How To Organize Essay

How to organize material for your essay

By now you should have all the material you need to write your essay, but it is a good idea to go back to the question to check that you have covered every key aspect of it before you begin to plan your essay and how to incorporate your research into it.

As you were carrying out your research, you will have been evaluating the issues and arguments involved. You should now think carefully about your approach to the essay question, the main theme or themes that are emerging, what arguments you will use, and the evidence you need to support them.

Outlining the essay

You will doubtless know that essays should have an introductory paragraph, a main section, and a conclusion. You now need to expand this basic format into a specific essay plan. Here is a suggested approach:

  • Identify the main theme or themes of the essay and the key points that you want to make.
  • Use these themes and points as headings in your plan and write brief notes as to what you want to include under each heading. These headings will help you plan out the paragraphs in the main body of the essay.
  • Think about how your material relates to these points and organize your notes and other reference sources accordingly.
  • You might find it helpful to use colour coding or different folders to categorize your notes, and relate these to the headings and points in your essay plan.
  • Once you have drafted an outline or plan, check it again to confirm that you have covered the key points raised by the question, then critically reassess the order in which you have developed your arguments.

Remember that the most effective essays are those which enable the reader to trace your reasoning through structured arguments to the conclusion:

  • The introduction should set out your approach to the question and the key points that you will be considering.
  • The main section should present your arguments and evidence in a rational order.
  • The conclusion should follow logically from the main section.

Read more about essay preparation in:

How to plan time for essay writing

How to understand the essay question

How to do research for an essay

Back toWriting essays.

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What is the Five Paragraph Essay?

The five paragraph essay is one of the most common ways to organize a paper. It is a style of argumentative essay that allows the author to make a claim then provide several examples in support of it. It is a common organizational structure for essays and papers in high school and in many undergraduate college courses. As the most fundamental of argumentative structures, the five-paragraph essay is important to master before attempting more complex argumentative structures.

The five paragraph essay is an effective way to organize a paper where you need to show multiple examples to support an argument or claim. Using this format, you have a main idea (often called a thesis statement or, simply, an opinion) with evidence that supports that idea. The five paragraph essay format is for an argument that has supportive evidence, but doesn’t necessarily require a consideration of other conflicting claims.

When Do I Use the Five Paragraph Essay?

The five paragraph essay is most useful when making a brief argument or when exploring an interpretation of something at a relatively superficial level. Five-paragraph essays, by virtue of their name, are typically only about five paragraphs (they don’t have to be, though) and, as such, don’t tend to offer much supporting evidence.

The five paragraph essay is great for basic essays where you just need to make sure you’re staying on point and organized. They’re often easy to write and they’re easy for readers to follow. If you’re new at essay writing or you don’t feel strong in writing essays, this format is a surefire way to make your writing still sound strong, even if it’s simple.

The Five Paragraph essay allows room for the author to present reasoning for the claims made in the essay, but does not usually guarantee room for rebuttals or much explanation of complex claims made within the essay. With that in mind, it is best used when the paper or information needs to be brief, or if there is not enough time to really delve into a topic.

How Does the Five Paragraph Essay Work?

When writing in the five paragraph format, you must focus on the topic and your argument. The goal is to clearly state and explain your side of the argument through use of clear evidence. The five paragraph essay may be formatted something like this:

  1. Introduction: The introduction states a topic and an argument about that topic, which would be labeled the thesis statement. (The thesis statement is the central argument, upon which all evidence should support.) The introduction will then state three or more main ideas that support the thesis statement. These three main ideas are the crux of the next three paragraphs/sections in the essay.
  2. Body Paragraph #1: The first body paragraph should explain the strongest idea that supports your thesis. The paragraph should begin with a topic sentence that introduces the idea, then show the key evidence that supports the idea of the paragraph and explain why the evidence is relevant to the idea of the paragraph and to the main claim (thesis statement) of the essay.
  3. Body Paragraph #2: The second body paragraph provides the second piece of evidence or support that you mentioned in the introduction. Like the first body paragraph, the second body paragraph should include a topic sentence to introduce the idea, followed by evidence and interpretation as support for it.
  4. Body Paragraph #3: The third body paragraph should explain the third piece of evidence or support of your thesis statement. This paragraph should be formatted like the previous two body paragraphs.
  5. Conclusion: The conclusion is expands upon the main idea of the thesis statement by combining the ideas from your paragraphs to find meaning in the paper. The conclusion includes a brief summary of the ideas in the paper and how they support your thesis and a cohesive ending to the essay.

As for length, the introduction and conclusion should be shorter than the body paragraphs, and the body paragraphs should generally be around the same length. While the document is called a “five-paragraph” essay, it can be longer than five paragraphs. The idea is that you have an intro, three supporting pieces of evidence, and a conclusion, making it essentially five components. If each section of the body requires more than one paragraph, that’s okay.

You can have a bit of leeway in how you organize the body paragraphs and the support that they provide, as well as exactly what is included in each of the paragraphs.

Example of the Five Paragraph Essay

Imagine you are writing an essay about how it is important for children to read books at an early age. Your goal here would be to provide strong evidence about the importance for children to read books.

Introduction: In the intro, you would state the topic, your argument, and your three supporting ideas. It would read something like this:

As society increasingly encourages children to view television shows and play on tablets, it is important that they still maintain the age-old practice of learning to read books. While not all children will learn to read at the same pace or even enjoy reading at the same level, it’s important to encourage reading frequent and often. In this essay, I will show how reading teaches children to be more inquisitive; how it helps them develop other skills like math and memorization; and how it helps them to be more social as they grow older.

Body Paragraph #1: This paragraph then explains how reading teaches children to be inquisitive, citing sources and evidence that this is the case.

Body Paragraph #2: This paragraph then moves into the second supporting argument named in the intro, using evidence to suggest how reading at a young age helps children to be more inquisitive.

Body Paragraph #3: This paragraph then moves in the final supporting argument named in the intro, providing evidence and sources about how reading at a young age helps children to learn other skills.

Conclusion: The conclusion pulls all three arguments together, equally supporting your overarching thesis that children need to be taught to read at a young age.

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