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June 24, 2015

Plans and Outlines Are Not for Use

We insist on students taking essay exams to make plans and outlines first. Some of them still don't appreciate the values of this practice.

First of all, plans serve a budgeting function. They show you how much you should, must or can write, and how much time you can afford to spend on each step or component of your overall plan. Without this valuable information, you can run short of time while writing.

Secondly, more crucially, the plan shows you gaps in your approach and gaps in your knowledge or data. Because this is just the beginning, you still have time to act on these gaps. Better still, you can choose to find substitutes or work-arounds for these gaps. Remember it is not necessary or possible to fill out every knowledge gap.

Thirdly, plans allow you to exploit your muse, your inspiration more effectively. Let me illustrate this more graphically.

Say, a student has 3 ideas each worth of 20 points as s/he begins.
Another student has no ideas as s/he begins.

Since our subconscious can never stay idle, each student is bound to come up with new ideas while writing.

Then when inspiration comes, the first student has a benchmark to judge these new ideas. If any goes higher than 20 points, s/he will take it. Else, s/he will stick with the original plan, or show to examiners that her/his ideas are better than the newcomers.

For the second student, like a drowning person clutching at anything, s/he will take anything gratefully at first. A few minutes later, her/his mind will show her better ideas and s/he will regret her/his impulsive choices made just a few minutes earlier.

Remember the popular quotes and practices:

Plans are nothing. Planning is everything.
Jesuit priests --> Peter Drucker: feedback analysis

We need plans and outlines, not to follow them blindly, but to deviate from them, and even to drop them intelligently.

Finally, outlining helps you think better. Only if you don't aspire to become a better thinker, you can rightly reject outlines and plans.

We at EssayKKN passionately believe in thinking better.

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