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4.5: Reorganizing without the 5-paragraph essay

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    10 Ways to Organize Essays Logically without Resorting to the 5-Paragraph Essay

    As you have discovered, there are many limitations with the traditional 5-paragraph essay, but then what should you do instead? The following list many possible ways to organize an essay. Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list.

    1. Chronological Order- When you arrange ideas in sequence and use transitional words such as first, next, later, finally, next, and suddenly. (This is the least preferred organizational strategy in academic writing.)

    2. Emphatic Order- When you arrange ideas from most important to least important or least important to most important. Transitional words such as especially, moreover, in particular, most importantly, and clearly signify emphatic order.

    3. Spatial Order- When you are describing a specific place, usually from the outside to the inside. Words such as above, behind, nearby, and below typically indicate spatial order. Think of how you might describe a house from the outside to the inside.

    4. Causal Order- When you are discussing ideas from effects to causes. For example, one could write a paper on the causes of poor student performance. After describing the condition, you may discuss how one cause of this performance is chronic sleep deprivation.

    5. Simple to Complex- When you organize ideas starting with the most simple premise and moving to a more complicated idea. In a paper on student performance, you may argue that while some teachers simply dismiss their students’ performance to laziness, in fact, many students are overwhelmed with the pressures of their new environment including work and social activities.

    6. Narrow to Wider Implications- When you discuss ideas in terms of a local impact and then discuss the larger implications. This could be seen in a paper that discusses recent drought and flood conditions in a particular area and linking this to global warming.

    7. Obvious to Surprising- When you arrange ideas from the most obvious idea to the unexpected relationship.

    8. Problem to Solution- When you organize you ideas by first discussing a problem (sometimes at length) and then moving into the solution. This can work well for position papers where you may discuss a problem within the local government and then propose a specific solution.

    9. Incident to Reflection- When you arrange your ideas in terms of an incident and then your reflection of that incident. This may work well for an essay where you may discuss a particular issue, say homelessness, and then describe an incident where meeting a homeless person changed your perspective.

    10. Compare/Contrast—When you compare and contrast two things. Keep in mind that in order to write this effectively, your two subjects must have at least one major similarity and one major difference. Additionally, you must be advocating for one topic over the other in order for it to have an expressed purpose. There are many papers that may use compare/contrast as part of an essay but not the entirety of the essay.


    4.5: Reorganizing without the 5-paragraph essay is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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