Organizing Writing Ideas Study Guide

Updated on Aug 25, 2011

Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:

Organizing Writing Ideas Practice Exercises


Writers have many options for organizing their ideas. You'll learn about writing academic essays and how to select the best organization for each essay type. 

Most people's brains organize thoughts like a spider web rather than a straight line. For example, maybe the thought of your dog makes you think of his favorite toy, which makes you think of the park, and then you remember your last trip to the park with your grandfather, which reminds you that he promised to take you out for ice cream, which makes you think of how much your dog loves ice cream. Wow!

Although those ideas might be connected in your mind, a reader could have trouble making sense of them. That's why organization is so important. In this lesson you'll learn how to put the organizing principles you've learned about into action in your own writing.

The Essay

In previous lessons you've learned about many different types of writing: news articles, novels, editorials, poetry, and advertisements, to name a few. In school, the most common type of writing you'll do is essays. An essay is a type of literary composition. Its purpose is to analyze ideas or information. To analyze means that the author includes perspective and reflection.

Essays can be written about thousands of different topics, but each essay maintains a specific focus on one idea. The essay usually includes a thesis statement that narrows the topic to a specific point or perspective. The rest of the essay uses supporting details to build the argument. Essays use the general standards of writing and language, as well as the special devices of literature and poetry, such as metaphors and foreshadowing. An essay might be a single page or more than 100 pages long.

There are three basic types of essays that match the three author's purposes you learned about previously. As you brainstorm and prepare to write, it's important to decide which type of essay you are writing. Each type of essay has unique organization options.

The Informative Essay

The author's purpose in an informative essay, also called an expository essay, is to inform the reader. This type of essay presents information, description, and details. It explains or describes a topic. It generally does not include the writer's personal feelings or reactions. Nevertheless, the informative essay also needs to show some analysis or reflection. You can show your analysis through the thesis of your writing and the details you include. Choosing the thesis— what you want to say about the topic—can be the trickiest part of writing informative essays. As you read this paragraph from an informative essay, try to identify the author's thesis.

The Ducks Fly Again

In recent years, the local minor league baseball team, the Dowshire Ducks, has become standard weekend entertainment for hundreds of families. On summer afternoons, the bleachers in Hulldown Stadium are crowded with cheering fans. But it wasn't always so. Even ten years ago, ticket sales were limited, and the team was largely ignored. The Ducks rarely won games or placed well in regional tournaments. The arrival of coach Duncan Brin in 2004, however, started a new era of success and fame for the Ducks.

The topic for this essay is the Dowshire Ducks baseball team. Details about the team are introduced and explained through comparison and contrast. In the last sentence of the paragraph, though, the author launches the thesis: coach Duncan Brin improved the team's status. This qualifies as a thesis (the main idea of the whole essay) because it expresses an idea or assertion that will be proven throughout the essay.

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