Tolstoy once said that happy families are all alike but unhappy families are unhappy in different ways. Essays are a little different. Bad essays tend to all be very much the same, but good essays often shine in different ways. As students work through the essay writing process, they often encounter challenges in determining how to develop and organize their essays. In this article, we’ll take a look at seven ways to organize an essay so you can be armed with a tool kit that will help you vary your essay structure and keep your audience engaged no matter what you need to write.
Before we do, however, it’s worth considering why we would need different organizational structures. Organization should connect to the content and help the reader to best understand the topic and the material. For example, if you are writing a historical essay that is explaining an event, you would do better to organize the information in the order that it occurred rather than telling the story out of order. The exact organizational framework that you choose will depend on the content of the essay and the purpose since each format has its own style, impact, and effect.
The most obvious and most frequently used organizational strategy is chronological order, which provides details about the topic in the order that they happened, from beginning to end. It’s most frequently used in expository writing when you are providing a narrative about events. In a chronological essay, you will guide the reader from one topic to the next with the use of transition words that are based in temporal relationships, such as “next,” “then,” “afterward,” etc. Chronological essays are among the most effective formats because they are clear and direct, but they tend to work better for descriptions than for analysis.
Logical order can occur in one of many different formats, but the important issue is that it provides information in the way that makes the most sense for the reader in following the argument that you make. For example, not every argument needs to have information presented chronologically, and sometimes knowing how a situation ended is important to know first before analyzing and trying to make sense of it. In an essay that is developed in logical order, you provide the information that the reader needs to know first and then analyze it. When using transitions in logical order, you may need to remind the reader of facts with phrases like “as previously mentioned,” or “therefore.”
The Toulmin Model
One of the most popular ways to build an argument is the use of the Toulmin Model. In this organizational style, you provide the claim that you are going to demonstrate or prove and then support that claim with grounds and warrants explaining why it is true, and qualifiers indicating exceptions and uncertainties, before examining counterarguments and rebutting them. A variety of the Toulmin model, called the Rogerian Response, provides concessions to the other side in order to emphasize common ground.
The Five-Paragraph Model
The essay format most students learn in high school is the five-paragraph model. In this organizational framework, you present a three-part thesis explaining what you will demonstrate or prove with three reasons why it is true and then support it with three paragraphs each providing evidence for one part of the thesis, followed by a conclusion summarizing the main idea.
Climactic order organized information to build toward an effective climax. In this type of organizational structure, the most important, shocking, or convincing information is held for the end of the essay in order to lead the reader to a dramatic reveal. This type of organizational structure contains some dangers for writers, however, since it means that your paper will open with weaker, less important information and may not hook the reader. When done right, however, it can create a powerful argument that will push the audience toward an ever-more-convincing conclusion, as long as you can hook them from the start.
One of the rarest organizational structures is random order, in which information is presented without a fixed plan and without regard to logical progression. This type of organization is most useful for impressionistic or descriptive essays. However, it is difficult to pull off in an academic essay, where great weight is placed on logic and argumentation. Therefore, it’s a good idea to seriously consider whether random order will be effective for your essay topic before deploying this format in an academic paper.
This is another organizational framework that is often best deployed for a descriptive essay. In a spatial order essay, you will describe objects in a physical space by moving from one to the next to help the audience understand the organization and arrangement of the space.
Choosing which essay format to use can be difficult, and the writing process can be notoriously difficult for students who don’t have the skills and experience to effectively produce varied essays. If an assignment leaves you saying, “I wish someone would write my essay for me online!”, it might be worth considering whether you need to pay someone from an online service to write papers for you. When you get help from experts, you can discover the most effective ways to develop papers, organize them, and support them.