Organizing Your Dissertation: A Reverse Outline
November 8, 2018
You’re probably familiar with using an outline to help plan your thesis or dissertation, but what about a reverse outline? A reverse outline is usually used to check your work. It lets you strip down your paper into the main points you’re trying to make, and gives you a pared down look at the paper’s structure. By making a reverse outline, you can see whether your paper makes the points you want to make, find places in the paper that need additional developing, and discover any weaknesses in the structure, or places that don’t seem to flow logically. When clients seeking dissertation coaching ask for assistance with organization, this is often one of the first things we do to help figure out ways to develop the project further.
How Do I Create a Reverse Outline?
Although you can work with a partial draft to see how you’re doing, it’s usually best to have a complete draft of your paper or proposal when you create a reverse outline.
Taking the draft, list the main point of each paragraph of your paper on a separate piece of paper or a new document. Alternatively, you can copy and paste the topic sentence from each paragraph into the outline, or write a one-sentence summary. The main thing is to capture the most important topic from each paragraph in an easy-to-read form.
You can organize your outline using bullet points or in a traditional outline form. Many people prefer to simply number their entries. Again, the main thing is that you can understand it and it’s easy to read and understand, since this is what you’ll be working from in order to polish your paper.
Things to Consider When Looking at Your Reverse Outline
When you’re done constructing your reverse outline, now the work begins. Take an honest look at your outline and read through it. Is it easy to follow? Are there sections or entries that don’t seem to fit with the larger section? If there are entries that don’t quite seem to fit, reorganization of some paragraphs, or additional material might be necessary. Are there repetitions? You might think about cutting one or more paragraphs of the redundant material.
Most importantly, does the outline provide you with a clear, condensed version of your thesis statement or argument? If not, there might be larger structural and organizational issues that need to be addressed.
Dissertation Editor can help you with your reverse outline! Our editors are well-versed in writing and organizational techniques, and can walk you through a reverse outline during a scheduled consultation session. Sometimes a reverse outline is done by a client after an editing session, and then a consultation is scheduled with the editor. This way, the editor can get a version of the reverse outline beforehand and then discuss with the client what editing and organizational changes might be beneficial during the consultation. Our editors are there for you every step of the way! Contact us today to learn more about our services.