The Writing Center


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When writers talk about organization, they are talking about arranging thoughts systematically in an orderly, functional way in order to create a harmonious or united action. Your paper should be arranged so that your purpose is clear, your thesis logically stated and developed, and your final conclusion plainly drawn from the preceding material. Of course, different kinds of papers call for different organizations. A paper arguing a political position will be organizationally different from a paper explaining the migratory patterns of African swallows. Two kinds of papers that you will encounter often are the informative paper and the argumentative paper.

Informative paper

The informative paper basically states "This is way things are. This is how they work. This is how to use them." This kind of paper will often be organized in one of the following ways:

Codified order: Present information and ideas in a sequential or other logical
order A potato can be fried, baked, or boiled.

Definition: Arrange the information around a definition.
Good potatoes are the product of planning, preparation, and presentation.

Classification: Arrange examples in varieties
Two types of potatoes are sweet and red.

Comparison: Demonstrate similarities between two or more people or things.
Julienned and sliced potatoes are alike in . . .

Contrast: Demonstrate differences between two or more people or things
Julienned and sliced potatoes differ in . . .

Argumentative/Persuasive paper

The argumentative paper states a premise and then gives support for that premise. This kind of paper will often be organized in one of the following ways:

Induction: Infer a general principle from a group of examples
Potatoes with the skin on are more flavorful than skinned potatoes.

Deduction: Infer a group of effects given a general principle (i.e. Cause/Effect).
Leaving the skin on the potatoes produces more flavorful results.

Sign: Establish that one thing indicates the presence or action of another
Over-seasoned potatoes is a sign of bad potatoes or an incompetent cook.

Analogy: Compare one topic to another seemingly unrelated topic to illuminate a relationship

In the same way that a good blueprint is the foundation of success in building a bridge, thorough planning is the foundation of a successful potato torte.


One of the most common problems of organization is including extraneous material. As you are composing the body of your paper--perhaps following the structures illustrated above--make sure that every paragraph you write puts forward the idea of thesis. If a paragraph does not clearly support or further the argument of the thesis, it does not belong in the paper. Following this rule will prevent you from discussing unrelated material. Remember, always keep the thesis in mind:

Tape it to the wall in front of your desk

Write it on top of every page that you write

Write it on your arm

Once you have organized your thoughts, you should begin to think about crafting paragraphs and introducing and concluding your paper.

This way to the next step in the processBack to the process
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