The Elevator Outline of a Dissertation


Outlining a dissertation or book project is difficult because it’s easy to get lost in the detail. I proposed the following outline to a colleague with the instruction to label each section separately and to adhere to the strict sentence limits.

  • The Puzzle (1 Sentence)
  • Which we should care about because (1 Sentence)
  • What is the closest existing theory we have to account for this behavior (1 Sentence)
  • Why does it get this wrong? (2 Sentences)
  • Which together suggest the following Research Question (1 Sentence)
  • Which we will explain by theorizing about the following outcomes (1 Sentence)
  • Which is a product of a strategic interaction between who and who (1 Sentence)
  • Of which I argue the following main factor explains the puzzle (1 Sentence)
  • A factor which is important to understand, and has applicability to these bigger areas in political science (1 sentence)
  • My theory produces the following observable implications (1 Sentence)
  • My theory stands in contrast to the following explanations (1 Sentence Each)
  • They generate alternative observable implications (1 Sentence Each)
  • They suggest the coding of the following across a large sample of cases (1 Sentence)
  • Of which the appropriate universe is (1 Sentence)
  • Where my identification strategy is (2 Sentences)
  • And this will be novel because the closest work has only done (1 Sentence)
  • Additionally, a case by case comparison is warranted to code in greater detail the outcomes for the following macro level predictions (1 sentence) and for the following expected micro level predictions (1 sentence each)
  • I have selected the following cases as representative from the relevant universe (1 Sentence)
  • And where there is variation on the main outcome of interest (1 Sentence)
  • And on the key explanatory factors (1 Sentence)
  • Of which my theory predicts we should see across these cases (1 Sentence)
  • And at the micro level we would expect to see (1 Sentence per case)
  • The finding will make a major contribution to the following research field [the main one] (1 sentence)
  • It will have the following important scope conditions (1 sentence)
  • Which will suggest the next research questions (1 sentence)

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