A free, comprehensive, peer-reviewed, award-winning Open Text for students and faculty in college-level courses that require writing and research.

Why is it important to organize a paper logically?

Academic writing—like many types of writing—is typically more effective when the writer’s ideas are presented logically. For the sake of clarity and cohesiveness, a logical plan should inform the paper’s organization from beginning to end at the global (big picture) and local (zoomed in) levels. The target audience is more likely to become engaged, and maintain their engagement, when the conversation is clearly organized and purposefully presented.

Organizational structures that work:

  • Graphic organizers
    • Web: Draw a circle in the middle of a page and write your thesis inside. In a series of circles around the thesis, fill in ideas for the introduction, the main point of each body paragraph, and the conclusion. Then number the circles appropriately.
    • Cluster or mind map: Begin with the topic in the center and map out a series of main ideas in connected ovals; continue to draw more ovals and cluster the details around each main idea.
  • Outlines
    • Traditional, formal outline: This organizational plan typically begins with a thesis statement and lays out your paper’s content in detail, using a standard outline format. Working outline: This plan generally begins with a working thesis followed by an organized, but less formal, presentation of ideas. Strategic reorganization of the outline takes place as your paper develops.
    • Reverse outline: Outlining is done after a draft of the paper has been written. The writer extracts the main idea from each paragraph, determines what steps need to be taken to present the ideas logically, and reorganizes appropriately.

What can be done to construct a logical plan?

  • Experiment with different organizational structures and choose one that works in harmony with your writing style, as well as the requirements of the assignment.
  • Develop a well-organized thesis or working thesis—ideas that are clearly-presented in the thesis generally support clearly-presented ideas in the body of your paper.
  • Treat the paper as a living document. Systematically reevaluate the success, or failure, of the organizational plan and reorganize as needed to keep the paper “breathing.”