October 20 2015
The English Burger: Using Organization to create College-level Writing
Imagine one day some one’s boss is walking around checking cubicles and he comes across one that is a total mess with papers and junk everywhere and then later comes across a cubical that is clean and well organized, prepared to conquer whatever task needing to be accomplished. He then offers the second employee with the clean cubicle a bonus check, why would he boss do that? If I were that boss my reasoning for giving the second employee the bonus check would be because of its organization; it is easy to find things, there is a flow to the room that allows for space if needed, and it is presentable and professional looking showing that he actually cares about his job. I would say that what is true for the workplace is true for college writing. But, how can the organization of a paper be so important to creating college-level writing? I believe that organization is key to the success of a paper because it allows for fluidity with in your writing, it creates a focus on your claim, as well as having well-structured sentences that properly build on to one’s paper.
In order to create this essay, I had to go about several ways of gathering information. Earlier this semester, I posted a survey relating to the importance of college writing. Within this survey I asked about a dozen people who are either currently a college student or recently out of college what they believed to be the most important aspect to college writing. 44.44%; the majority vote of those that voted, voted for organization, out of several topics in my survey, as the most important concept to college writing due to the fact that “If people can't follow the ideas presented because they are out of order it becomes confusing”, (as said by one of the surveyor’s). Organization of a paper is critical in allowing people to follow along with whatever information the writer is trying to present in an order that makes sense. This statistic is the reason I chose to write on organization; because if a majority of people believe it to be most important than it must be true. So then after the survey I observed a tutor from the writing lab named Paul Conningham as he tutored another student. A week or so later I interviewed Paul, asking him a few questions about the organization of a paper and then about writing a paper in general. Lastly, I interviewed Paul McCormick, a Ph.D. in twentieth-century American and British literature and Professor at The Ohio State University, over the topic of organization and college-level writing.
Now organization can be defined in various different ways all depending on the subject that your organization is geared towards. The dictionary merely defines organization as “to form as or into a whole consisting of interdependent or coordinated parts, especially for united action.” This definition is a very broad overview of what organization is as a whole. Perdue OWL defines it as to “[include] transitions which will show my reader the relationships between my sentences and paragraphs.” This definition is geared more towards English and writing but I still found it to be broad. So using these two definitions I created my own definition leading into what I believe to be the base of this paper: “Placing your information in a format creating a smooth story line and connecting your sentences and paragraphs efficiently together to create a flow in which the reader can follow along.”
The first reason for being well organized throughout your paper is to create a story in which everything is focused on your thesis -that claim that you are trying to push and persuade others to take- and that everything you have is in an order that makes sense. Everything you write must connect to the thesis! If you lose track of the point that you are trying to get across, the reader may become baffled and you lose your purpose for even writing your paper in the first place. “If people can’t follow the ideas presented because they are out of order it becomes confusing”, (as said by one of the responders to my survey). Something that I had just gone over in class was reading a paper that a student wrote where he uses a hypothetical question. This could be a good tactic to try and draw in a reader to what could be a real experience but the problem comes when the writer goes to deep into the question and once that happens they can start to drift away from the focus and be going in a completely different direction.
Secondly, organization is critical to college-level writing because it creates the fluidity within your paper. Flow – first off – is created by having the correct structuring of a paper; by having an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Imagine you have a really good burger; your intro is the bun and condiments, your body is that juicy piece of meat, the flavor of the sandwich, and finally your conclusion is that final bottom bun ending your burger. This format is expected by the audience, as it should be, because it allows you to ease in to your paper, read your claim and what you have to say about it, and then ease back out at the end. An article we read this year titled What is Academic Writing by Irvin states that “the critical essay should have a clear introduction, body, and conclusion.” Your introduction should first, hook you in, it should draw your attention to whatever information it is that you plan on discussing in your paper. Your introduction normally consists of the first paragraph. Next we have the body of the paper. This is the area where you talk about your topic and use as many resources and details as you can to make an appealing claim on your thesis to persuade your reader to agree with you. The body of your paper can be made up of as many paragraphs as it takes to get your point across. And finally you have your conclusion and all that is used for is to sum up your paper and then to continue your argument by leading the reader towards a capability to add on to the argument that you have just written about. And this part of your essay is consisted of your final paragraph. But just setting up your paper correctly will not give you an A grade paper, you have to be able to move through your paper.
Third, fluidity is also created by properly using transitions from one topic to another throughout your paper to allow for the reader to be able to follow along easily. As said by Professor McCormick: “Transitions show how one idea is connected to another. It helps make the paper more persuasive and clear.” This is critical! This is so important because the moment that the reader gets confused on what is happening or how they got to a certain part of the story they will begin to lose interest in whatever it is they are reading. Using transitions can make the same phrase mean something totally different when using different transitions. Take these examples: “Indeed I like chocolate with peanut butter so Reese’s cups are my favorite candy” or “Consequently I do not like chocolate with peanut butter so Reese’s cups are not my favorite candy”. By using transitional words in the above examples I was able to take two things of the same resemblance and using each of those transitions lead to different outcomes. The book They Say I Say has a chapter named “As a Result” that lists a whole bunch of transitional words under categories of transitions such as Addition (also, and, moreover…), Elaboration (ultimately, actually, in short…), and several more. But it takes more than just transitioning to have a well-done essay.
Forth of the many ways organization can better a paper, I believe that the best organization you can use in writing is correct sentence structure. Twice so far in class we have done an exercise where we were put into groups and given a paragraph that was cut up by each individual sentence. Our job was to take those shredded pieces and put them back together again forming the correct paragraph. This exercise that we did so easily demonstrates this idea of sentence structure; (placing your sentences in an order allowing for fluidity between the sentences, detail throughout the paper, and order amongst your information) because when doing this assignment there were what seemed to be so many correct placements that we could change it 4 or 5 times and it would still seem correct. But, when finally put in the correct spots it allowed for perfect transitions between information, answers were following up the questions, and what seemed to be multiple choices of what may be the topic sentence lead to one sentence that once chosen was clear because all of the other information was connected back to the topic.
There are many different ways to organize a paper all depending on how you want to get your point across. So to answer the question of how is organization of a paper important to college writing, simply stated there are many reasons. Fluidity, transitions, focus, and sentence structure are all answers to this question and surely there are many more as well because one cannot express enough how important that organization is. So, keep in mind organization when writing your paper because if you can organize well you could turn an ok paper into something great. But is that it, is organization the only thing that can make for a great college-level writing? Certainly not! There are so many aspects to consider when attempting to write a paper. So tell me, what do you believe to be the most important aspect to college writing?
McCormick, Paul, Ph.D. E-mail interview. 18 Nov. 2015.
Graff, Gerald, and Cathy Birkenstein. They Say / I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing. New York: W.W. Norton, 2010. Print.
"organize". Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 24 Nov. 2015. <Dictionary.com
Conningham, Paul. Personal interview. 23 Oct. 2015
Irvin, Lennie. "What Is Academic Writing." N.p.: n.p., n.d. N. pag. Writing Spaces. Web. 27 Oct. 2015