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Organization Of An Essay Paper

Organizing Before Drafting

Organizing before drafting occurs when brainstorming is structured and focused into an organized essay.

Thesis

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:

“I believe that golden retrievers make great pets.”

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.

Supporting Paragraphs

The next step in organizing my 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:

because golden retrievers are well tempered;

because golden retrievers can be trained easily;

because pure golden retrievers are relatively cheap and easy to obtain.

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. My rough outline would look like this:

Thesis: Golden retrievers make great pets.

  1. Golden retrievers are extremely well tempered
  2. Golden retrievers train very easily.
  3. Pure golden retrievers are relatively cheap and easy to locate.

Topic Outline

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:

Thesis: Golden retrievers make great pets.

I. Golden retrievers are extremely well tempered

A. They’ve never been used historically as attack dogs.
B. Golden retriever attacks are some of the rarest, statistically.

II. Golden retrievers train very easily.

A. Golden retrievers are successful show dogs.
B. Golden retrievers are intelligent dogs.

III. Pure golden retrievers are relatively cheap and easy to locate.

A. Statistically, golden retrievers are some of the most common purebred dogs in America.
B. Female golden retrievers have larger litters than most purebreds.


Organizing After Drafting

Organizing after drafting occurs when an essay is organized from ideas already developed in a rough essay. For some writers, developing an organized essay from a disorganized one produces the most creative results.

Thesis

The first step in organizing any essay is to create a thesis statement. You might have already developed one or have a good idea of the main argument in your essay. Begin writing your final draft by picking or creating one sentence that directly reflects the main point of your essay. A strong thesis helps you organize your essay, and it also helps your reader to understand your argument.

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

“I believe that golden retrievers make great pets.”

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.

Supporting Paragraphs

The next step in organizing your 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. Use your rough draft to help you discover your outline.

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,” I’d write

because golden retrievers are well tempered;

because golden retrievers can be trained easily;

because pure golden retrievers are relatively cheap and easy to obtain.

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. My rough outline would look like this:

Thesis: Golden retrievers make great pets.

  1. Golden retrievers are extremely well tempered
  2. Golden retrievers train very easily.
  3. Pure golden retrievers are relatively cheap and easy to locate.

Topic Outline

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, 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 my essay on golden retrievers would look like this:

Thesis: Golden retrievers make great pets.

I. Golden retrievers are extremely well tempered

A. They’ve never been used historically as attack dogs.
B. Golden retriever attacks are some of the rarest, statistically.

II. Golden retrievers train very easily.

A. Golden retrievers are successful show dogs.
B. Golden retrievers are intelligent dogs.

III. Pure golden retrievers are relatively cheap and easy to locate.

A. Statistically, golden retrievers are some of the most common purebred dogs in America.
B. Female golden retrievers have larger litters than most purebreds.

Prepared by Peter Gillespie

The Thesis Statement
A persuasive essay—which will many (if not all) of your writing assignments in college will be—advocates a particular position that can be argued for or against.  That position will be expressed in a thesis statement. Simply put, a thesis tells the reader your topic and your position on that topic.  For example:

  • Movies produced in the mid-1950s use obsessive behavior to depict teenage romance as something dangerous that should be avoided.

A paper based on that thesis statement would cover the general topic of  love in movies produced during the 1950s and would express the author’s view that obsessive behavior is used to portray the dangers of teenage romance.

Notice how that example expresses a particular position that can be argued for or against. Your thesis statement must express an opinion rather than a fact. It should avoid repeating anything that would be considered common knowledge. If no one could possibly disagree with your thesis, choose another topic.

In a persuasive essay, the thesis statement will typically be found toward the end of an introductory paragraph. The following paragraphs will contain the author’s argument in support of the position stated in the thesis statement and will give evidence in support of his/her viewpoint. A final paragraph will summarize the author’s argument and present the author’s conclusions about the topic (though it will not simply restate the thesis).


The Organizational Statement
Sometimes, an organization statement will be used in conjunction with the thesis.  An organizational statement is a map that tells your reader what h/she should expect to read in your essay.  It introduces the two or three main pieces of evidence that you will use to support your position. While not required in a thesis, organizational statements can make for stronger thesis statements.

An organizational statement can can take the form of a separate sentence or can be attached to your thesis in a single sentence, as seen in the examples below:

  • Movies produced in the mid-1950s use obsessive behavior to depict teenage romance as something dangerous that should be avoided.  Obsessive behavior was viewed as rebellious, uncontrollable, and harmful both to the teenagers and to the people who loved them.
  • Since obsessive behavior was viewed as rebellious, uncontrollable, and dangerous, movies produced in the mid-1950s use it to depict teenage romance as something that should be avoided for the sake of young adults and the people who loved them.

Notice how the 2nd version above strengthens the original thesis.  Try to combine your thesis and organizational statement into one sentence whenever possible.

Important: You must discuss the evidence in the same order that you introduce it in your organizational statement. In this example, it means the paper would have to discuss rebelliousness, an uncontrollable nature, and danger (as they relate to obsessive teenage romance in film) in that order.

For More Information
Now that you know what thesis and organizational statements are, how do you come up with one?  Learn different strategies by reading these two guides: Generating a Thesis and Thesis Statements: Working Backwards.

The information on this page is based on an English 102 handout by Angela Francis.  

NEXT: Generating a Thesis

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