Skip to main content
Logo image

Sound Writing

Subsection 4.3.1 Reverse Outlining

Have you ever gone to Abercrombie & Fitch? Of course not. Well, a generic clothing store, then, where a certain T-shirt caught your eye. You held it against yourself and looked in the mirror, noting that it would look good on you but otherwise uncertain if it fit. The next thing you would do, of course, is try it on, for only after you’ve tried it on will you know if it fits.
A reverse outline is like looking in a mirror after you’ve tried on the T-shirt inasmuch as it is an outline constructed after a draft has been produced. We all know that it can be difficult to visualize the organization of a paper before the evidence has been integrated and analyzed. By outlining the paper after the fact, the writer can consider the shape that the paper takes when dressed with a significant amount of content. It’s easy to do: just put the paper aside and, using whatever method you’re comfortable with (see Subsection 4.1.3), outline what you remember of the structure of your paper. By reverse outlining, you should be able to better visualize how you’ve actually organized your paper and, as is often the case, think of alternative organizations.