P2.7 Expanding and Organizing


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Expanding and Organizing Ideas

This assignment has multiple steps involving two sections — one on expanding your draft and the other involving a writing technique called a Reverse Outline that you’ll conduct to help you organize or fill in parts of your draft. Read the instructions carefully, and complete all steps in the order listed. Then, write your summary using the prompts provided and submit to Canvas.


  • Read through the full assignment below, and perform the exercises in each section.
  • In Section 1, use the PIE Structure and Other Ways to Expand sections to help you structure your paragraphs for maximum effect and expand your writing overall
  • Using your current draft, perform a Reverse Outline – apply the strategy by following the steps described in Section 2 below.
  • Consider your results from performing the Reverse Outline – think about what you might reorganize or revise in your draft
  • Write a brief summary and analysis of the Reverse Outline experience, once you have performed it for yourself. Explain what you’ll do with that information, using the prompts provided – and upload to USF Writes

Exercises such as those outlined here can help you clarify the focus of your document and ensure it is organized logically so a reader can follow it clearly. One of the best ways to organize is the Reverse Outline, and this assignment asks that you perform a reverse outline on your current draft.

But first, you want to ensure you have well-developed paragraphs. Reverse Outlining is most effective in making sure what you have already written as a draft is organized as you intended. Using the PIE structure to develop paragraphs can help expand ideas.

Exercise 1: Expanding — Developing Paragraphs with the PIE Structure

A solid, complete paragraph thoroughly covers the point you are communicating. A fully developed paragraph covers your point well and refers back to your main point/thesis/ overall topic focus. One way to ensure that your paragraph is thorough enough and that it covers your point effectively is to organize it using the PIE acronym:

(Point; Illustration; Explanation)

Point – makes a statement that relates to the main point/overall focus of your paper, and then relates this statement to the textual evidence you’ll use to support the main idea. (Point is also sometimes referred to as a topic sentence.)

Illustration – consists of evidence from sources which you can paraphrase, quote directly, or summarize; it might also include an example or anecdotal evidence.

(This is factual information: each point should be illustrated with 2 or 3 pieces of evidence that help the reader understand or believe in your point)

Explanation – the rest of the paragraph explains (through analysis, interpretation) how this illustration connects to the point you’re making in the paragraph or essay as a whole.

The explanation should offer to the reader the significance of the point. After supporting the point with evidence so that the reader believes in it, explain why the point matters and how it impacts the bigger picture(which relates to your main point/thesis).

Ideally, each point is wrapped up in an insight related to the thesis or main point. This is a mini-conclusion in a way – it concludes a paragraph or an idea but is not a full conclusion for the essay – it doesn’t completely finish things, but rather transitions into the next point by “closing” on the point before, until you conclude at the end.

Other Ways to Expand Paragraphs:

  • Layer in additional details or evidence in your explanation
  • Add an example to your illustration of the point – sometimes a direct quote is needed, other times a paraphrase, etc.
  • Expand the first sentence to add more explanation to the main point before you support it with illustration and explanation
  • Address the significance of your point to readers or other stakeholders

Exercise 2: Organizing –- Applying the Reverse Outline Strategy

Using the Reverse Outline strategy for revision allows a writer to focus on how effectively the important points are conveyed, by reviewing how the main points are supported and how everything connects through the entire essay.

Performing a Reverse Outline:

This works best on paper, so you can easily mark up your draft and make notations. But it can also work well in a Word document or Google doc using different colors to highlight or mark text, and using the Comment function to make notes for yourself.

STEP 1: Divide your document into paragraphs or sections to represent each idea or focus. Number each section in order as they appear in your document.

STEP 2: On a separate page, create two columns. In Column 1: write a sentence that captures the main focus of each section or paragraph in your essay, and label each sentence with the same number as the corresponding paragraph/section number in your document. Write only one sentence for each idea or paragraph, and write it as a complete sentence, not just a phrase. Make sure that sentence represents the idea as a statement, as if you are stating what that paragraph is about.

STEP 3: For any paragraph where you need more than one sentence to capture the idea featured in it, that’s usually a good indication you have too much in one paragraph. You should probably separate them — block off the text where the points are different and summarize each new sub-section with a representative sentence, and label with original number plus letter (labeled: 2a and 2b, for example).

