Writing Topic: Organizing the Essay Body

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The stage between reading and researching and writing an essay or report – planning – is an important one. Planning will help you to make sense of and organize your material and respond fully and directly to your assignment requirements. It will enable you to present your findings, ideas, and arguments in a logical manner that will be accessible to your reader.


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General tips for organizing an assignmentOrganizing PrinciplesEssay Modes and Patterns of Development

General tips for organizing an assignment:


Most pieces of writing will have an introduction and conclusion, but the body may be organized in one of many various ways. The body of essays should not be confined to only three paragraphs; depending on the essay’s length, the body may contain one or more sections, each consisting of one or more paragraphs. Here are several simple, straightforward ways of organizing the body of a piece of writing:

1. According to the assignment instructions.
2. According to the thesis statement.
3. According to an assigned or expected format.

Organizing Principles


If you have no guide or standard format to follow, you can organize ideas and information more easily if you decide on an organizing principle or order of development.


  1. Time or chronological order: in this method, you show development through time, presenting what happened in the order it happened or indicating stages in a process. For example, you may trace a sequence of events in a cause and effect essay. You may describe the stages of development of something through an extended example in an illustration/example essay.


  1. General to specific: using this order, you can outline the general principles or concepts related to your subject (including definition of key terms) before applying these concepts to specific situations. A variation of this order is arranging from simplest to most complex. You present the most basic information or fundamental ideas first, those that the reader needs to understand before moving on to more complex or specific matters.
    Specific to general: you may begin by describing a situation or event, providing a case study, or giving an example before analyzing and deriving general observations or principles from it.


  1. Order of importance or emphatic order: the most important and less important ideas, information, or arguments are placed strategically in order to ensure that the reader is informed most effectively or to persuade the reader to accept a position. The most important information in a document might be placed early where the reader is likelier to read it. In a persuasive piece, the climactic order might be used to build to a strong ending. You may present and refute the opposing point of view before arguing your own. In a cause/ effect essay, you may build your case to end with what you see as the primary causal factor or effect related to a particular problem.

Essay Modes and Patterns of Development 

There are two basic modes for essays: exposition and persuasion. Expository essays explain; they teach, illustrate or clarify a subject for a reader. Persuasive essays argue; they make claims and seek to convince a reader to accept a position or point of view.

In terms of organization, expository essays may present information in various ways. For example, they may classify information or arrange it into categories; they may outline similarities and differences between two subjects; or they may order information in terms of its importance.

Persuasive essays often present reasons in support of a thesis, the central claim of the essay. The reasons should be arranged in the order determined by the introduction and the thesis statement, and they may follow an emphatic order designed to build the case to its strongest point.

Patterns of Development

A pattern of development for a piece of writing may be specified in assignment instructions, or it may be used as a helpful way to approach the subject at hand. Many assignments use a combination of the following common patterns of development:



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