Use the pre-writing questions below to help you analyze your images and start writing notes that will help you develop your paper ideas.
1. Claims: What claims does the image make? What type of claim is it?
- Fact Claim: Is it real?
- Definition Claim: What does it mean?
- Cause Claim: What is the Cause? What are the effects? How are these related?
- Value Claim: How important is this? How should we evaluate it?
- Policy Claim: What is the solution? What should we do about it?
2. Visual Composition: How is the image arranged or composed? Which of the following aspects of composition help makes the claim? Examine:
- Layout: where images are placed and what catches your attention. How visual lines draw your attention to or away from the focal point.
- Balance: size of images and how they compare with one another. Is the focal point centered or offset?
- Color: how color (or lack of color) draws your attention or creates a mood
- Key figures: what is the main focus? How does this contribute to meaning?
- Symbols: are there cultural symbols in the image? What do these mean?
- Stereotypes : how does image support stereotypes or challenge them?
- Exclusions: is there anything left out of the image that you expect to be there?
3. Genre: What is the genre of this image? (examples: fine art, movie, advertisement, poster, pamphlet, news photograph, graphic art etc.). How does it follow the rules of that genre or break away from them? How does that affect the meaning of the image for the audience?
4. Text: How does any text or caption work to provide meaning to the visual?
5. Appeals: How does it appeal to the audience to believe the claims? Are appeals to logic? Emotion? Character? Authority? Are any of these appeals false or deceiving?
6. Selling: Does the claim move into a sales pitch? Does it use a cultural value or common cultural symbol in a way that exploits that image?
7. Story: What story does this image convey? How does this story help the claim or appeal to the audience?
- Construct an argument that answers the writing prompt by arranging your notes linearly.
- Unless your teacher wants a 5 paragraph essay (an introductory paragraph, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion paragraph), don’t feel constrained by that model.
Now that you’ve grouped your notes, thought about your transitions, and developed a high-powered thesis, its time to build the scaffold upon which you’ll structure your paper: the outline.
Some teachers prefer a standard 3 body paragraph format. Three is a nice number aesthetically, but there is nothing particularly magical about having three body paragraphs. Unless your teacher states that you must have a certain number of body paragraphs, don’t feel constrained by this 3 paragraph format. The number of body paragraphs you have should be determined by your research and how you grouped your notes, not by an arbitrary number. Have one main claim expressed in each paragraph.
Tip: Keep in mind that the outline needs to be flexible. Don’t feel constrained by your outline once it’s created. If you get a surge of inspiration part way through writing your paper and decide to take your paper in a new direction, go ahead and change your outline.
There are several different ways to format an outline, but the MLA method (below) is a solid way to do it. Note how easily all the previous work you’ve done (grouping your notes and thinking about transitions) slides into the outline format:
Links to sample outlines: