Virtual Communities Paper Suggested Outline

NOTE: All length suggestions are JUST suggestions! Of course, depending on your project and writing style, lengths of sections will turn out differently. This is perfectly expected, but DO consider why you spend more or less space explaining something. Ask yourself: (if too long) do you need all this information? (If too short) are you being clear enough?

Also, just because you followed the structure below does not suddenly mean you get an A on the paper. Content matters. Analysis matters. The outline, however, is meant to give you an idea of what is expected and provide support for how to write in a structures, purposeful, and logical way.


  1. Introduction (1/2 – 1 page)
    1. Background/Opening (1-4 sentences)
      1. Introduces the focus of the paper
      2. Grabs reader’s attention
      3. Provides any necessary information needed to understand the thesis statement
    2. Thesis (1-2 sentences)
      1. Clearly states argument/position of the paper
      2. “In this paper, I argue that the features and design of medical forum community websites, specifically WebMD, encourage openness and sharing, but in a way that prevents the creation of sustainable strong ties.”
    3. Method (1 page)
      1. Background Information (2-3 sentences)
        1. Brief description of the virtual community you engaged in
        2. Any details that are important and might come into play later on in your analysis (draw your reader’s attention to it now)
      2. What Did You Do? (2-4 sentences)
        1. Specific details about what you did. DO NOT just say you spent 2 weeks engaging in the community. This is obvious and meaningless (assume your reader knows the assignment instructions).
        2. Focus on the things you did that MADE IT INTO THE PAPER. Ignore things that you did but you will not discuss in the paper as evidence.
        3. “I spent hours observing forum interactions, specifically around parents asking about their children’s rare and strange symptoms. I also posted my own thread asking for advice imitating a concerned parent, and kept asking questions and updating my thread over the course of two weeks. As a follow-up, I also tried to send private messages to people who responded to my thread to see if I could create deeper bonds and interactions with them.”
  • Data and Analysis (4-6 pages)
    1. Introduction (1 – 4 sentences)
      1. Introduce to the reader in a clear fashion what you will be arguing and proving in this section
      2. “In this section, I prove two key findings that put together affirm this paper’s argument that WebMD encourages sharing and openness, while at the same time discourages sustainable strong ties. First, I will show using Baym’s (2010) aspects of social media that WebMD’s interactivity and features result in very private details being shared, yet an inability to create lasting strong ties. Second, I will then argue that Tufekci’s (2010) theory is altered in the WebMD space such that Seek and Ye Shall Find simply does not work.”
    2. Claim or Argument #1 (2 pages)
      1. Claim or Argument: Explain what it is that you are going to prove in this first subsection—it should line up with what you told us in the introduction of the Data and Analysis section
      2. Evidence #1: After presenting the claim, provide the first piece of evidence or your first point that proves your claim/argument
        1. Analysis: explain what the evidence shows and why it is a convincing interpretation of the evidence; this is where you might integrate some of the readings (to prove that your analysis makes sense, for example, or to contrast it from what was found in the readings).
        2. Connect: connect your analysis back to your claim and/or your overarching thesis. What does this prove and why does it matter?
      3. Evidence #2: Present more evidence that proves your claim
        1. Repeat as with Evidence #1
      4. Claim + Evidence #2 (Repeat above)
      5. [Claim + Evidence #3, if necessary (Repeat above)]
    3. Conclusion (1 page)
      1. Quick and Brief Summary
        1. Recap the most important findings and arguments and proof that you stated
        2. Highlight, if necessary, some of the bigger and more important things you believe you found and have proven
      2. Extension
        1. Why does what you found matter? Why is it interesting or important?
        2. Suggestions: what kind of further research could be done? And/or what kinds of changes should people (or governments, or whoever) make as a result of what you discovered?

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