University of Louisville
· Organizing is chunking ideas into paragraphs with some kind of logical order.
o Readers expect to get an orientation in the first one or few paragraphs, so you should establish a context, present your issue and focus, and make a statement of your thesis in the beginning of your essay (introduction).
o They then expect to understand your message from details in the paragraphs in the middle (body).
o Finally, they want to know the logical outcome in the last one or few paragraphs (conclusion).
o Two most important steps of organization are making an outline of ideas (at least in your head) and determining a method of organization (how you will arrange your ideas).
o For shorter, less complex papers, a few informal notes jotted down may be enough. But longer papers are too big to organize mentally.
o For longer papers, try using an outline or a list of points. If you are not used to outlining or listing, try to practice it AFTER you have written your paper.
Rhetorical Elements to Consider while Organizing and Presenting your Ideas
· Genre: The types of writing—narrative, argumentative, report, letter, etc—will determine how you organize your essay. For instance, if you are writing a narrative essay, you may not include an explicit thesis statement in the introduction.
· Readers: Any type of writing will be significantly influenced by how familiar your readers are with your subject, how well they might agree with your point of view, whether they are hi-tech, and so on. Consider the difference between an essay in which you explain “how supply creates demand” for your sister who is in middle school and for an economics professor.
· Purpose: Why you are writing, or what you want to achieve, will significantly influence other factors including language, tone, genre, audience, and purpose.
· How you introduce your topic and focus depends on various factors including your genre, readers, and purpose. Consider an example of introduction of argumentative essay on the topic “Fixing High School.”
Many people believe that the idea of four years in high school is outdated because they think that keeping the “kids” in school for so many years keeps them from growing up. Though there is much truth in that position, what is more important than decreasing the number of years in school is making school more engaging for students by improving the quality of education given to them. Students can “grow up” very well even in high school if they are held to rigorous academic standards, if their teachers are well trained, if technology and other resources are well adapted to their needs, and if they are given ample opportunities to be involved in real world experiences.
o The first sentence establishes the context of a debate; it presents an argument about the four year high school system that the writer presumably plans to argue against.
o The second sentence presents the thesis (“improving the quality of education”).
o The third sentence gives us a preview specific alternative solutions to the problem; we expect the writer to elaborate on these propositions in the body of the essay.
· Although this opening represents only one of the many structures for introduction, it makes discursive or argumentative essays easy to follow.
· Some background information may be necessary before presenting the specific focus of your essay if your readers might not be very familiar with it. But you should always condense background details.
· If feasible, try to suggest your purpose of writing and the scope of the essay with your thesis sentence.
Focus and Consistency
· When you write the body, follow the same focus, perspective, and tone of your introduction.
· If you find yourself changing the focus while drafting, either go back to revise the introduction accordingly or stop for some pre-writing activities like outlining, brainstorming, or talking to a writing center consultant.
· Paragraphing is the most important technique of organization. Try to start with a topic sentence because it is easier to focus when you have a definite point to elaborate.
· If one supporting point branches out into another sub-point, start a new paragraph; also if a paragraph becomes too long, look for a logical transition and split it.
· If your paragraphs are too short, consider combining them.
· The kind of supporting material and the logical strategy that will best suit your essay or paragraph varies according to what and why you are writing.
· While drafting, do not stop too often to improve your paragraphs; while revising for better organization, do not hesitate to throw out what interferes with your paragraph’s unity and focus, clarity and effectiveness.
· Connect every paragraph back to the thesis statement of the essay. Sometimes, single word transitions will work, but at other times you might need to use a full sentence to bridge paragraphs. Topic sentences can also be designed to connect as well as state a new point.
· Do not hesitate to use explicit transition words (e.g. thus, on the other hand, also, however) within paragraphs.
Revising for Better Organization
· When you revise for stronger organization, first see if your thesis sufficiently expresses your key idea and then check if the paragraphs support/forward that idea.
· See if your paragraphs are unified and complete in themselves and also if they connect well to the thesis.
Clarity and Flow
· Clarity and flow are sentence-level elements of organization. Although clarity depends to a great extent on the focus and consistency you impose while drafting your essay, you can increase it by editing sentences when you revise.
· While flow also comes from the focus and logical transitions in your draft, you should try to make essay “flow” not just with transition words but by with ideas connected from sentence to sentence.
· At the end, your readers will expect to see once more what key issue you are trying to communicate. But they will be bored if you just repeat what you have said in the same words, from the same perspective, or, even worse, with the same details.
· One type of conclusion lets you reinforce your main idea by presenting it from a fresh perspective, by highlighting the key points in light of the consequence/conclusion you have arrived at, or by simply stating what you mean to say if you have not yet done so.
A second type of conclusion first lets you reinforce and then lets you extend by answering the question “so what.”
· Like every other strategy of composition, how you design your conclusion will depend on the rhetorical elements mentioned above.