[Revising Strategy] Two ways to reverse outline and revise


When revising a draft, sometimes it helps to make a reverse outline: To take your draft and generate an outline of what it says. Then you can look at the outline to see if it flows. You may be able to detect where a point is missing or out of order, or where a point needs to be added.

Two Strategies

1. There’s this free program called Docear that allows you to make an outline with a mind mapping tool. Then you can toggle back-and-forth between an outline view and a concept map view. For some reason, that has made a difference for me. And you can develop a point into a rough draft paragraph by creating the paragraph as the CHILD node of the point’s node. The nice thing is you can hide or display child nodes so that paragraphs show or don’t.

Aside: The Thesis Whisper Blackline Masters can help you with developing points into paragraphs. Also, Dr. Carlis’s one-draft dissertation document can help you with (more) purposeful outlining and the ins-and-outs of paragraph-sequencing.

Once when I was stuck, I inched along like that.

2. HERE’S A PERHAPS FASTER STRATEGY: You can save your draft as a PDF, and then open it up in Adobe. To reverse outline, use the “comments” feature. Same thing to add points and paragraphs: Use the “comments” and annotation features. In the latest version of Adobe, you can even add audio notes. But . . . be careful: You don’t want to record very long notes that it takes a whole bunch of time to go back and hear!

This might go without saying, but if you already have a method that’s working for you, don’t waste the time on the Docear or the Adobe strategy. Keep what’s working for you!

What about you? Do you benefit much from reverse outlining? Do you have another way of doing so, or a completely different method of revising that you feel is effective? We’d love to hear from you! Take care!


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