Organization and Structure
The resources available in this section provide the user with the materials that they would need to hold a writing workshop for graduate students. While these resources do not target a particular kind of writing (e.g., writing for courses, writing for publication, or writing thesis and dissertations), it does provide the needed structure act as a sort of graduate student writing workshop-in-a-box.
Last Edited: 2014-06-10 09:06:22
About This Handout
There is no single organizational pattern that works well for all writing across all disciplines; rather, organization depends on what you’re writing, who you’re writing it for, and where your writing will be read. In order to communicate your ideas, you’ll need to use a logical and consistent organizational structure in all of your writing. We can think about organization at the global level (your entire paper or project) as well as at the local level (a chapter, section, or paragraph). At all times, the goal of revising for organization and structure is to consciously design your writing projects to make them easy for readers to understand. A good goal is to make your writing accessible and comprehensible to someone who just reads sections of your writing rather than the entire piece. This handout provides strategies for revising your writing to help meet this goal.
Outlining & Reverse Outlining
One of the most effective ways to get your ideas organized is to write an outline. While a traditional outline with Roman numerals or capital and lowercase letters can be an effective tool, outlines do not always need to be this formal. When you outline, you can use any style that works for you, from one-word ideas to shorter phrases or sentences. You might also consider the medium you outline in—using notecards or a digital medium can allow you to easily revise and rearrange your ideas.
A traditional outline comes as the pre-writing or drafting stage of the writing process. As you make your outline, think about all of the concepts, topics, and ideas you will need to include in order to accomplish your goal for the piece of writing. Write down each of these, and then consider what information readers will need to know in order for each point to make sense. Try to arrange your ideas in a way that logically progresses, building from one key idea or point to the next.
Questions for Writing Outlines
Reverse outlining comes at the drafting or revision stage of the writing process. After you have a complete draft of your project (or a section of your project), work alone or with a partner to read your project with the goal of understanding the main points you have made and the relationship of these points to one another.
Questions for Writing Reverse Outlines
Signposting is the practice of using language specifically designed to help orient readers of your text. Signposting includes the use of transitional words and phrasing, and they may be explicit or more subtle. For example, an explicit signpost might say:
A more subtle signpost might look like this:
The style of signpost you use will depend on the genre of your paper, the discipline in which you are writing, and your or your readers’ personal preferences. Regardless of the style of signpost you select, it’s important to include signposts regularly. They occur most frequently at the beginnings and endings of sections of your paper. It is often helpful to include signposts at mid-points in your project in order to remind readers of where you are in your argument.
Questions for Revision
Clark, Irene L. Writing the Successful Thesis and Dissertation: Entering the Conversation.
Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson, 2006. Web.
Davis, Martha, Kaaron J. Davis, and Marion M. Dunagan. Scientific Papers and Presentations.
1996. London: Elsevier, 2012. Web.