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Organizing and Outlining. Old and New Methods: Tips and Tricks for Making the Most Out of Your Paper By Lauren Peterson, Peer Tutor. Highlight. Benefits. Materials. Traditional, effective and visual method of organization for papers Works well for Thesis I students as they read articles.

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Organizing and outlining

Organizing and Outlining

Old and New Methods: Tips and Tricks for Making the Most Out of Your Paper

By Lauren Peterson, Peer Tutor




  • Traditional, effective and visual method of organization for papers

  • Works well for Thesis I students as they read articles

  • 3-8 highlighters or colored pencils

  • OR the highlighter function on computer


  • Assign each section of paper a color.

  • Read paper and highlight each sentence.

    • Be mindful of overlap

    • Not highlighting is okay

  • Rearrange sentences by cutting and pasting colors together to form section, then arrange in sensible order

The cut and paste
The Cut and Paste



  • A very literal, visual organization method

  • Printed copy of paper

  • Scissors

  • Tape or stapler

  • Lots of SPACE

The cut and paste1
The Cut and Paste

  • Cut up each paragraph or sentence cluster

    • HINT: number strips with original page number beforehand to locate easily later

  • Begin grouping strips by idea

  • When done, arrange into paragraphs

  • With order established, tape/staple paper together to preserve order

  • Apply new cut/paste to Word document

The web
The Web



  • Turns brainstorming technique into organizational tool

  • Helps prioritize, organize, and make connections with information

  • One sheet of paper

  • Pencil

  • Highlighters (optional)

The web1
The Web

  • Write question/subject in center of paper, this becomes central theme

  • Write extensions from central theme, keep to single words/small phrases

  • Write more extensions off these

  • Identify primary topics and supports

  • Number primary topics (and supports) in order for placement in paper

Tree diagram
Tree Diagram



  • Works well for inductive or deductive thinkers

  • Technique can function first as brainstorm, then as structure for paper

  • Paper

  • Pen or Pencil

Tree diagram1
Tree Diagram



  • Start with main idea, “Tree Trunk” at top of paper

  • Work down “the roots” with supplementary ideas and supports

  • Start with a detail

  • Work up “the roots” with more details, expanding subjects to broader themes until you reach “the trunk” or main idea

Flow charts
Flow Charts



  • Good for cause & effect, chronological sequence, and systems

  • Two similar approaches

  • Paper

  • Pen or pencil

Flow charts1
Flow Charts

Approach 1

Approach 2

  • Draw line down center of horizontal paper

  • Start with cause on left, effect on right

  • Place supplementary info along line

    • Extend line to include pre-cause or post-effect info

  • Draw line down center of horizontal paper

  • Label starting point at left and ending point at right

  • Place supplementary info along line in middle

    • Functions as sequential timeline or order of steps for system

Card sorting
Card Sorting



  • Good for conceptualizing categories and concepts

  • Adapted from business research technique

  • 20-30+ index cards (minimum)

  • Plenty of space

Card sorting1
Card Sorting

  • Start with minimum 20-30+ index cards

  • On each card write a single word (vocab, concept, term, subject, ect.)

  • Group cards into categories to determine separate categories and how concepts relate

Card sorting2
Card Sorting

  • Goals of this method include:

    • Identify terms with vague or multiple meanings

    • Present options for structuring a paper

    • Validate the strong categories and identifies the weak categories