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  Home > InfoWrite > The Writing Process > Organizing Ideas

InfoTrac College Edition

Organizing Ideas

Once you have developed a thesis statement, you are prepared to organize your paper. There are several methods of arranging the information in your paper:

  • Chronological order refers to time. Narratives and personal experiences are best explained by telling a story in a step by step fashion. Even complex subjects, such as how AIDS developed or how the Soviet Union collapsed, are best understood when explained as a historical process.

    Chronological order can make use of flashbacks and flashforwards. To keep readers from being confused, it is important to use paragraph breaks and transitional statements to signal shifts in time.
  • Spatial arrangement organizes ideas by their physical relationships. You can discuss information about crime by region, by types of offenses, by the nature of the offenders or victims.
  • Deductive order moves from a general statement to specific details. An essay on the dangers of smoking might open with a thesis statement followed by supporting details.
  • Inductive order opens with specific examples and concludes with a general statement. An essay might describe several family sitcoms then conclude with a general observation on how parents are depicted on television.
  • Arrangement by degree of importance organizes ideas in order of ascending or descending significance. An essay presenting five reasons for exercising might begin with the most important, preventing heart disease, and end with the least significant, heightened self-esteem. By opening with the most important idea, the paper has a compelling beginning. Someone who reads only the first page will get your most important ideas. But if you wish your paper to have momentum and build to a dramatic ending, begin with your least important idea and conclude with the most important. Do not place the most important ideas in your paper in the middle where readers' attention is the weakest.

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From The Sundance Reader, Third Edition, Web Site by Mark Connelly.