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Arkansas State University

Information Literacy: Organize

Information literacy is the set of abilities requiring individuals to "recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information."


Think of organizing as your road map. By the time you have everything gathered, analyzed, and in order, you'll know where you're going. Writing your paper will be that much easier because you'll know what you're going to say, how you're going to say it and in what order -- in other words, you've basically already mentally written your paper. That means less time writing and less frustration. 


If needed, create an outline to help organize the information.

Outlines can be powerful tools. Don't be afraid or ashamed to make use of them. Even if you don't write down an outline, plan it out in your head. It doesn't have to take a lot of time - you can do it while you're washing your hair!

Arrange the sources to match the points in your paper.

Think about what points you want to cover and in what order. Most papers are arranged from weakest point to strongest. Often, from the point with the least supporting sources to the most. If you arrange your sources before writing, you will have them easily accessible and won't have to waste time sorting through piles of paper.

Double check for gaps in your information.

Once you organize your information, you may find that you've missed a point that you didn't catch during the analyzing process. You may also find that you have too many sources for one point and not enough for another. Go back and fill in the gaps.

Does the information flow and make sense?

You shouldn't present historical information at the end of the paper while introducing future trends at the beginning. Make sure your information flows correctly and that the train of thought is easy to follow.

Are there patterns in the information?

If you notice that several of your sources point to the same future trend, that's something you probably want to include in your paper.


Introductory paragraphs can be hard to start. One of the greatest advantages of organizing your information before writing your paper is that your introductory paragraph (and paper) will follow the same order - you just need to add a beginning and an end:

Beginning Sentence(s)   Here's your chance to introduce your topic and grab your reader's attention.  NEVER start your paper saying, "In this paper, I will" or "This paper is about." Start strong.  In your research, have you come across an odd factoid or interesting quote? Try starting your paper with that.  How about starting with an anecdotal story or humor?
Middle Sentences   The middle sentences cover the different points in your paper.  If you've already planned which order to write the points in the paper, you already know which order to place them in your introductory paragraph. (Hint: it's the same order).  You don't have to include every single point, but make sure the important ones get in there. 
Ending Sentence   All the previous sentences have been building up to this: your thesis. Your thesis statement expresses the overall idea of your paper and show where you stand on the topic.  Indiana University has a great tutorial for writing thesis statements.


Click to see an introductory paragraph planned out: