What does “well organized” mean?
While the ideas for papers rarely come to us in an organized and coherent way, your final drafts should have a clear and consistent organization that makes it easy for the reader to follow the flow of your ideas. For academic papers, readers have certain expectations about how your paper will be organized. If you deviate from these expectations, you should know why, and you should test your organization on a couple of readers to make sure they are able to follow the flow of your ideas. Here are some of the most common expectations readers have about how an academic paper will be organized:
- Your thesis statement will appear in the first couple of paragraphs of your essay, and usually at the end of your first paragraph.
- The first one or two paragraphs are your introduction.
- If you list the points you will cover in your paper in your introduction, you list these points in the same order as you cover them in the body of your paper.
- You cover each point only once and do not ping pong back and forth between points, covering part of one point, then jumping to a second point, and then back to the first point.
- You address objections as soon as possible in your paper.
- The first, second or final sentence of a paragraph will be a topic sentence that states the main point of the paragraph.
- Stories will usually be told in chronological order.
- You move from the most familiar to the least familiar.
- You move from the weakest point to the strongest point, except that you may start with a strong point to grab your reader’s attention.
- You move from what you do not prefer to what you do prefer.
- You make a claim, address objections to or qualifications of it and then provide support for it.
- In a comparison, for every point you cover about one of your subjects, you cover the same point about the other subjects or say that it does not apply.
- You have a conclusion that wraps up all of your paper.
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