Descriptive Outlines & Revising for Content and Organization

Many writers rely on the organizational value of outlines to organize their thoughts in the initial stages of writing. Outlines can also provide a useful framework to help ensure organization during and after writing. This exercise provides a way to check for idea development. Use this descriptive outline when revising for content and organization.

The Descriptive Outline is an effective approach to ensure that your paper is organized and to identify gaps in the writing or areas of superfluous material. Take a clean sheet of paper and go through this process with your composition in hand. It will take a few minutes, but the time will be well-spent, especially if you’re concerned about your organization.

  1. Identify Your Purpose for Writing:  
  2. Identify Your Plan or Way to achieve thesis (A historical review? Compare and contrast? Describe? Analyze?)
  3. Review each paragraph for its relevance to the thesis and plan of the paper:

Paragraph 1         Summarize:

                              Purpose: (How does it relate to the thesis?)

Paragraph 2        Summarize:


Continue with each paragraph.

4. Analysis:  Once finished, review your notes and consider the relevance of each paragraph.

  • Unity: Does each paragraph expand on the thesis? Are the paragraphs’ purposes aligned?
  • Organization: Is there a logical progression of ideas? Do the ideas “flow” from point to point? For example, as you examine the movement from paragraph to paragraph, do you notice any jumps in topics? If so, make a note for revision.
  • Content Development: Check for repetition of ideas and areas where further development is needed. Are there noticeable gaps in idea development? If so, you’ll need to compose new paragraphs to develop ideas. Compose transitional sentences or paragraphs to connect ideas.