If discussing how a paper is constructed we might use the terms “organization,” “structure,” or even “flow.” When assessing a paper’s structure, we’re less concerned with the grammar or mechanics of individual sentences, but focus instead on sections, subsections, or paragraphs.
How is the information divided into parts? In what order is the information presented? Are all the expected elements present? Is critical information missing, or presented in an imbalanced or asymmetrical way?
Writing well-structured papers requires us to be familiar with the common elements of academic writing. It is important to be able to assess the strength of introduction and conclusion, thesis statement, and topic sentences.
It is also important to be familiar with the names and functions of standard sections of research documents, like the abstract, literature review, or executive summary.
Finally, every paper will require you to make structural choices, selecting the organization schema that works best for you. Being able to create a rough or detailed outline can help you design this schema early in the drafting process – which can save a lot of time and frustration later!
- Video (2:26): "Flow," UNC Chapel Hill Writing Center
- Video (5:42): "How to Write an Essay: Structure," Ariel Bissett
- Handout: "Organization of a Traditional Academic Paper," UNC Wilmington Writing Services
- Webpage cataloging some common paper structures: “Patterns of Organization,” University of Washington, Tacoma
- Handout on "signal words" that indicate various organizing principles: "Organizational Patterns in Academic Writing," Valencia College
- Another handout on communicating organization at the sentence level: "Patterns of Organization," Monterey Peninsula College Reading Center
The following index makes searching for a specific topic easier and links to the appropriate place in the sequenced material. We think we have most of them, but please email us at email@example.com if we are missing something!