Tidying-Up Your Academic Writing: The Magic of the Reverse Outline


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If you ask any person who works in academic ghostwriting jobs or someone in the education field, they will tell you that the outline is a way to organize your ideas before you write. But, what about the reverse outline? Unlike a traditional outline, this resource is created after your first draft. It is a way to clarify and organize your ideas after the draft has been written, but before your final copy. Let’s take a look at its benefits and how to create one.

What is a Reverse Outline?

A reverse outline is a means of analyzing and organizing ideas between the drafting and re-writing stages. It is used to analyze both the organization and content of a paper. Another benefit of this style of outline is that it lets you check for clarity. If your ideas are scattered, readers may miss the main point. Furthermore, you may have trouble convincing readers of your ideas if you are trying to sway them, because they are confused about the evidence and supporting details you are providing.

Why Should I Write a Reverse Outline?

Aside from the benefits mentioned above, using this type of outline allows you to take bias away from your editing process. It is very difficult to edit your own work in an objective way. You already know what you are saying, so you don’t have the same perspective as someone reading your paper for the first time. By increasing your objectivity, you can be sure your message comes across clear and concise, regardless of who is reading it.

How to Create a Reverse Outline

The easiest way to create this outline style is to dissect by paragraph. You do not have to do the introduction or conclusion since they describe the paper as a whole. Start by creating a numbered list, with as many numbers as you need for your body paragraphs. You can write the ‘Introduction’ and ‘Conclusion’ on the first and last lines. For each paragraph, write down a single sentence that summarizes the paragraph.

The goal of a paragraph when paper writing is to create a cohesive idea that supports your thesis. If it cannot be summarized in a single sentence, you may have included unnecessary information or information that is irrelevant to the paragraph.

What’s Next?

Once you have created the outline, you are going to use it to improve the context of your paper. There are several ways you can do this.

#1: Remove Unnecessary Information

If you find yourself struggling to summarize in one sentence, think about what your intent was with the paragraph. Looking to the topic sentence can help you realize the intent. It is not uncommon for writers to include a single fact that may not be cohesive with a paragraph, especially if there is not somewhere it fits usefully into the paper. Even though it might help prove the main idea, it may not belong in any paragraphs. If you cannot find a better place, there are two options. Either remove the detail altogether or create another paragraph where it will fit.

#2: Compare the Ideas to Your Thesis

Go over each of the main ideas individually. Compare them to your thesis and think about how they work to support it. One of the mistakes writers often make is including information that is related to their thesis, but that is irrelevant to proving the main idea of their paper. In this case, you may need to alter the way the paragraph is written or how the main point is constructed. Other times, it might be best to omit the paragraph and find more information that supports your main idea.

#3: Consider Moving Paragraphs

Sometimes, ideas flow more naturally once you take out the main ideas. Pay attention to the order of your ideas in the draft. Do they make sense and flow together? This is one of the easiest things to improve before writing your second draft, as you only have to move the paragraphs around until you find the order that makes the most sense.

#4: Identifying Monster Paragraphs

A monster paragraph is one that has more than one main idea. While the information might relate to your thesis, you will have a hard time isolating a single sentence to summarize. These are often lengthier than others, as there is too much information to keep the paragraph concise.

If you are having trouble deciding which information to keep, analyze your reason for choosing those details. Try completing the sentence, “The paragraph connects to the thesis because…” or “The point I am trying to make is…” Once you know what your intended goal is, separate the sentences that support it from those that do not. You may even find that the separated sentences allow you to create another paragraph or two, written in a way that they do support your thesis.

The best way to master the reverse outline is to practice. Find a custom thesis written by a writing service or take one of your old papers and see what you can do. Can you summarize the main points? Are the ideas coming across clearly? This is a simple strategy that can ensure the best grade on your paper—regardless of the topic. It is well worth the small amount of time that it takes during the writing process.

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