prolepsis — presents possible counterarguments H u m a n i t i e s

prolepsis — presents possible counterarguments H u m a n i t i e s



An outline is a roadmap for a writer to help give a shape and format to their ideas, and like a map, it helps you plan your destination and the most efficient (or most scenic) way to get there. The “classic” form of the outline described below—which is derived from the methods of rhetoric in Antiquity—is useful a useful format to help plan out your paper (why reinvent the wheel?). This format is not supposed to be a straightjacket, but a useful flexible list of elements for the writer, so that you do not have to “re-invent the wheel” for every essay.

Classical writers referred to this structure as the DISPOSITIO (“organization”), which are the elements of speech and language, and the organization of your argument. But all essays begin with INVENTIO (“invention”), which is your creative approach to your topic. Use these elements to help plan out your paper, and you can write in smaller sections, and keep control of what you are doing within each section.


  1. EXORDIUM (“to urge forward”) is the introduction to your paper. It helps introduce your topic, perhaps with a insightful quote or intriguing anecdote, and gets your reader into your topic.
  2. NARRATIO (story) is the historical and informational background needed by the reader to understand your argument. This is the set up of your paper and should include the “who, what, when, where, why” aspects of your argument. The narratio traditionally concludes with the PROPOSITIO, the point that you will argue (your thesis).
  3. PARTITIO contains the major points (“parts”) of your evidence and argument. The classic number of parts is at least three pieces of evidence. The body of your essay can be made up of several different elements that put forward your thesis and your evidence, and not all of these elements will be used in every essay. These elements include:

PROLEPSIS—presents possible counterarguments to your case. In oral argument this is done to control the argument by preventing your opponent from bringing counterevidence up. If a prolepsis is used, it is always followed by the… CONFUTATIO—refutation of opposing arguments in which the writer brings in a last piece of evidence to counter opposing arguments.

CONFIRMATIO—is the “confirmation” of the argument, a summing up, which can use ACCUMULATIO to sum up (“to heap up”) of your evidence

  1. PERORATIO is the conclusion to your paper. The conclusion is not just a restatement of your introduction: remember, the reader now has all the information that you have given them and in better informed on your topic. Now you the writer may elaborate on your point, or gesture to important aspects of your topic that you could not be included in your paper because of space, but which the reader will now understand as interesting and worthy of further inquiry.


Write an outline using the classic essay form, and indicating the elements in each section.

  1. Exordium (Introduction)

What is a good way to introduce and interest the reader in your topic? An interesting quote? A puzzling statistic? A mystery? Considering a subject with a different approach? An intriguing story (anecdote)? Indicate how you will introduce your topic.

  1. Narratio (Background Information, History)
  • What are the “Who, What, Where, When, Why” of your paper. List what historical and background information you need to give the reader
  1. Partitio (The Body the Essay)
  • List the major “parts” (examples) of your argument. The classic number of examples is 3, but there can be more, though usually not less. Write 3 sentences, each with 3 supporting points in this section. Include examples of evidence for each point, such as a facts, quotations, photos, music examples, etc. For example:

Supporting point sentence 1: ________________________________________________

Example 1: _____________________________________________

Example 2: _____________________________________________

Example 3: _____________________________________________

  1. Peroratio (Conclusion)
  • Indicate any elements of further interest brought up by (but not covered in) your paper.