STEP 4: In Column 2, write a brief answer to this question for each of your sentences in Column 1: how does this sentence help support/connect to my main point or topic focus? (e.g., “this sentence gives evidence that reinforces…” or “this sentence represents an explanation for…).

STEP 5: At the top of your page, in one sentence, summarize the main point or focus of your entire essay or document. This should be representative of what you would say if asked what your essay or document is about and you answer with one sentence.

STEP 6: At the bottom of your page, write the one key thing you hope the readers of your essay or document have taken away from the experience of reading it. This would be the answer you give if asked “what should I know about your essay topic” if you answered with one sentence.

CHECK YOUR STEPS: When you’re done with STEP 6, you should have a main point/focus sentence at the top of your page, a representative sentence for each paragraph in your document in Column 1, and an explanation of each representative sentence and its role in your essay in Column 2. If you are missing any of these or have found it difficult to create the sentence or explanation, make a note of that – the lack of a sentence or connection can tell you where you need more information or explanation.

STEP 7: Draw lines that represent connections between one point and another, and between your main point and supporting points. Each supporting point should connect to the main point at the top; each supporting point should also connect to the “key takeaway” at the bottom of the page (which will represent your conclusion). You can also use different highlight colors or text colors in a document to show these connections. Just as important, this step can show you where there’s a need for a connection that you can make through more detailed explanation or more evidence or detail to illustrate.

FINAL STEP: Analyze the results of your reverse outline – what does it tell you about how well developed your paragraphs or essay sections are, how they support your main point or focus, and how they represent the way your document is organized? Which sections or paragraphs need to be broken up, beefed up, moved around, combined with each other, or thrown out in favor of a better paragraph you will write? Make notes about what you could do to with your sections or paragraphs.

Considerations from the Reverse Outline:

    • If you had trouble coming up with one simple sentence to represent a paragraph or section, you may need to separate points you have in one paragraph by dividing into two paragraphs, where each idea can be explored on its own. You want the audience to finish reading each section with a sense of understanding about each point you make. If there’s a connection between the two, make it in the transition or by explanation, rather than by combining two ideas into one.
  • If you can’t easily write a representative sentence for each paragraph it may be unclear to you what you’re communicating, and that means your reader won’t understand either. Ask yourself what your paragraph is about and what is the main point of that section you want to get across to the reader. Either revise your paragraph around this intent in a way that explains clearly, or look for another paragraph where this information might better belong.
  • Another common issue is repetition, and your reverse outline can reveal that you may be repeating a point you explained earlier. When you read through each representative sentence, are there any that are the same or similar? If so, perhaps you need to combine two paragraphs into one, or you might need to assess whether each paragraph needs to communicate something more distinctly or specifically.
  • Look at your representative sentences in order. Do they connect logically to your main point/thesis/focus of your document? Does one sentence relate to the next in order or is it better with some other sentence – and does that mean your paragraphs need to change in their order to flow more logically? If you want to change the order:
    • Make a copy (if on paper) or use the copy and paste function (if on screen) to make a duplicate of the separate page you created for this exercise. Cut and re-order your sentences from Column 1. Try out different orders of these sentences – does a different order work better? Does a different order help your representative sentences flow in a more logical way?


Write a 300-400-word Summary of your Reverse Outline Exercise. Analyze the results of any expansion you did and the reverse outline exercise, and submit your summary here. Use the prompts below as guidance.

  1. From the reverse outline exercise, and from considering the PIE structure, what did you learn about your draft – where is it strong and where are the key places it could use improvement based on your own analysis?
  2. What surprised you most when you did the reverse outline? What did you have trouble with most in doing the exercise?
  3. Where were the places in your draft you think you can expand on using the PIE structure? Where will you layer in more explanation or illustration? Explain here.
  4. List the top 3 or 4 moves you will make in your own revision, regardless of what you get from Instructor Review or Peer Review – what do you think are three improvements you can make to strengthen your draft?
  5. What is your plan to implement those improvements? Explain in detail what you plan to do in your revision, having completed this analysis using these strategies.
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