Methods for Essay Organization

Successful college papers should not have to be a mystery to be solved.  Organization of a paper is the place to start, but how do you even plan out the organization of a college paper?  Here are a few key methods to help you organize a successful and informative paper, no matter what the subject.

Ask a big question

It is important to have a main idea for the paper to address.  The easiest way to find a main topic is to ask yourself an important question about the subject in your paper.  Good, important questions might compare and contrast, bring up an important argument, or address a problem.  For instance, if your topic has to do with music, you need to come up with a question like, “Should music be a required subject in public schools?”.  If your topic is on the history of lacrosse, the question might be, “How has the evolution of lacrosse affected its play today?”.  Then, make your question specific enough to be covered in one paper.

Divide and conquer

A good essay can be separated into sections very easily.  These sections make up the body of your essay. It might be a good idea to write up some headlines to guide your writing.  These headlines do not have to be put into the paper, however, because they are for your reference only.

Good headlines will address different parts of the issue so that the reader better understands your main idea.  Are the ideas in your paper common knowledge, or would most readers need some background information in order to know what you are talking about?  If your subject is not in someone’s area of expertise, you may need to include a headline for background information.  Other good headlines would include passages for comparison and contrast of ideas, a section relating your subject to real life situations, or a section about how the subject relates to your audience.  Depending on how long the paper must be, you may need all of these headlines!

Research as you go

Your paper will need references, so in order to keep your references organized, make sure you research each section as you work on it.  Research is not the part of the paper to procrastinate on!  In fact, go ahead and create your Works Cited page or Bibliography as soon as you find the source.  Also go ahead and write out the citations the way you want them.  That way, when you go to flesh out the paper later, you can easily insert citations as you go!

Take notes

Once you have the basic structure of your essay, go ahead and print it out.  Then, when you come across a bit of information for your paper that you think will be useful, you can go ahead and fill in the blanks of your essay in each section.  Your paper will begin to write itself, and you won’t lose track of any ideas or concepts.

With these techniques for organization, your essay will almost write itself as you do the research.  Be sure to keep notes of all of your ideas, and your essay will be complete in no time!