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Agriculture 221: Animal Nutrition

A guide to assist students in the course Animal Nutrition, including a writing guide for the midterm research assignment on animal diseases.


Outlines are one way to organize information; they provide a structure that allows the writer to put things into a logical order so the paper flows nicely.  One helpful thing about this particular assignment is that the basics for the outline are already there, because your instructor has given you what she expects to be included, some of which are:

  • History of the disease
  • Symptoms
  • Diagnosis (how it’s detected)
  • Treatment
  • Impacts
  • Transferability

The full list of what should be included can act like an outline checklist; as long as you include all sections in your outline, you have everything covered!

Outlines are generally set up using numbers and letters for main and supporting points.  Typical outlines start with Roman numerals (I., II., III., etc.) as the broadest points, the big ones that encompass a lot of sub-points.  Andy decides his first broad point is history and background of the disease, so that gets his first Roman numeral.  Under that, he decides that the most important thing is describing what amyloidosis and prions are, so he gives that supporting point the A position.  Under the capital letters come standard numerals, and then lower-case letters, and then small Roman numerals. 

Andy can look at what the paper needs to include and arrange these into the main and sub-points in his outline, providing a little detail here and there from his research to help him get organized and get a jump on writing.  He notes that for his paper, he doesn’t have much for the history, since prions were pretty much unknown until the 1980s—relatively new compared to diseases like rabies, plague, anthrax, and scores of others.  But because prions are still somewhat mysterious and many people don’t know much about them, this is a good place to give his readers some background into the misfolding protein thing, and from there, it seems natural to him to put the symptoms and diagnosis in, too.  Reading through what he puts down for his first section, he decides that the natural progression from describing what the disease is would be treating it, so he makes that his second main point (II).

Note that Andy included the brief citation information, including page numbers, in his detailed points from his research.  This will make it much easier for him when he’s writing to get the full information relevant to that section—and to fill in the in-text citations!

Different students will have different organization and that isn’t wrong; some students may feel they want to separate their history and the symptoms and diagnosis into two main points or even three instead of lumping them into one; that’s OK.  As long as the outline (and thus the paper) seems to have a logical flow to it, reorganizing the main points to suit your writing needs is a good idea.

Example:  Andy’s first two main points in his outline:

Amyloid Protein A (AA) Amyloidosis in Cheetahs: A Race Against Death

Example Outline

  1. History and Background of Amyloidosis in Cheetahs
  1.  What is Amyloidosis and prions?
  1. Prions and protein folding
    1. Prion—definition: Protein-based, infectious, need other non-prion proteins to replicate—Caughey, 7113
    2. Misfolded amyloid A protein that forces normal proteins to become abnormal ones—“The Mystery”
    3.  Infect non-prion proteins and transform them into prions—Caughey, 7113; “bad role models” for proteins that fold normally--Miller, 1337
    4.  Results in large clumps of abnormal protein in organs like liver and spleen, die of kidney failure—“The Mystery”
  2. Examples of other prion diseases
    1. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
    2. Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow)
  1. First incidence/discovery in cheetahs
  1. American Zoo & Aquarium Association study—Papendick, p.549
    1.  Many studies show amyloidosis as “secondary” condition to other conditions/diseases, mostly inflammatory such as gastritis—Papendick
    2. Kills 70% of captive cheetahs, up 20% since 1980s—“The Mystery”
  1. Symptoms/Diagnosis
  1. Fibrils in internal organs—“Killer”, p. 19
    1. Study—when injected in mice, developed amyloidosis—“Killer”, p. 19
    2. Mice developed amyloidosis only if “primed” for disease with silver nitrate injections that boost SAA serum levels—silver nitrate alone causes amyloidosis though slower than inoculated mice—Caughey, p.7113
    3. Theory—cheetahs also need to be “primed”—possible sources of priming include diet, stress, chronic infections, genetic predispositions—Caughey, p. 7113-7114
  1. Treating and preventing the spread of Amyloidosis in Cheetahs
  1. How it spreads
  1.  Genetic predisposition
    1. Lack of diversity in genetic makeup increases chances of getting infectious diseases—Papendick
    2. Particular variant makes them susceptible—“Killer”, p. 19
  2. Fecal—Caughey, 2008
    1. Fibrils in organs found in feces—“Killer”, p. 19
      1. Grooming—“The Mystery”
      2. Food/fecal contamination—“The Mystery”
  1. Treatment/Prevention
  1. Remove fecal matter from zoo habitat—“Killer”, p. 19
  2. Keep food areas separate from areas with high feces—“The Mystery”
  3. Anti-inflammatory treatments
  4. No known cure

Andy can continue to fill in his outline as he writes if he so chooses, adding more and more information, or he can use this as a guide to keep him on track when he writes.  Some people don't find outlines useful in their writing process, and that's OK.  There's more than one way to approach writing a paper; the trick is figuring out what way is right for you.  Some students like to hand-write out sections on paper that they can cut apart physically and "rearrange" to see how it flows, while others may prefer a stream of consciousness writing style on a computer that they can then go back to later and clean up what they've written.  Even if this (or another approach) is your preferred approach, you can still use the outline as a "checklist" to verify that you have indeed covered all of the points your professor wants.