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An expansive framework to go from idea to abstract to introduction to table of contents to full paper/dissertation/thesis/book

Because I’ve been thinking about research all the time over the past few years (the mechanics and strategies of doing research, different methods to frame, design and answer a research question, how to effectively design a research project, etc.) I’ve also been wondering how can I craft a single, unified framework that can help writers develop their papers, book chapters, dissertations, theses, books. After a lot of thinking, I think the model I’m presenting here should be helpful.

Writing while in Berlin

I have the firm belief that every larger document you write can emerge from an abstract. That’s the sequence I use to write my own documents:

  1. Develop an idea
  2. Write an abstract (4-7 sentences’ model)
  3. Based on the abstract, develop an introduction.
  4. From the introduction, craft a table of contents
  5. Using the table of contents, write individual chapters/components of the paper

This sequence is expansive because with each step, you expand each component of the previous element. For example, an introduction can come from expanding an abstract. The introduction can serve as a template for outlining a table of contents as well, expanding each component of the introductory section, which may often take the format of a 5-7 sentences’ paragraph. In this Twitter thread, I explain my process in more detail.

I call this an expansive framework because I think about the process of writing a paper, a book chapter, or a book manuscript, or a journal article, or a thesis, as an expansive process.

1) Have an idea
2) Write first the abstract based on this idea (hence the Tiny Text)
3) Based on what you wrote in the Abstract, EXPAND it into a full-fledged Introduction (to a paper, or a chapter)
4) Based on what you wrote in the introduction, develop a Table of Contents.
5) Expand the Table of Contents into separate documents (chapters)
6) Repeat expansions.

Even the empirical or theoretical chapters can follow the same model (with adaptations). IMRAD-type journal articles can also follow a similarly expansive strategy. For the dissertation chapters, you can follow a similar strategy – each chapter has introduction, content (theoretical/empirical chapters, literature review), conclusion.

Hopefully, this blog post and my expansive framework will help folks develop their papers, book chapters, books and theses/dissertations more easily.

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Posted in academia, research, writing.


One Response

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  1. Pam Drucker says

    Thanks for sharing this effective way to take an idea to a developed piece.



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