Brainstormingand OutliningHelen E. Hodgson, Ph.D.Professor of CommunicationWestminster CollegeSalt Lake City, Utah
Benefits of an Outline• Supplies a solid foundation on which tobuild• Ensures direction• Provides a checklist of important items• Helps maintain proper emphasis• Allows early feedback on your plan forthe paper
Systems of OutliningFind a System• Brainstorming• Mind maps• Cluster diagrams• Issue trees
Brainstorming• Think about your topic in broad terms.• Randomly list everything that comes tomind.• Do not worry about repetition.• Do not think critically about yourideas.
Brainstorming to aStructured Outline• Look for ideas that appear more thanonce, as they are probably major themes.• Select these major ideas as main pointsfor your structured outline.• Organize subordinate ideas under themain points.• Eliminate unrelated ideas.• Supply missing sub-topics.
Other Types ofBrainstormingExamples of Systems• FreeMind Softwarehttp://freemind.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/Main Page• MindManager (mindjet.com)
The Formal Outline• Determine a format you find effective.• Focus on the thesis or main idea of thepaper.• Include interesting ideas, relevantpoints, supporting information, topicsentences• Select specific words and phrases thatcapture the essence of your ideas.
CollaborativePlanningExplain your message (purpose, key points)to someone else (or to a tape recorder), orask someone to review your outline.• Helps crystallize your views• Helps you recognize incongruous views• Helps you create new ideas• Helps you clarify your purpose• Helps you articulate key points
CollaborativePlanning—ContinuedAsk your collaborator to look for• Gaps in argument• Confusing ideas• Concepts that need fuller development• Ideas presented out of order
Revision of the Outline• Revise your outline on the basis ofpeer review.• Use it to walk mentally through theplan for your paper.• Make any final changes on the basis ofyour review.• Use the outline to guide you as youwrite the paper.
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