Outlines and Reverse Outlines: Write A Better Essay In One Easy Step

When I was in university, I was often writing two or three essays at once, and the deadlines were often within days of each other. That added up to a lot of essay writing that jumped assignment to assignment, or was interspersed with studying for exams or, you know, attending class. Most of my student clients are in the same boat. When I read through their draft essays, you can see exactly where they rushed, where their attention was divided and whether they plotted out the essay in advance.

Believe me, I know it seems like unnecessary extra work when you have no extra time to give. But trust me – a well done outline can save you a ton of time, and a┬áreverse outline can make your essay infinitely better before you turn it in.


Thesis: Fill in here!
Argument #1: Fill in here!
Argument #2: Fill in here!
Argument #3: Fill in here!
Conclusion: Fill in here!

Fill in this chart as you read your sources with your argument points and proofs, including any direct quotes with your sources. Distill each argument into a single statement that supports your thesis; make sure all of your proofs support that statement. Ask yourself:

  1. Does each box of proof support the argument statement?
  2. Do the argument statements make sense together?
  3. Do the argument statements support your thesis?

Doing this will mean when you sit down to actually write the essay, everything you need will be in one spot. This will allow you to spend less time writing, which usually results in better quality writing because you won’t be distracted by chasing down sources or forcing arguments to fit in the greater thesis.

Reverse Outline

Once you’ve written your draft, go back and try to fill in the same outline chart with the essay you’ve already written. If you completed an outline, be honest with yourself about where you went astray and get things back on track. If you haven’t completed an outline, this is still a great tool. Try and fit in your content to the chart above and again, be honest about where it doesn’t fit and adjust accordingly.

Taking the time to really lay out your essay will take extra work up front, but it will result in a much easier time writing the essay and a better essay overall.

We can edit your essays too – just get in touch!

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