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Organizing Ideas: sub-module 2 of 3 of planning your writing

When you are thinking about writing or about communicating your ideas, in other words, ‘processing it in your head’, ideas can come rapidly and randomly. When you’re planning your writing, you need to put your ideas in a recognized order so that your intended reader can follow your thinking.
It helps to be aware of the different patterns of organization at the point where you are generating your ideas. It serves as a map that keeps you on track and demonstrates to your reader that there is an overall order to your ideas.



  • Don’t just jump into writing. Planning pays!
  • Use a planner or organizer that matches your ‘learning preference’.Some people like sequential planners; others prefer visual or graphic organizers that are both brainstorming and outlining tools.
  • Use the ‘Talk Test’: Discuss your ideas with someone else.Early feedback can save you major revisions later on. Just hearing yourself talk through your ideas is often a good indicator of how confident you are at this stage of the writing process.

Study Tools

Ways to Organize Your Writing

Patterns of Organization

When you are reading your assignment and making sure you understand what you are being asked to do, it is also important to start to think about how you are going to organize your writing. Thinking about the different patterns of organization helps you not only to understand the expectations of the assignment but to generate ideas as well.

Using a specific pattern of organization will allow you to clearly outline your ideas. Using a recognizable pattern also makes it easier for readers to understand those ideas.

Here are some patterns of organization that are used to organize writing.

  • Description Ask yourself: What specific person, place, thing, or idea are you describing? Include a topic word or phrase.
  • Cause and Effect Ask yourself: What are the results, outcomes, consequences, or the effects of an action or non-action. The pattern of a cause and effect structure is often 'Because x happened or didn't happen, the effect is y'.
  • Sequence Ask yourself: Is this event taking place over time? This pattern can include steps or references to time such as dates.
  • Compare and Contrast Ask yourself: What are you comparing? How are they the same? How are they different?
  • Problem and Solution Ask yourself: What is the problem and what is the solution? Include the problem first followed by the solution.

Graphic Organizers

Watch this video to learn more about types of graphic organizers and when they are useful.

Graphic organizers are great tools for learners who have strong visual preferences or who have strong visual memories. While we are treating them as pre-writing tools, they also make good note-taking templates for the right type of learner, since they help a reader to consolidate print-heavy information from another source— for example, a textbook— into a visual format.

The type of graphic organizer that you use will depend on what you want to do. You can use an organizer for the following reasons:

Brainstorming is the process of creative thinking to generate ideas. Mind maps or cluster diagrams are useful tools for brainstorming. They can help you branch out from an idea or subject to related ideas or components of a subject.

Mind mapping websites:

Comparing and contrasting two or more things can help you better understand ideas. This technique involves examining how things are similar and how they differ from each other. Examples of graphic organizers for brainstorming are Matrix diagrams and Venn diagrams.

The Matrix Organizer helps you to organize your research findings based on similar points of comparison, and enables you to note significant differences.

The Venn diagram uses overlapping circles to categorize the similarities and differences of two or more things, such as two articles on the same subject.

Using a graphic organizer can help you analyze the causes of events or solutions to problems. The Fishbone Diagram can be used to organize writing tasks that focus on cause and effect (with the cause above and the effect below) or a problem and solution.

How to Use Concept Mapping

Watch this video to learn how to break down complex topics using concept mapping.