• 35) OUTLINES

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    Outlines can improve organization and save time.


    “One of the most important tips that we can give you regarding development of [a grant] is to begin by creating a bullet outline” (Russell and Morrison, The Grant Application Writer’s Workbook, 2010).


    Outlines are one of the most important strategies for improving writing. Even seasoned writers with Ph.D.s can benefit from using strong outlines (Russell and Morrison, 2010). However many developing writers do not begin the writing process by developing a strong outline. 


    Among the reasons that people do not begin with an outline is the perception that outlines take time, and therefore take time away from the bulk of writing. However, effective outlines can actually save writers considerable amounts of time and stress. Outlines can also be created so that they do not require additional writing (and probably reduce text that must be re-written during revision).


    Therefore, outlines can be well worth the investment of time and thought.


    How can we create useful outlines? Some suggestions:


    1) Make each heading of your outline the clearly-defined CONCLUSION of a REASONED argument.


    Authors often begin an outline using very general bullet points. For example, a writer might begin a paper on the importance of maneuverability (agility) for walking and running with the following outline:

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    INTRODUCTION OUTLINE 1

        * Importance of maneuvering

        * How animals perform maneuvers

        * Previous studies of maneuvering in humans

        * Gap in understanding

        * General and Measurable hypotheses. 

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    Does the outline seem like a reasonable place to begin writing a paper?


    The outline is a reasonable start. HOWEVER, the outline is only a start! What is a limitation of the outline that might suggest ways to improve it?


    One of the main limitations of the outline is that the bullet points are too VAGUE. Each bullet point identifies a general topic for a section, but does not provide much guidance for what the specific content of the of the section will be. 


    The value of an outline is proportional to the specificity of the outline. Vague outlines have much less value than specific outlines.


    How can we make our outline more specific and helpful? One possibility that might seem reasonable is to make the outline more procedural: to explain what the plan is for each section. 

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    INTRODUCTION OUTLINE 2

        * Explain the importance of maneuvering for animals

        * Summarize the research on how animals perform maneuvers

        * Summarize previous studies of maneuvering

        * Identify the gap in understanding

        * Present both the General and Measurable hypotheses. 

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    Is Outline 2 an improvement over Outline 1? 


    Although Outline 2 might seem more explanatory and helpful than Outline 1, Outline 2 does not contain more useful information than Outline 1. Outline 2 contains the same information as Outline 1, but has more words to read. Therefore, Outline 2 is arguably worse than Outline 1 because it is less concise.


    A second approach to revising Outline 1 could be to add more detail in the form of adding more sub-sections in the outline: 

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    INTRODUCTION OUTLINE 3

        * Importance of maneuvering

              * Avoiding predation for animals

              * Sports performance in humans

              * Avoiding injury in the elderly.

        * How animals perform maneuvers

              * Morphology

              * Behavior

              * Mechanisms of motor control

              * Changing the direction of movement

              * Rotating the body

              * Making changes to forces within a step

              * Making changes to leg placement between steps.

        * Previous studies of maneuvering in humans

              * Houck, J. (2003).

              * Besier et al., (2001)

              * Rand and Ohtsuki, (2000).

        * Gap in understanding

              * We don't understand the mechanisms used to control maneuvers.

        * General and Measurable hypotheses

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    Is Outline 3 an improvement over Outline 1? 


    Outline 3 contains more information than Outlines 1 and 2, which seems an improvement. However, more information also means more complexity, and more to read and organize within each section. We sometimes also have the tendency to not want to change text that we have written. More text may mean more resistance to change (even if the outline isn't ideal).


    Therefore, although the information in Outline 3 definitely could be useful, more information could actually make the main points of the outline more difficult to defend or change as necessary. 


    Moreover, what logical transitions does the outline use? 


    We might notice that the outline primarily uses AND conjunctions, the weakest form of conjunction. An outline featuring a "laundry list" of  AND conjunctions might not be the most powerful way to start.


    Make the headings of your outline the clearly-defined CONCLUSIONS of a REASONED argument.


    One way to add information to an outline is to add information so that new elements contribute to developing and supporting the conclusions of reasoned arguments. Developing arguments at the outline stage takes a bit more thought than simply adding information. However, the investment of thought and time pays off considerably by making subsequent writing easier. 


    An outline structured around conclusive sentences of reasoned arguments might look like: 

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    INTRODUCTION OUTLINE 4

        * Maneuvering performance is important for both animals and humans. For animals, maneuverability affects fitness. For humans, maneuverability can constrain performance and contribute to injury.

        * Maneuvering involves both changing movement direction and appropriate body rotation.

        * To perform maneuvers, humans could either change foot placement or change foot forces during stance. 

        * The role of anticipatory adjustments relative to changes that occur during the stance period of a turning step remains unclear.

