Patterns of Organization
Separating supporting points from main
ideas is an important reading skill. The
organization of the supporting details will
help you understand how an author thinks.
Detecting the patterns of organization of the
major and minor details can help with
comprehension and retention.
The main idea…
The thesis or main idea is usually a good
predictor of the organization of an
essay or paragraph.
Main Idea
Text
Topic Sentence
Paragraph
Thesis
Essay
Theme
Story, novel, play
Signal Words
 Signal
words, also known as transitions,
are words which indicate the relationship
between ideas, and the organization of the
details.
Time Order / Sequence Pattern
1.
Items are listed in the order in which they occurred or in a
specifically planned order in which they must develop. In this case,
the order is important and changing it would change the meaning.
2.
specific order required:
chronological,
WHAT
sequential, spatial, etc.
HOW
The colonists’ war for independence was marked by four major
events. First, the battle of Lexington and Concord occurred when the
British clashed with the colonists on April 19, 1775. Second, The British
drove the Americans from their positions at Bunker Hill on June 17,
1775. Third, General Washington gained a victory at Princeton on
January 3, 1777. Fourth, on October 19, 1781, the British surrendered in
the war’s last major battle. These four major events were deciding
factors in the colonists’ war for independence.
SIGNAL WORDS of Time Order / Sequence
before
how
when
subsequently
ultimately
immediately
initially
presently
first, second, etc.
later
finally
then
previously
next
meanwhile
after
formerly
last
4 Major Events in Colonists War for Independence
April 19,1775
Clash at Lexington and Concord
June 17, 1775
American victory at Bunker Hill
Jan. 3, 1777
Washington’s victory at Princeton
Oct. 19, 1781
British surrender at Yorktown
The COMPARE / CONTRAST Pattern
Items are related by the comparisons (similarities) that
are made or by the contrasts (differences) that are
presented.
> two or more persons, places, things
WHAT
During the War for Independence, the British and American armies
were very different. The British army was composed of professional
soldiers, while the American army was made up of civilians who knew
little about military strategy and were untrained for warfare. Although
the British were skilled soldiers, the colonists had one advantage- they
were more familiar with the terrain than their enemy. The English used
cash and credit to outfit their army with uniforms, arms, and
ammunition, but the American troops usually supplied their own arms
and often wore only the clothing of the day, because there was no official
government with tax or money or credit. All of these facts demonstrate
how different the British and American armies were when the fought in
the War for Independence.
Signal Words: Compare/Contrast
COMPARE
as
similarly
at the same time
like
as well as
in comparison
both
all
by the same token
furthermore
CONTRAST
but
on the other hand
in spite of
conversely
despite
however
nonetheless
on the contrary
rather
nevertheless
notwithstanding
though
yet
regardless
whereas
although
in contrast
unlike
for all that
even though
The Cause / Effect Pattern
This pattern describes or discusses an event or action
that is caused by another event or action.
WHAT happened? (effect)
WHY did it happen? (cause)
Why
In order to refill the treasury depleted by its many wars,
What
the English Parliament passed the Stamp Act in 1765. It
required colonists to buy stamps to be placed on legal papers,
diplomas and newspapers.
Signal Words- CAUSE / EFFECT
CAUSE
EFFECT
reason
due to
on account of
leads to
led to
since
because
outcome
result
as a result
therefore
thus
consequently
hence
for this reason
finally
CAUSES
EFFECTS
war debts - drain on
Treasury
Stamp act
Colonists’ protests
“taxation without
representation”
repeal of Stamp Act
Problem-Solution Pattern
The text presents a significant problem and
explains it in detail. Then, a possible solution is
proposed. Sometimes, only the problem is
presented because there is no solution.
Readings answer the questions:
“What is the problem?”
“What is a possible solution?”
Signal Words: Problem and Solution
o problem, need, difficulty, dilemma, enigma,
challenge, issue
o answer, propose, suggest, indicate, solve,
resolve, improve, plan, respond to a need
Thesis example: Since pollution has a detrimental impact
on modern living standards, a key solution is increased
recycling of waste products.
Definition / Classification Pattern
In this pattern, a word or concept is
introduced then explained or described.
An example of its usage could follow. The
pattern is very close to illustration or
description. Readings answer the question:
“What is it?”
Signal Words: Definition / Classification
 define as, is, known, the term means, is
stated as, is used to mean…
 for example, to illustrate, for instance, such
as, specifically…
 i.e., e.g.
Thesis Example: Ragtime music is a term that
identifies one style of music that developed at
the turn of the twentieth century. Played
primarily by piano, the “Rocking Horse Rag” is an
excellent short sample of ragtime.
Description Pattern
Description is like listing; the characters that make
up a description are no more than a simple listing
of details.
Frequently in textbook reading an
entire paragraph is devoted to
defining a complex term or idea.
The information listed may be
items, facts, reasons, examples,
features or characteristics.
Signal Words: Description
in addition
another
for example
several
various
many
numerous
some others
WHAT
furthermore
finally
too
also
Many modern people are turning themselves into social
victims. One example is a Tennessee woman who is suing
McDonald’s because she was badly burned on the chin by a
hot pickle in her hamburger. A Canadian woman is another
example. She wants to ban the South Park television show
because her son Kenny is victimized by the show’s Kenny
character, who is killed in each episode.
Adapted from:
http://www.montgomerycollege.edu/~steuben/Patterns%20of%20Organization.pdf
www.teachershavemerit.org/NCEA/Informational%20Writing%20.ppt
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