Sometimes you have to work backwards to move forward. If you ever find yourself stuck while writing (and unable to make it to the Writing and Communication Centre), creating a reverse outline may be your solution. This strategy entails looking at each of your paragraphs and summarizing the main idea you are trying to portray in 1-2 sentences. Even with an initial outline, your ideas change as you write, so this strategy allows you to take a step back and ensure that your writing flows like Niagara Falls.

So how does one start a reverse outline?

  1. Ensure that you have your first draft finished as this will allow you to have a complete idea of what your reader will learn.

  2. Read each paragraph and write down 1-2 sentences that summarizes what your paragraph is telling the reader.
  3. Once you have written down all these sentences in order, you can see whether your ideas come across the way you want them to. It helps to ask yourself questions such as the following:
  • Where might my reader become confused with my ideas?
  • Does each paragraph stick to one main idea?
  • Do my points relate back to the main idea or thesis of my work?
  • Are the points from one paragraph to the next in a logical order?

By the end of this process, you should be able to have a better understanding of areas that need work in terms of clarity. After you fix your initial draft, you can go through this process again to determine how your work has improved.

For more information on how to revise your work, please refer to our Revision handout.

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