Northcentral University Writing Center
Using the Reverse Outline for Organization


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Writing Center

Using the Reverse Outline for Organization

 

Once the first drafting stages of the NCU Writing Process are complete, writers move on to the content stages for revision. The Reverse Outline is an effective revising tool for all three content phases. There are two basic forms of the reverse outline: annotating the draft and completing a chart. Below are some tools to help navigate both styles. Experiment with both to determine which method is most beneficial.

 

The first stage is revising for Focus.

In this stage, writers work to

  • locate the thesis statement for the text
  •  locate links to that thesis statement throughout the draft

 

The second stage is revising for Development.

In this stage, writers work to

  • locate each piece of evidence used to develop the thesis for the entire text
  • locate each piece of evidence used to develop the main idea of each paragraph

 

The third stage is revising for Organization.

In this stage, writers work to

  • locate the organizational pattern for the entire text to make sure that there are no lapses in logic
  • locate the transitions between paragraphs to make sure that there are no lapses in logic
  • locate the transitions between sentences within each paragraph to make sure that there are no lapses in logic

                       

For each revision stage, the Reverse Outline is a quick and visual way to chart exactly what is going on in the draft.

 

There are two primary methods for crafting a Reverse Outline in any of these content stages:

 

The first is to make notes in the margins of the draft. 

To use this method for Focus or Development:

  • note the subject and verb of the topic sentence of each paragraph in the left margin
  • note the subject and verb of each subsequent sentence in the right margin

 

To use this method for Organization, two types of reverse outlines are beneficial.

Type 1:

  • note the subject and verb for each sentence in the left margin
  • note the logic conveyed by those sentences in the right margin, noting which sentences might need to be moved to improve the logic

Type 2:

  • note the transitions between paragraphs in the left margin
  • note the transitions between sentences in the right margin

 

The second is to complete a chart like the one below.  In one column, locate what the topic sentence says. In the other column, locate what the evidence and analysis do to support the topic sentence.  For more on the elements of a paragraph, see the MEAL handout.

Paragraph 1 says                 Paragraph 1 does

Sentence 1 says                  Sentence 1does                                               

Transition 1 says                  Transition 1 does                                              

   

  

For more information about this topic, please visit the Writing Centers at Colorado, Purdue, and Chapel Hill.