How To Organize Essay Writing

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

2.2: Parts of the Essay, Outlining

This resource was written by Jaclyn M. Wells.
Last edited by Allen Brizee on March 23, 2009 .

Summary:
This resource covers the three-part organization of successful GED essays. The resource also covers outlining.

Lesson 2: Organizing the Essay

It is great to have many ideas to write about, but it is also important to organize those ideas in a logical way that your reader can understand. Without an effective organization, your essay can become confusing, and your main idea can get lost on the reader. Taking a few minutes to outline your essay before you begin writing will help you organize your ideas and group them effectively throughout your essay. This lesson explains the three major parts of the essay. The lesson provides tips for creating an outline with your main idea and subpoints. Lastly, the lesson explains how to use thesis statements and topic sentences.

The Three Parts of the Essay

Your essay will have three main parts:

1. Introduction: The introduction should be one paragraph. It should introduce the topic and main idea and preview the rest of your essay. The introduction will also include your thesis statement.

2. Body: The body is generally made up of three paragraphs. Each paragraph supports and develops (adds detail to) your main idea. To guide your reader, each body paragraph should begin with a clear topic sentence.

3. Conclusion: The conclusion is one paragraph. It summarizes the body paragraphs and concludes the essay.

Creating an Outline with a Main Idea and Subpoints

In Lesson 1, we discussed how to brainstorm ideas using idea maps and lists. We also discussed how to choose a main idea. It is most effective to select your main idea and subpoints before writing your essay because you can use your main idea and subpoints to make an outline.

Look back at the sample essay question and brainstorming methods from Lesson 1.

Sample Essay Topic

What is one important goal you would like to achieve in the next few years?

In your essay, identify that one goal and explain how you plan to achieve it. Use your personal observations, experience, and knowledge to support your essay.


From the example idea map and list in Lesson 1, it appeared that the main idea was getting a better job. The writer identified her main idea as follows:

An important goal I would like to achieve in the next few years is getting a better job.

The next step is to find subpoints that will support and develop this main idea. Again, we can look to the brainstorming methods this writer used to find possible subpoints. From her idea map and list, it was clear that other ideas the student writer listed--finishing school, learning a new language, preparing a resume, and searching for jobs--all connected to getting a better job.

The writer could choose finishing school, preparing a resume, and searching for jobs as her three subpoints, since each of these could be seen as steps to getting a better job. In other words, these three subpoints develop add detail to and support her main idea. Each body paragraph will focus on one of these subpoints.

Once you choose a main idea and three subpoints, it will be easier for you to create an outline for your essay. You do not need to spend a lot of time on this; you only have 45 minutes to plan, write, and proofread your work. Developing an outline will help you stay on track.

You know that you need to have an introduction and a conclusion—these will be the first and last paragraphs of your essay. What about the three paragraphs in between? How do you decide what order they should go in? Well, you have a number of options. A few of the most common options for ordering your body paragraphs are listed below.

In order of importance: You might feel like one of your subpoints is stronger than the other two, or even that one subpoint is most important, one least important, and one in between. If you are asked to argue something, it can be a good idea to put your subpoints in order of importance. You could begin with what you see as your weakest argument and then lead up to the strongest argument so that you drive home your main idea more and more with each paragraph. You can even use a signal phrase such as, “the most important reason,” when you get to your most important subpoint. Or you could frontload your most important idea to grab readers’ attention and persuade them early in the essay.

Chronologically: In some essays, you might find yourself describing a process and maybe even explaining the steps to something. If this is the case, you may choose to use a chronological order, meaning that you will focus on when things happen. If you use this organization, you can use signal phrases like “first, second, third” or “first, next, last” to guide your reader.

Compare and contrast:
Many GED essay prompts will ask you to compare, contrast, or both. To compare means to talk about the similarities and to contrast means to talk about differences. You can divide your paragraphs into similarities and differences, so that each paragraph discusses only one similarity or one difference. If you are discussing all similarities or all differences, you can use signal phrases like “another similarity” or “another difference.” If you are discussing both similarities and differences, you can use a signal phrase like “on the other hand” to show your move from comparison to contrast.

For the sample essay topic, a chronological method of organization might be an effective organizing strategy, since achieving a goal often involves a series of steps. An outline for the essay might look like this:

I. Introduction: states the main idea (getting a better job)
II. Body Paragraph: first, finish school
III. Body Paragraph: next, prepare resume
IV. Body Paragraph: finally, search for jobs
V. Conclusion

In sum, the goal is to choose a main idea and three subpoints that support and develop this main idea. Next, you want to choose an organization that you feel works best for your topic. Finally, it is a good idea to compose a short outline you can follow while writing your essay. Using the idea map and list you created in Lesson 1, practice choosing a main idea and three subpoints that develop and support it. Then, choose a method for ordering your subpoints and write an outline like the one above.

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