If you have already written a paper and need help getting it organized, click on the Organizing After Drafting tab.
Organizing Before Drafting
Organizing before drafting occurs when brainstorming is structured and focused into an organized essay.
The first step in organizing any essay is to create a thesis statement. You may already know what the main argument of your essay is going to be, but a strong thesis helps to organize it. A strong thesis also helps your reader to understand your argument clearly.
In developing your thesis, begin by writing down one sentence that expresses the thrust of your essay. To make this process easier, place your thesis statement after the phrase “I believe that.” For example, you might want to write an essay about how golden retrievers make great pets, so you’d write:
Now your essay has a thesis. The phrase, “I believe that,” will eventually be removed in the final version of your essay, but for now this starter phrase will help you to organize the rest of your paper.
The next step in organizing an essay is creating body paragraphs to support your thesis. After developing your thesis, you might be tempted to start writing the rest of your essay immediately. However, by outlining the body of your paper, you can ensure that rest of your essay directly reflects and supports your thesis.
An outline consists of points that connect the body of the essay to the thesis. On a separate piece of paper, write out the major points that you feel logically support your thesis. To make this process easier, begin each point with the word “because.” For example, following the thesis, “I believe that golden retrievers make good pets,” you’d write:
Once you’ve come up with enough statements to support your thesis, remove the lead phrases, “I believe that” and “because.” What’s left is a rough outline for your final essay.
Once you’ve completed a rough outline, you might once again be tempted to start your essay. Don’t! First, you need to tackle the final step in the essay preparation process: a topic outline.
A topic outline is built around your rough outline. It organizes the order and flow of each your essay’s body paragraphs.
Start by relisting the supporting points of your thesis and label each point with a roman numeral. Once you’ve labeled each point with a Roman numeral, develop at least two sub-points, labeled A, B and C, etc, under each major point.
Sub-points are specific statements that directly reflect and support each main point.
For example, the topic outline for your essay on golden retrievers would look like this:
Organization: Parts of the Whole
Organization is one of the most important aspects to consider when crafting your paper. The grouping of similar ideas is key to ensuring that a paper is both easily understood and professional. Good organization serves as the foundation for any academic writing.
Most papers follow a similar structural pattern that includes an introduction, supporting body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
This is the first section of a paper. Its purpose is to provide background about the topic that is to be discussed. The topic should be clearly identified and explained so that the reader is equipped with enough knowledge to follow the paper. The introduction also provides an opportunity to grasp the reader’s attention; this can be done by explaining the importance of the topic or its implications.
The thesis statement, which is arguably one of the most important components of the paper, is typically found at the end of the introduction. The thesis statement presents the main point of the paper and is usually a positional stance, a claim, or an answer to a question. It is important that the thesis statement be clear and defendable because the paper is structured around this statement.
These paragraphs make up the bulk of the paper and provide evidence to support an idea or claim (the most important one being the thesis). Evidence can be derived from a cited source or from critical reasoning. Evidence provided in the body paragraphs should be adequately analyzed, discussed, interpreted, etc. As a reminder, all evidence should also be cited with parenthetical citations and there should be corresponding entries in the paper’s works cited.
Further explanation from a source and connection to the thesis is expected. Topic sentences are placed at the beginning of the body paragraphs and state the main idea or concern to be addressed in the paragraph.
The conclusion summarizes the main points that were discussed in the body paragraphs and ties them to the thesis statement. Questions or ideas for further exploration of the paper’s subject can also be included in this section.
Here are some tips and strategies that can be used to help organize a paper.
The creation of an outline can be helpful in planning or organizing a paper. Outlines divide the paper into different paragraphs, with each paragraph labeled or described. Here is a very basic example:
- Introduction: Explain the importance of regular exercise and introduce aerobic exercise as an option. State thesis – aerobic exercise is beneficial because…
- Body Paragraph 1: How aerobic exercise benefits the heart.
- Body Paragraph 2: How aerobic exercise reduces hypertension.
- Body Paragraph 3: how aerobic exercise can reduce risk of diabetes.
- Conclusion: Summarize findings from body paragraphs, tie them to the thesis.
Outlines can be created before the first draft is completed in order to plan the overall structure. An outline can also be made based on a draft of the paper, as a means of ensuring that the paper is adequately organized. This particular type of outline is often referred to as a reverse outline.
Sectioning refers to the division and organization of different parts of a paper. This can be done by labeling each paragraph or section of a paper according to its main topic.
Sectioning can be an effective way to check for unnecessary or out of place information. If you label a paragraph of a draft by its main theme, for example “Effects of Aerobic Exercise on the Heart,” then your reader can expect this paragraph to focus on this area. If there is information in the paragraph unrelated to this label, it is moved to the appropriate section.
Reading a paper aloud is a strategy that can be used to detect problems with organization, flow, and grammar. Hearing the words spoken aloud can help some people detect issues that are otherwise easily overlooked. Reading the paper aloud to another person can be especially helpful.
- “Reorganizing Drafts.” University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2021.
Prepared by Peter Gillespie