        * General and Measurable hypotheses. 

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    Is Outline 4 an improvement over Outline 1?


    I argue that outline 4 is more helpful than Outlines 1, 2 or 3 because Outline 4 provides a set of conclusions or goals that we can use to organize our information. As we review and include the results of research from our literature grid, we can potentially fit information we find into a reasoning structure from the beginning. Moreover, we have already identified some dichotomies (OR disjunctions) that make our arguments more compelling.


    However, Outline 4 could still be stronger. To make our outline as strong as possible, we can move to our second suggestion:


    2) Use a HIERARCHICAL framework.


    Hierarchies are powerful ways to structure information. Taking advantage of hierarchies in our outlines is as simple as making sure that sub-headings of our outline are hierarchically related to larger categories. The "Rule of Three" can also be helpful for structuring our hierarchy: when possible, limit sub-categories to three or fewer elements (although more than 3 premises for inductive arguments is OK).


    As we do research (aided by our literature grids), we can make our outline stronger by thinking about ways to make the outline more hierarchical.  Our outline will become stronger and stronger if each element of information that we add contributes to supporting conclusion statements in a clear hierarchy. 


    Our outline will also become stronger if we continue looking for ways to use our most powerful transitions: "therefore", "but", and "or." 


    A first step to make our outline more hierarchical, and clearly identify strong transitions, might look something like:

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    INTRODUCTION OUTLINE 5

        * Maneuvering performance is important for both animals and humans. 

              * [CLARIFICATION (Definition)]: Maneuvers involve behaviourally generated changes to speed, direction and/or body orientation (Qiao et al., 2014).

              * For animals, maneuverability affects fitness.

                   * Demes et al., 1999

                   * Losos and Irschick, 1996

              * [AND] For humans, maneuverability can constrain performance and contribute to injury.

                   * Besier et al., 2001

                   * Colby et al., 2000

                   * Cross et al., 1989

        * Maneuvering involves both changing movement direction and appropriate body rotation.

             * Maneuvering involves changing movement direction.

                   * Kane and Scher, 1970

                   * Greene and McMahon, 1979

                   * Walter, 2003

             * [BUT] Maneuvering also involves appropriate body rotation.

                   * Jindrich et al., 2006

                   * Qiao et al., 2014

        * To perform maneuvers, humans could either change foot placement or change foot forces during stance. 

             * To perform maneuvers, humans could change foot placement

                   * Orendurff et al., 2006

                   * Patla et al., 1999

                   * Houck, 2003

                   * Rand and Ohtsuki, 2000.

        * [OR] To perform maneuvers, humans could change foot forces during stance.

                   * Jindrich et al., 2006,2007

         * HOWEVER, the role of anticipatory adjustments relative to changes that occur during the stance period of a turning step remains unclear.

        * General and Measurable hypotheses. 

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    The outline is still only a start. We can continue to add references to the outline, and modify our conclusions as necessary. However, once we have surveyed the literature and finalized our outline, our outline will provide specific guidance for how to organize our premises and conclusions into reasoned arguments.


    Moreover, because we have conclusive sentences as bullet points, we have sentences that we can USE in our written document! The conclusive sentences can remain in our paper as subheadings or topic sentences. We finish the outline with a strong start on the paper itself. Moreover, none of the text in outline need be wasted: we can use our outline directly in our paper.


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    Outlines need not be limited to indented text! For example, "paragraph frames" can help to organize arguments by separating the overall argument structure from the specific evidence that supports a conclusion (Smith and Imbrenda, 2018). An example of a graphical framework that could help to create a strong argument would be a table


    Paragraph Framework for a Reasoned Argument

    CONCLUSION

    (Topic Sentence):

     

     

     

    Premise/ clarification Type (A,F)* or (D,E) #

    Statement

    (simple and specific)

    REFERENCE

    Transition (Therefore, And, But, Or, Clarification)

    PREMISE 1:

     

     

     

     

     

     

    (Optional: Clarification 1)

     

     

     

     

     

    PREMISE 2:

     

     

     

     

     

     

    (Optional: Clarification 2)

     

     

     

     

     

    PREMISE 3:

     

     

     

     

     

     

    (Optional: Clarification 3)

     

     

     

     

     

    PREMISE N:

     

     

     

     

    Therefore,

    CONCLUSION:

     

     

    * Key for Premise Type: A = Assumption, F = Fact (i.e. from your data or others’ data).

    # Clarifications within paragraphs are commonly definitions (D) or examples (E).


    Each section of an outline could consist of tables that graphically represent individual paragraphs.

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    Writing an outline does not need to involve writing text in addition to the paper itself. If outline bullets are written as specific, conclusive sentences, then the bullets can remain to clarify and help structure the resulting paper.


34) TREES36) LITERATURE GRIDS