A brief outline will make it easier to develop topic sentences and to arrange your paragraphs in the most effective order.
You should begin your outline by stating the thesis of your paper:
The English Civil War was caused by a combination of factors, including the empowerment and organization of Puritan forces, the absolutist tendencies of James I and the personal ineptitude of his son Charles I.
Next, list the topic sentences for each of the paragraphs (or sections) of the paper:
1. The war and its aftereffects lasted twenty years.
2. Historically, the Protestants had believed themselves persecuted.
3. In the 1620s Protestants dominated Parliament and attempted to enact legislation which would provide guidelines for both religious worship and political representation.
4. During his reign in the early 1600s, James I had attempted to silence Puritan protests and to solidify the role of the monarchy as unquestioned head of state.
5. Charles I's lack of personal diplomacy and his advisers' desire for personal power gave the Puritans the excuses they needed to declare war on the monarchy.
You might notice that the topic sentences derive directly from the thesis, and explain, prove, or expand on each of the thesis' claims.
Once you have an outline at hand, you can follow three steps to help you write your paragraphs effectively:
1. Use your thesis to help you organise the rest of your paper.
2. Write a list of topic sentences, and make sure that they show how the material in each paragraph is related to your thesis.
3. Eliminate material that is not related to your thesis and topic sentences.