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Essay Organization

General Types of Arrangement 1

1.Classical Arrangement:Essays are organized in five-parts including an introduction, a background or statement of facts, an argument, a refutation, and a conclusion.Discussion: While this bears uncanny resemblance to the five-paragraph theme, classical rhetoric does not support such a reductive, codified interpretation.For example, any number of paragraphs could fall under any one of the parts of the arrangement.Moreover, most academic writing follows this basic arrangement.We might say, then, that classical arrangement is the superstructure for other means of arrangement. (see Stewart 1987.)

2.Obvious before Remarkable—the more basic and apparent points come before the innovative or novel

3.Presentation before Refutation—consists of a review of the argument before it is refuted

4.Explanation before Complication—basic information on an issue is presented before the more complex information or before that information is “complicated” by the author

5.Solvable before Unsolvable (or resolvable before unresolvable)—problems or complications in a text or issue that are (re)solvable are presented before problems or complications that are un(re)solvable

6.Approval before Disapproval or Appreciation before Criticism (useful for the workshop situation)—requires that the writer summarize the subject and point out positive features before providing criticism.Useful for situations where students must critique one another’s work.Usually arranged as summary—approval—disapproval though summary—disapproval—approval is also acceptable.

7.Literal before Symbolic (useful for literary interpretation)—place literal observations before their symbolic counterparts, whether writing about the whole of a piece or a specific part.As such the pattern has both global and local application within the same essay.

8.Likely before Speculative (useful for literary interpretation)—the most likely explanations or interpretations are presented before more speculative or further-reaching.Similar to literal before symbolic, though the terms do not necessarily correspond, i.e. a “likely” interpretation may be understood as “symbol” and not as “literal explanation.”

9.Likes with Likes—items or topics that address that same issues belong together

10.Establish a Progression or Show the Development of Thought—this can be done in three ways:

1. chronological
2. spatial
3. logical 2

- that which moves from the general to the specific;
- that which moves from the most important to the least important, or vice-versa;
- that which moves from a basic idea to its variations.While it may appear to go from, general to     specific, in fact the variations remain at the same level of specificity as the basic idea. (see “logical argument”)


-Statement of effect, i.e. problem to be solved
-Analysis of existing situation (mixture of causes/effects, past and present, ordered by chronology or importance of point)
- Suggestion of solution or plans to correct problem

12.Compare/Contrast—Podis offers the example of two texts that offer similar analyses to a problem but different solutions.

-Introduction to both texts and problem.Include thesis articulating the texts’ similar approaches to the problem and different solutions
-  Brief summary of first text’s analysis
-Brief summary of the second text’s analysis
-Contrast the solutions offered
-Conclusion offering the student writer’s own evaluation of the two differing solutions, i.e. which is more appropriate and/or convincing.

13.Appearances versus reality—a variation of the compare/contrast form in which one, for example enumerates the apparent or perceived reasons for something versus the real reasons.Similar to Presentation before Refutation.

Tropical Arrangement 3

           1.Metaphoric Mode:arrangement that stresses the similarities that bind experience together
           2.Metonymic Mode: moves from one experience to another
           3.Synecdochic Mode: moves from part to whole and back
           4.Ironic Mode: Adopts a reflective stance toward experience

1.The list has been adapted chiefly from three sources: Steward (number 1); Podis & Podis, 1990 (numbers two through eight); and Podis, 1980 (numbers nine to thirteen).
2.Podis (1980) points out that “in an important sense organization is the representation of careful logical thinking” (201).

3.see D’Angelo (1990) who argues that just as it is possible to organize an essay along rhetorical modes (comparison/contrast, division into parts, cause and effect) so too it is possible to organize and essay along dominant tropological modes: metaphor, metonymy, synechdoche, and irony.It strikes me that these modes are perhaps more useful as a hermeneutics of invention, for example, positing that an essay’s logic of organization is metonymic and following through with one’s analysis.

Works Cited