How Authors Organize Their Ideas | Reading

April 27, 2015 thetasctest

In our previous post “Settings and Organization” on the TASC Test Assessing Secondary Completion™ blog, we wrote that text structure, or organization, can reflect its writer’s characteristics of narration and thought within its narrative structure. These elements are important because they can provide TASC test readers with important insight into the author’s main idea, the meaning and importance of the passage, and the overall context.

To truly understand the impact organization has on a text, you must remember two important factors:

  • Organization can be identified.
  • Authors organize strategically.

Organization in Arguments 

It’s true that in a really good piece of writing, an author’s organization is not evident. For example, if an author is attempting to persuade you of something, she will most likely start with a thesis statement. A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the author’s argument. It is a debatable claim. You may or may not already agree with an author’s claim, and, if you don’t agree, then the point of their writing is to persuade you. In short pieces of writing, thesis statements may be one of the first sentences. However, they most often appear as the last sentence of the first paragraph.

After the thesis statement, the following paragraphs will present evidence and analysis. There are different ways of organizing evidence. Some authors prefer to start with the least persuasive evidence, while others prefer to start with the most persuasive evidence. Others still prefer to start with a counterargument, or evidence that contradicts their argument. Counterarguments may appear elsewhere in the author’s organization. A counterargument is most successful when an author uses analysis to prove that the counterargument is flawed.

The order in which the evidence and analysis is presented is important.

The final paragraph of an argumentative text like this is the conclusion. Often, conclusions remind the reader of what they have read. They reinforce the overall argument.

Organization in Stories 

Organization can be much different in fiction and creative nonfiction pieces. This is particularly because the author has a different goal; she doesn’t want to persuade the reader. Rather, she wants to tell the reader a story.

We know that authors construct outlines or narrative arcs that help them develop the action of a fiction or nonfiction piece. Instructors at Warren County Schools compare this structure to blueprints for a house. They define blueprints as text structures that are “used to organize ideas into paragraphs and to organize paragraphs into a whole writing piece.” They add that once the story is written, “the writer can go back to add text features. These are the decorative items that make the piece comfortable for the reader.” This, they note, is like the furniture and decorations you place in your house after builders use the blueprint to construct it.

The blueprints and the decorations are distinctly different as the blueprints organize the story while the decorations provide additional information and description to enhance and separate ideas and details. The instructors provide examples for both arguments and creative texts you can review to prepare for the TASC test.

Examples of Common Text Structures:

  • Cause and effect
  • Compare and contrast
  • Chronological order
  • Problem and solution
  • Description

Examples of Common Text Features:

  • Headings
  • Subheadings
  • Bold print
  • Italics
  • Columns
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