Alex E. Blazer Curriculum Vita Teaching Portfolio

Organization of an Analytical, Argumentative Paper

As this is a class devoted to the study of literature, the emphasis will not be on teaching you to write papers.  Instead, I'll assume you've practiced that in high school, your first college composition class, and/or your second-level writing class.  If so, this handout will provide a refresher; if not, this handout will help you efficiently construct an effectively organized paper.  If you desire more refreshers and more specifics, check out the Center for the Study and Teaching of Writing website.


I expect formal papers to be both analytical and argumentative.  That is, your paper’s dual goals should be to 1) do a close reading of the text or texts with which your working and then 2) offer up your own interpretation of that text(s) built upon class discussion and your own world view.  As this handout only discusses organizational format, please refer to the prompt offered in the syllabus or the course site for more specific parameters of what texts to analyze. My approach to structure, indeed the typical or general organization of an academic paper, can be found in this rough outline.  Note the genre's rules: introduction which tells the reader what the paper is going to argue, proof via textual evidence and more argument, re-proof via rebuff (debate your idea with its critical opposition), and conclusion which tells the reader what's just been proven.  You may find this outline helpful to use as a guide:

Here's a more formal outline of how a short academic examination may be structured.  Note how each support flows from and directly relates to the thesis/controlling idea/argument in some significant way.  (4X) stands for the understood "Therefore/Because/For example" connectivity test.  If the support answers the question "Therefore, what?,"  "Because why?," or "What, for example?" prompted by the preceding statement, then that support is relevant.  The test promotes not only critical reflection and critical analysis but also coherence. (It doesn't allow the writer to meander, but rather to consciously progress and direct her composition purposively.)  Note further that the overarching arguments (opinions, generalizations) gradually are filtered into direct evidence (facts, specific examples, and quotes from the text you’re working with).  Of course, you may vary from this format as it is very constraining and limiting stylistically; indeed, I encourage you too adapt it to your own writing style.  However, be certain to utilize an effective organization, one which offers illustrative support for your argumentative thesis.

  1. Introduction
    1. Grabber (aka, hook): gets the audience interested in the paper
    2. Related stuff: not necessarily going to be proven or analyzed but somehow relevantly/appropriately commences thinking on the subject (usually very interrelated with the grabber's content)
    3. Blueprint: outlines sub-topics and supports for the thesis
    4. Thesis Statement: the argument that guides and coheres the discursive analysis
  2. Body Paragraph: no less than three, each should not only directly relate to the thesis but also support it in some way (a major support of the thesis)
    1. Topic Sentence: argumentatively and logically supports the overarching purpose of the paper, most notably stated in the introduction's thesis statement
      1. major support: though still argumentative, it is somewhat transitory in that it, more often than not, also incorporates a reading or an interpretation of a specific example
        1. minor support: the specific example, the evidence that proves the argument
        2. minor support
          1. minor minor support: this really delves into the specific nuances of the argument, but isn't always appropriate or necessary, depending on the nature of the argument, analysis, and evidence
          2. minor minor support
      2. major support
        1. minor support
        2. minor support
      3. major support
        1. minor support
        2. minor support
      4. summary thus far, mini-conclusion of this paragraph, or transition to either an extension of this paragraph's argument in another paragraph or the next main thesis support (aka body paragraph)
  3. Body Paragraph -- see above
  4. Body Paragraph -- see above
  5. Body Paragraph -- see above --
    1. That addresses and refutes arguments in opposition to your own
    2. (You can also engage counterargument throughout your paper with each main point)
  6. VI. Conclusion
    1. Summarizes arguments and points already made (and does not offer new evidence)
    2. Restates thesis
    3. (Possibly) ends with an epiphany or a moment of revelation; or points to further discussion or study or to relevant issues which generated or implicated by the argument's analysis