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Lit Papers: Organization

You will want to make sure that you discuss your points in the order that they appear in your assertion. It can be confusing to the reader if you list "the narrator's description" first, but you begin the body by talking about "her sadomasochistic relationship with her fifth … husband." 

A good way to play around with the organization is to form some sort of an outline. Take a sheet of paper for each of the points you're trying to make. With the example above, you would need five sheets of paper. Write one of the points at the top of each sheet. On the paper you can list and order your arguments, exact places in the text that support those arguments, and any related outside resources you might have to strengthen your case. This strategy will serve many purposes. First, it will make it easier to find the order in which you wish to make your points. You can shuffle the papers around and find out which points are closely related and where your easiest transitions will be.
Planning can make writing the body move along much faster. You can avoid losing your train of thought by searching page after page for that one perfect quotation, because you will already have the page and line numbers (for poetry) written down on your paper. Planning can also aid you in avoiding digressions.

With an outline, you can save yourself the trouble of writing an entire paper only to find out that you didn't stay within the assignment’s guidelines (it happens). The trouble with straying too far from the guidelines is that your paper may give the reader the impression that you weren't capable of completing the assignment, so you made up one of your own. If you are unsure of whether or not you are staying within the guidelines, or there simply are none, it might help to take your outline or ideas to the professor or to the Writing and Learning Commons and seek some input there.

Next, learn the difference between the narrator and the author.


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