Ever feel overwhelmed by all the facts, dates, events, quotations, ideas, definitions, theories, and explanations in a paper?
Creating an outline helps you to:
To create your outline:
The traditional outline:
This example outline has three main ideas. Your paper may have more than three or only two main ideas.
I. Intro with thesis
A. First idea
B. Second idea
C. Third idea
Don’t like the traditional outline format? You can also try:
Before turning your outline into a rough draft, ask yourself:
Many writers come to the writing center asking, “Does my paper flow?”
How does a reader judge if a paper flows? Readers look for the topics of sentences and paragraphs. When they can easily identify these topics and see how--across an essay-- they are related to each other and add up to a whole, readers say the writing “flows.” There are two levels of flow in a paper:
Reverse outlining is a revision strategy to help you identify problems with your paper’s flow, organization, and development. Unlike an outline you make before you write a draft, a reverse outline is done after. Before you begin reverse outlining, you must feel somewhat confident about the strength of your thesis. Many of the questions you will ask yourself pertain to how closely your paragraphs support your thesis.
Beginning with the last paragraph of your essay, read each paragraph carefully and ask yourself this question -- What does the paragraph do? Write your answers in the margin of the paper or on a separate page. Use the questions below to help you decide what the paragraph does in your paper:
Do not write down what you want the paragraph to do. Focus on what the words on the page do. Even if the sentences are confusing or misleading, write down exactly what the paragraph does. If you realize the paragraph talks about more than one topic, write down all the topics.
When you have finished, read all of your notes from front to back. Then respond to the following questions:
Now you should see ways you want to revise your paper’s organization and improve the flow. You should also see if certain points of your paper need further development (see Expand your Draft) or if some should be deleted from the paper. Perhaps this revision strategy has made you realize your thesis needs tweaking to more closely resemble what your paper turned out to be. (see Thesis Formulation)
After checking your paper for logical coherence and making any necessary revisions, you are now ready to check for lexical coherence. Are you using the right words to keep your reader on track? Go to Flow and Lexical coherence.
See this link to UNC's podcast for a quick take on reverse outlining.
After reading the above information on outlining, attempt the writing activity below for further practice.