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Click on any  part or section below:

Part I. Basics/Process

  A. Chapters 1-6: Start

  B. Ch. 7-13: Organize

  C. Ch. 14-20: Revise/Edit

Part II. College Writing

   D. Ch. 21-23: What Is It?

   E. Ch. 24-30: Write on Rdgs.

   F. Ch.31-35: Arguments

  G. Ch. 36-42: Research

  H. Ch. 43-48: Literature

   I.  Ch. 49-58: Majors & Work

Part III. Grammar

 Study Questions




What is the organization of one typical body section?


When to Organize?

Description of a Basic Body Section

Example Using These Parts

Conclusion: What You Gain from Learning This



How should you organize a basic body section?  To start, don't worry about organizing right away if (a) you don't like it and (b) you already have a sense of how the paper's major components--intro, body sections, and conclusion--must be done.  However, if you are (a) the kind of person who really likes to start by organizing or (b) a student or employee who has no idea at all how your paper should be arranged or ordered, then you should pay attention to organizing at least a little from the very beginning. 

When to Organize?

If you are a person who really likes organizing, then knowing the final organization--the overall or major parts of it--can help you rough draft your paper more easily.  You would start by knowing--or mapping, as if writing a very simple outline--the major parts of your paper, and then you rough draft by starting to fill your thoughts and words into each part.  For example, if you know that you must examine three different arguments or theories on a subject, then one way to organize your paper is to simply have three major body sections--one for each argument or theory; and then you simply start filling each separate body section with whatever thoughts, words, facts, opinions, etc. that occur to you.

However, what if you dislike organizing?  That's fine, at least in the starting-to-rough-draft phase--except for one problem.  How do you know what direction to take your rough drafting if you don't know the overall goal or type of paper to write?  After all, if your teacher gives you a reading and you then write a long, impassioned disagreement with it, what if your teacher then says, "I only wanted a factual summary"?  Or what if you are given a potential work situation and you write a careful, logical, and thorough rough draft analysis of it, taking it completely apart in detail and showing what happened in the situation--and then your teacher says, "I don't care about all these details; instead, I want an argument about the situation with you taking a strong pro or con about it"?  So, it helps to pay attention to the goal. 

There are two main ways to find out what the goal--the finished paper--looks like in its major parts.  One is to see several sample papers of that kind as examples of what you should write.  Another way is to know what the basic organization of your paper should be.  The chapters in this "Organizing" section show you basic organizational patterns or parts that exist in most medium to long college and professional papers.

Once you have written a first draft using freewriting or some other method of starting, then you want to pay even closer attention to the organizational methods shown here.  This chapter in particular shows the typical college and professional organization of a body section.  You likely already know or sense intuitively some of what is in this chapter.  However, reviewing and fixing it more consciously in your mind will give you more power to control body sections and make them sing with clarity, precision, and even grace.

One more note you should remember is that you always want to complete as much of your major revising of body parts--what is called "macro-organizing"--before you edit your paper sentence by sentence for grammar, spelling, punctuation, and other small details.  Why?  The reason is that if you do the small, line-by-line editing first and then, when you are almost done, discover that you need to completely rearrange some of the paragraphs or even body sections, you may have to rewrite a number of sentences and lines.  And that means you'll have to re-edit those.  It also means you may be deleting a number of sentences or lines that you already carefully edited.  To save time, energy, and efficiency, it's better to complete your macro-organization first--get the major organization done--before you work on the little details.

This chapter uses the pattern of body-section development that was illustrated in the boxes in the previous chapter, "Basic Layouts."  What follows is the basics of one typical body section, also sometimes called a "topic section." First, a typical body section is described.  Then an example is shown.


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Description of a Basic Body Section

What is a topic or body section?  It usually is one of the three to five main body parts that are between the paper's introduction and conclusion.  It is not a paragraph, nor is it just a list or graph.  Instead, each body section typically has several paragraphs, lists, or graphs within it.  For example, a nonfiction book has chapters: each chapter is a body section.  And the official manual for a car has many major sections and sub-sections: these are major body sections and smaller body sections that usually have several paragraphs within each. 

In a typical college or professional paper, there are four main parts or elements you should add to each body section:

  1. a clear, brief Subtitle

  2. a main topic sentence in the beginning and end of each body section

  3. a paragraph-summary sentence in the beginning and end of each paragraph

  4. regular repetition of the main idea using a key word or phrase.

These four main elements form the basic or key "road map" for readers to follow your thinking.  Below is the layout of an imaginary body section with several paragraphs.  This layout describes where each of the four key elements usually are placed.  Once again, what is shown below is just ONE body section--not a whole paper:

Key Parts or Map for One Body Section

Original Subtitle – 1-4 Words

1st Paragraph:

First sentence: State the main topic sentence for the whole body section: repeat key words from the subtitle.  (An alternative: You can turn this "First sentence" into a short, 2-3 sentence paragraph that introduces the entire body section. Then start the second paragraph with the next step directly below.)

Second sentence: Offer a very simple, basic summary sentence for just this 1st paragraph: use a transition word or phrase like "First," and then use at least one key word/phrase from the subtitle. 

Middle sentences:  Explain, develop, and/or add quotations. 

Last sentence: Create a richer, more meaningful concluding summary of what you just said and how it ties in with the topic of this body section.

2nd Paragraph:

First sentence: Offer a very simple, basic summary sentence for just this 2nd paragraph: use a transition word or phrase like "Second" or "Another," and then use at least one key word/phrase from the subtitle. 

Middle sentences:  Explain, develop, and/or add quotations. 

