Researchers
November 2, 2020

Implementing Reverse Outlining to Distill Complex Research Ideas

Some of the best questions for researchers to attempt to answer are the most complex and involved ones. These ideas require a lot of forethought and strategy in order to get from the beginning seedling thoughts through the experimentation and final outcome. When this process becomes too difficult and there are overlapping thoughts and ideas webbing over each other, a good method to help distill the complexity is to implement reverse outlining.

The science of research has dated back through millennia as people attempt to find answers to the smallest and biggest questions. Some of the most impactful ideas are also the most complicated, though. To find solutions to questions and concerns that have plagued society throughout history, researchers can’t jump in headfirst. They must think through the questions and come up with strategies to try to solve something that many others before they likely have already attempted.

Taking these ideas from seedling to germination and helping them grow into an answer often culminates in multiple different possible steps going in many directions. The complicated process then becomes distracting and overwhelming. But going backward and using reverse outlining methods can help researchers to distill ideas that might otherwise become too complex, keeping them focused on the important points.

The Most Impactful Research Categories and the Challenges That Come With Them

Society is always evolving, and impactful research categories may change with the times. However, there are some general topics that are consistently in the top headlines and noted as having the potential to make the most impact. These topics, if the research is done carefully and thoroughly, may be able to bring in high impact ratings, but they have challenges to getting the job done:

●      Technology - From inventing the wheel to the assembly line, technological innovations have always been at the forefront of expanding society. Today’s technological categories have expanded to complicated ideas like artificial intelligence and neural networks. The challenge with many of these categories is for the researcher to always be able to predict what the future will hold and be on the cutting edge of creating those products and intellectual properties.

●      Healthcare - Vaccinations for polio and other deadly, but preventable, diseases stepped up the idea of manufacturing medications on a large-scale level. Preventing diseases or stopping them from spreading is something that becomes a global goal. This is a challenging field, though, particularly in light of the ethics and legalities that must be adhered to when it comes to dealing with human subjects.

●      Environmental practices - The devastation to the earth has only recently really been in the spotlight, but it has always been an idea of impactful research. Today’s researchers have the challenge of coming up with ways to reduce the impact of our past, creating new innovations that do no harm and only good when it comes to leaving behind carbon footprints and harnessing natural power.

If your research touches on any of these categories and is able to find a solution, chances are, it will be highly impactful. 

Using Reverse Outline to Distill Your Idea Into Manageable Parts

Once you’ve written your academic paper, you may notice that it seems overly complicated. If you’re not sure that your reader is going to get the information you are trying to convey, consider using reverse outlining to check your work.

In reverse outlining, the author removes anything that is considered a supporting detail. All that should remain are the topic sentences that work as a guideline for you to analyze your paper and the order your content is in as a condensed format. This structure should be logical and sequential.

This method gives you the perfect opportunity to see if your target objectives were met, locate areas where you might not have enough detail, and look at the structure to see which areas might not be arranged in the right order and could be confusing to the reader.

To create a reverse outline and use it to distill your complex research paper, use these steps:

●      From your finished paper, highlight the topic sentences that you see in each paragraph.

●      Take each highlighted sentence and copy it over to a blank paper, in order. This is your outline.

●      Review the outline to check for conciseness and clarity. If your topic sentence doesn’t make sense where it is, it may need to be deleted or moved, or revised for a better explanation.

This quick and easy reverse outline process can help you see almost immediately where your paper needs to be distilled or expanded.

Tags Researchers Research Categories Research Ideas
Jason Collins
Writer
Jason is a writer for many niche brands with experience “bringing stories to life” for both startups and corporate partners.

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