Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Order of Things

When I read high schoolers' senior research papers and college entrance essays, I usually find the biggest hiccup in organization.

Voice is high (high schoolers have no problem telling all about themselves), but the paragraphs, though generally cohesive within themselves, are wonkily ordered, with evasive intros and double, if any, conclusions.

Somehow, after graduation, the organization issue seems to straighten itself out. And while I can't help wondering if sequencing is a product of human development, I have come up with some tricks:

Does the essay really start at the beginning? Or is intro more compelling one sentence, maybe one paragraph in?

A trick for this is to ask how the intro starts--with setting, scene, imagery, question, statement...

Do you already know the conclusion? Because this will lend itself to a strong, focused body.

Is there something in the middle, even in/toward the end, that could be moved way up?

Are transitional phrases used to show the reader You Are Here?

What kind(s) of conclusion(s) are used: summary/revisitation, projection, question, quote, imagery, call-to-action/examination?

And how about title--which must be written last: is it clever, reflective of content?

Hmmm... Lots to think about.

Coming soon: Content.


Angela Felsted said...

My high school papers were awful, if I recall right. I always ended with some sappy sentence that dripped with cheese.

Debbie Curran said...

I was the one who just wrote it out start to finish, slapped my name on it and handed it in. I'd love to send apology notes to all my teachers! ;)