Organizing Writing Ideas Study Guide (page 3)

Updated on Aug 25, 2011

Organizing a Persuasive Essay

One way to organize a persuasive essay is by order of importance. You might start with the most important point and end with the least important, or start with the least important and build to the most important. This strategy allows you to build a strong, convincing argument, as you saw in earlier exercises.

Another common organizational pattern, as demonstrated in the preceding example, is to start by explaining the opposing point of view. In the essay, the author introduces the topic by listing the city's reasons for tearing down the stadium. By laying out the opposing opinion first, the author acknowledges that she recognizes and understands those ideas, but still disagrees with them. This strategy strengthens your argument because it shows the reader that you are well informed and aware of other opinions. A reader is more likely to be convinced by a writer who sounds informed and thoughtful than by someone who can see only one side of the issue.

The Five-Paragraph Essay

For whatever type of essay you plan to write, the most common structure is a five-paragraph essay. As you can probably guess, this structure includes (at least!) five paragraphs:

  1. Introduction to the topic, ending with a thesis statement
  2. First supporting detail and explanation
  3. Second supporting detail and explanation
  4. Third supporting detail and explanation
  5. Conclusion

The Introduction

An introduction paragraph can be depicted as an upside-down pyramid. The first sentence introduces the general topic. The next few sentences explain the topic or issue. The last sentence is the thesis.

The Five-Paragraph Essay

A thesis is the main idea of the whole essay. It is an assertion—a statement that includes the author's judgment or opinion. The rest of the essay will include details to support or prove the thesis statement. Thus, the thesis should be something that a writer can successfully argue within an essay. Try to select the best thesis statement from these three options:

  1. Mike Morrissey played baseball for 19 years.
  2. Mike Morrissey was the best player Dowshire has ever had.
  3. Mike Morrissey experienced success both on and off the baseball field.

The first statement is a fact. It does not leave anything for the writer to prove in the rest of the essay. A fact alone cannot be a thesis. The second option is an opinion. Mike Morrissey may or may not be the best player the team has ever had. However, this type of assertion will be very difficult to prove in an essay. Some readers will always disagree with such a simplistic opinion. Choice c is the best thesis statement for this essay because it makes a reasonable assertion that can be proven with supporting details.

The Supporting Details

Essays usually include three paragraphs of details to support the thesis. These details or ideas are needed to convincingly argue your thesis. In these middle paragraphs, you'll use the organization that's best for the type of essay you're writing. For example, if you're writing a narrative essay, these middle paragraphs will tell the story, probably in chronological order. Each paragraph might explain one event or episode in the story. You might explain the outcome or lesson learned within each paragraph, or wait until the concluding paragraph.

For an informative essay, you might choose to organize by cause and effect. You could include one cause and effect pair for each paragraph, or describe the cause in the first paragraph and the effects in the second and third paragraphs. There are infinite ways to organize your supporting details, and the topic will help you determine which method of organization is the best for that essay. Just be sure to include the three or four strongest ideas from your prewriting.

You might organize a persuasive essay by order of importance. If you decide to go from least important to most important, building your argument to a big conclusion, you will put the least convincing details in the first paragraph. The second paragraph will contain details more important than those in the first paragraph. This pattern will continue until the final paragraph, where you will place the evidence most critical to your argument.

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