and you should adapt the structure of your paper to the argument that you are making.
Conclusion: How does the essay close? What information draws the focus of the individual paragraphs together? What does the reader need to know in order to feel closure or to be convinced of your argument? The conclusion is the hardest thing to write at the drafting stage, but positing a place where you would like the argument to end is nonetheless useful. The conclusion should relate directly to the thesis, and so if you have posed a tentative thesis, you will also pose a tentative conclusion. Similarly, if you decide to change your thesis after you have fleshed out the paragraphs of your argument, then you will also probably change your conclusion.