Last sentence: Create a richer, more meaningful concluding summary of what you just said and how it ties in with the topic of this body section.


3rd, 4th, 5th, etc. Paragraphs:

First sentence of each paragraph: Offer a very simple, basic summary sentence for just that paragraph: use a transition word or phrase like "Third, Fourth, Next, An additional, A final," etc.; and also use at least one key word/phrase from the subtitle. 

Middle sentences of each paragraph:  Explain, develop, and/or add quotations. 

Last sentence of each paragraph: Create a richer, more meaningful concluding summary of what you just said and how it ties in with the topic of this body section. 

Last Paragraph:

Summarize your whole body section in 2+ sentences as follows

Restate the main point of the body section.

Summarize or mention, briefly or in several sentences, your paragraph subjects.

Add a final interesting detail, if you wish: a quotation, example, or fact in the middle of the paragraph. 

State how this section ties in--how does it help support your paper's main subject?


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Example Using These Elements of a Body Section

Here is a very basic example of what is outlined on the previous page.  Imagine your paper is an analysis titled "Barbie Is a Mixed Pleasure."  In this paper, you analyze an imaginary book Barbie Dolls and Modern Culture by a made up author, Dr. Nancy Smith.  You use three viewpoints: radical feminism, conservative feminism, and moderate feminism.  The body section below shows how you might start and end the third body section – from the viewpoint of moderate feminism. 

Words underlined below are simple transition words that show the time, place, or number of the next thought.  Words in bold show the use of repeated key-word phrases helping readers connect the continuing thread of the section's main idea (Note: the ideas below don’t necessarily represent the beliefs of the author; they are used simply to analyze a position.)

Example of One Developed Body Section

Section subtitle:   

Barbie in Moderate Feminism

Topic sentence to introduce the whole body section:

1st paragraph's intro summary sentence:

1st paragraph's concluding sent.:

        The second section of this paper analyzes how moderate feminism actually finds positive traits in Barbie's cultural image as described in Smith's book.  First, many moderate feminists believe that Barbie has contributed to a culture of health.  [Several sents. of explanation, development, and quotations from Nancy Smith and/or other sources.]  In conclusion, many moderate feminists point to these attributes of health as stemming in part from Barbie and other dolls like her.

2nd paragraph's intro summary sentence:




2nd paragraph's concluding sent.:

         Second, some moderate feminists also argue that Barbie has always been at the leading edge—if not exactly the cutting edge—of cultural roles that advance women's best interests.  In Smith's book, for example, [several sents. of explanation, development, and quotations from Nancy Smith and/or other sources.]  In short, moderate feminism often argues that Barbie's roles as a nurse, teacher, and more recently a scientist, doctor, and other high-powered role models have been good for women.

3rd paragraph's intro summary sentence:





3rd paragraph's concluding sent.:

         In addition, moderate feminism also sometimes believes that Barbie's maternal attributes continue throughout the years to provide important role modeling for girls who will become young mothers.  Smith demonstrates this when she [several sents. of explanation, development, and quotations from Smith and/or other sources.]  As a result, such examples as these simply show that Barbie, rather than hurt women, may in the view of moderate feminism support girls in their time-honored future roles as nurturing mothers.

4th paragraph –

a conclusion of the whole body section:

         This section thus has analyzed Barbie in Smith's book using moderate feminism. Unlike radical or conservative feminism, modern feminism often can see several strengths in Barbie.  [Another final quotation, if you wish.]  Culturally, Barbie has contributed to the health, professional status, and nurturing-female attributes of the modern woman, all of which, moderate feminism would argue, are valuable in our society and are valid roles for young girls to mimic, learn, and enjoy.


Conclusion: What You Gain from Learning This

If you have never written this way, this is the time to begin practicing it.  At first, when you practice it, it may seem very obvious and at times even inefficient.  In the world of art, starting painters want to immediately paint wonderful abstracts or scenes, but they need to first learn how to paint a good vase and piece of fruit; once they have mastered that, then they can paint other things clearly, subtly, and beautifully. 

Similarly, the idea of the pattern above is to learn it first, no matter how clunky it may feel.  Then, as you practice it--and depending on your major or profession--you can gradually learn to use it in a much more efficient way, making it seem effortless and even in some types of writing, very graceful.  The trick is to simply start practicing it, have patience, and learn to make it your own. 

As you gradually master this kind of structured writing in your body sections, you'll see three results.  First, you'll become more automatic at doing it, and thus you'll find yourself writing a little more in this way in your first drafts, as well.  Second, you'll learn the specific style and words for this method that are appropriate in your own discipline.  And third, your writing will be much clearer and easier to read by your audiences. 


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  7. What Is "Organizing"?

  8. Major Organization

  9. Basic Layouts

10. Typical Section

11. Paragraph Patterns

12. Intros & Conclusions

13. Details & Images



Activities Page


Universal Organizer


 Related Links in

  7. Organizing and Paragraphs

19. Visual & Multimodal Design




Updated 1 Aug. 2013

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Previous editions: Writing for School & Work, 1984-1998;, 1998-2012
6th Edition: 8-1-12, rev. 8-1-13.  Text, design, and photos copyright 2002-12 by R. Jewell or as noted
Permission is hereby granted for nonprofit educational copying and use without a written request.
Images courtesy of Barry's Clip Art, Clip Art Warehouse, The Clip Art Universe, Clipart Collection, MS Clip Art Gallery and Design Gallery Live, School Discovery, and Web Clip Art
Click here to contact the author: Richard Jewell.  Questions and suggestions are welcome.



















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