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Since I find it quite helpful for readers (e.g., of my dissertation) to get an overview of what they are going to read, I want to do this in each chapter.

Where should I locate these overviews?

How should I phrase these overviews?


Where: This kind of overview is usually given at the end of the first section, right? I think at the very beginning of each chapter would be even better a location. But maybe going with the standard is better for those who search for it?

How: I really hate the phrase "The remainder of this section is structured as follows". Do you know of any other popular phrase? Since I am often indicating what a paragraph is about (Example, Definition, ...), I thought of doing the same for the overview paragraph, with the indication "Roadmap". Is this the correct choice of word for the structural overview, or is it colloquial? Do readers search (pdf-)documents for the phrase given above?

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Possibly relevant: What style book does your school use? APA? MLA? –  Neil Fein Aug 20 '12 at 20:30
I have the liberty to pick. I do like APA's style of citing, and often pick what CMOS suggests if I can't decide based on other criteria. (What's MLA?) –  DaveBall Aug 20 '12 at 21:13
You get to pick? Lucky you! MLA is the Modern Language Association. Their general style book is meant mostly for graduate work, and they also have one for high school and undergrad use. I hear it's popular in the humanities. –  Neil Fein Aug 20 '12 at 21:46
@Neil Fein: Lucky and burdened with choices. Oh yes, I've heard of MLA. Do you happen to know whether the "CMOS for academic writing" is any good? –  DaveBall Aug 21 '12 at 10:23
To my knowledge, the Chicago Manual of Style has no information on dissertation structure; it's mostly geared towards books. It does go into a little detail on journal abstracts (1.90, "Article abstracts") but that doesn't help you in this situation. I don't have APA with me just now to refer to. Based on the resources I can check online right now, APA has no specific mechanism that I can find for per-section summaries other than the abstract. –  Neil Fein Aug 21 '12 at 10:54

1 Answer 1

Well, as a chemist, I often have to look up constants, mechanisms and stuff. The primary help for finding what I need is neighter the table of contents nor summaries, but the index which leads me right to the exact point of information. From my point of view, maintaining a proper index is incredibly important as otherwise I couldn't use it as a reference book and would choose another one.

About overviews... what do you think about placing them both before (as you said "roadmap", which I find very fitting) and after (say, "conclusion", "summary" or "overview") the chapter? This way the reader could have a brief overview (that word again) about the topics of the chapter and have the most important information gathered together after the chapter in case he/she is really interested, but not interested enough to read the whole chapter. It would save time as one wouldn't have to read the whole summary to realize it's not what you're looking for. And on the other side, if you read the chapter you have a nice summary at the end of it. But I think that depends on the length of the text, you shouldn't end up with only overviews of course.

I personally cannot believe that anyone would search for specifically that phrase. Usually, most people I know just scroll through the pdf until the next chapter starts and then scroll back some pages to see if they find what they are looking for. Or they simply search for a keyword (=> index).

Sure, this is not the very most scientific way to gather information... but let's face it, we're all human (I guess). Therefore, whichever topic you write about - please write a nice searchable readable document and all the best for it. ;-)

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Thanks for the answer, I feel quite confirmed - especially putting much time into the index (+1). –  DaveBall Aug 20 '12 at 21:15

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