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Developing academic English

Structure of text

Organise the response in an appropriate way.

  • Is the text organised in a way best suited to the task you were given?
  • Is the introduction appropriate to the type of assignment text?
  • Does each section develop a specific point - with explanations and examples as appropriate - and are the points linked to provide a logical flow of ideas?
  • Are your claims supported by evidence which you have critically evaluated?
  • Does the conclusion follow from the rest of the text?

In the following video, this experienced OU academic describes one useful approach to organising your information in an essay-style assignment.

The house analogy - a way to structure text


Words on screen: MASUS Area 2. Structure and development of text. The house analogy, a way to structure text.

Chris Lee: To help students structure and develop their texts we encourage them to do plans. So to help with that what one of my colleagues always says to her students, and I've picked up, is to pretend that you're somebody selling a house and you're showing you know, the customers, the clients around the house. The introduction to the house and what different rooms you're about to see, that would be the introductory paragraph. Then you move into the living room and say, 'This is the living room' which is your introductory sentence, and then you describe what's in the living room, that's the rest of the paragraph. Then you move into the next room which is the next paragraph, introduce that, give the detail and then move on like that. And that seems to help students organise things.

When using the house analogy, moving into a new room is like introducing a new theme. You need to give the introduction to the room first, for example say, This is the dining room where we eat, rather than saying the detail like, Look at the knives and forks, so that would help a student give a clear key opening sentence and then fill in the detail later, rather than the other way round.

The room analogy can help students deal with the logic of the argument, and linking paragraphs which is one of the key difficulties, I think, for many students. You don't just leap from one room to the other but you make a sort of transition. For example, I suppose if you were going up the stairs to the bedroom you'd have to finish the downstairs and use the stairs to link to the bedroom. In a similar way, a student cant leap from one bit of the essay to the next, you have to link the paragraphs together logically for the reader so that there's a flow in the argument which makes the logic stand out.

Planning your writing

Before you start writing you should have an idea of what the assignment requires of you. These resources will help you identify key words in the question and help you plan your assignment.

  • Understanding the question

    Tells you how to identify key words and phrases in a question. Includes activities and video extract with tutor tips.

  • Preparing assignments

    Gives you an outline of the key stages in planning an assignment, with video extracts offering tips from students.

Overarching structure of your assignment

The following resources will help you understand what the overarching structure of your assignment should look like.

Linking ideas into a logical flow

It's important to indicate the relationship between different points and ideas in your assignments. The following activities from the University of Southampton, allow you to explore how to link your ideas in a logical and flowing way.

Also see Using linking words which includes an engaging activity demonstrating how you might use linking words in your writing.

Last updated 2 months ago