Organizational Schema

Organizational Schema are

  • common methods for organizing and interpreting information.
  • tools, or shortcuts, we use to deal with the tsunami of information that bombards us each day.
  • foundational ways of reasoning.

Organizational Schema are also known as

  • schemes (USA) or schemata (UK)
  • intellectual strategies
  • mental models, mental frameworks
  • patterns of thought, patterns of presentation, and logical reasoning
  • cognitive structures, cognitive framework, knowledge structure

Organizational Schemas may function at the global as well as the local level. For instance, deductive order can inform how an entire text is organized, with the author presenting a premise in the introduction and then using subsequent paragraphs to prove the validity of that premise. Or, deductive order can be used by at the paragraph or sentence level.

Rhetors, depending on their rhetorical situation, mix and match organizational schemas. For example, the text as a whole may primarily follow spatial order: a geologist who is developing a model to chart groundwater contamination around a bad gas tank at an old gas station could pause from her mapping agenda to speculate, using chronological order, about how contaminants flowed from the gas station and entered the aquifer.

Organizational Schemas play a profound role in learning and communication. Research conducted across academic disciplines–e.g., cognitive psychology, learning science, neurology, and linguistics–suggests that writers and readers, speakers and listeners, use organizational schema to interpret, organize and share information.

Organizational Schemas are tools, or shortcuts, we use to deal with the tsunami of information that bombards us each day. We use schemeas to navigate new rhetorical situations.

Common organizational schemas are

Causal OrderChronological OrderDeductive Order
Given-to-New OrderGlobal PerspectiveInductive Order
Local PerspectiveLogical OrderSpatial Order
Transitional Language, Metalanguage, Seques

Related Concepts


Genres presuppose ways to order information.

Modes of Discourse

Modes of Discourse are more than forms of discourse: they reflect organizational schemas. Modes are the embodiment of organizational schemas.

Sentences within paragraphs are not carelessly put together. Rather, rhetor’s employ organizational schema to order sentences.

The organizational schema rhetors and audiences need to employ are defined by the rhetorical situation. For instance, rhetors employ inductive organization when presenting controversial information.