Organization in a Paper

Organization is very important in a paper because it helps the reader follow the writer’s train of thought. So, there are several types of organization, and some of those I’ve written up here on the board.

The important thing is that the writer picks a method of organization and sticks with it through the entire paper.

The next lesson: Outlining, both lessons are included in Practice Tests.

The following transcript is provided for your convenience.

So, the first method of organization is spatial organization. So, say I was describing a room. I would describe everything on the floor, then everything on one wall and moving clockwise, describe each wall, and then describe the ceiling. I wanted to describe the couch and then a painting on one wall, and then a picture on another wall, and then discuss the recliner on the floor. I would focus on one area of the room before moving on to the next area.

Another way to organize a paper is through cause and effect. You could talk about something that’s going on, and the effect of that. Or talk about several causes and several effects.

You can also compare and contrast. If you’re talking about two or more things, talk about how these things are alike and how these things are different.

Another way is through chronological order. So, you could talk about the series of events. This is great if it’s step by step instructions. You wouldn’t start with something and start talking about it, and then say, “Oh, before you do this, make sure you do this.” You would start at the very beginning; like you were talking about a recipe. You talk about, “This is the first ingredient, then the second ingredient, then the third ingredient.” So, that can be very good.

Or if you’re talking about someone’s life. You would start when they were born and move all the way to where they are currently or until death. If you’re talking about a series of events, it’s best to give the background information first and work up today. So, chronological order can be a great method of organization.

Classification and division. This is like talking about things that are very general and then getting more specific.

And then, problem and solution. You can talk about a problem, and then the solution to that problem, or some possible solutions to that problem.

So, these are just some basic ways to organize a paper. There are other methods out there, and there are some that you can kind of come up with on your own. You wouldn’t have to find them. You just naturally know this is the best way to organize my paper. But the important thing is to find one way to organize your paper and stick with it. Don’t jump around between the different methods of organization.

Practice tests help you remember. Take this mini-test to solidify your memory.
Mini-test: 16. Organization in a Paper 

1. Spatial organization is used to describe …
2. The most important thing in organizing your thoughts is …


Next lesson is Outlining