The Benefits of Outlining

Academic News & Updates
Dissertation Motivation
Prospectus/Concept Paper

I used to hate writing outlines. Why would I want to add more work to my already full load of classes and work? Didn’t I already have enough to do, writing 20-page papers for three graduate seminar classes, every single semester? I am willing to bet that I was not alone in my thinking. The truth is, until I began writing my own dissertation, I thought that outlines were a lot of busywork and, frankly, a waste of time. I was wrong.

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Outlines are helpful for several reasons. First, they help you structure your paper. If your school or degree program provides a dissertation template, you already have a basic outline made for you! This helps you see where to place specific pieces of information. Second, outlines help you organize your thoughts. An outline helps you organize your ideas about your topic ahead of time, so that when you sit down to write, you know what to work on. Third, an outline can help you plan and manage your time. A quick glance at an outline of a chapter can help you see what is done and what needs to be done. The outstanding sections can be turned into SMART goals without too much hassle, and before you know it, you will be checking lots of small tasks off your to-do list, providing you with even more motivation to keep going!

How many of us sit down to write only to realize that we have no idea what to write? This leaves us feeling badly about ourselves and our ability to complete a dissertation project, can cause anxiety, and can lead to decreased productivity and discipline. There is only one way to finish a dissertation, and that is to simply sit down, buckle down, and write. Outlining can be an important part of this process and help you finish your dissertation more easily and with a sense of accomplishment.