Structuring Support: General Considerations

Many writers start drafting an essay with the essay’s body, which consists of groups of information with topic sentences that relate to a working thesis. If you have information in groups, and especially if you have focus ideas and/or topic sentences for those groups, your task of figuring out a logical, effective order in which to present those groups becomes easier. So, start drafting the essay’s body by reviewing your working thesis, and then making conscious decisions about ordering your supporting idea groups and/or topic sentences and units of support.

Ask and answer the following questions to help you structure your support:

  • Is there a certain focus idea and idea group, or topic sentence and unit of support, that lays a foundation for other topic sentences and units of support? If so, that should come first.
  • Are there some idea groups that are linked logically or sequentially? If so, group and order those idea groups and/or topic sentences and units of support so that one leads logically into the next.
  • Is there one idea group, and/or topic sentence and unit of support that presents the most important information in the essay, or are the ideas all of equal importance? If there is one supporting unit that’s more important than the others, how might you rank the ideas so that they exist in either ascending or descending order of importance, to create a logical sequence? If all ideas are of equal importance, then what might constitute a logical sequence given your thesis, purpose, and audience?

No matter what structure you decide on, it should be organic, developing out of your purpose and your argument or assertion in the thesis. Organic refers to topic sentences and units of support that build upon one another to develop your ideas and insights, with each paragraph leading clearly and logically to the next. A general organic structure is sometimes called topical, as you extract ideas from your thesis’ angle to create a series of logically-linked units of support.


Thesis: Because preventative medicine can save money, reduce suffering, and save lives, it should be standard for medical plans to cover preventative measures.

Topic Sentence: Preventative medicine strategies, such as counseling or screening for certain diseases, often cost less than treating the disease, once it becomes established in the human body.

Topic Sentence: Preventative medicine may reduce suffering, since its overall orientation is to prevent disease and promote well-being.

Topic Sentence: Preventative medicine, in many cases, may save lives by curtailing behaviors or situations that could, unchecked, lead to full-blown illnesses.

Topic Sentence: Preventative medicine creates enough benefit to the individual as well as the overall population to become a standard in medical insurance plans.

Conclusion – Thesis & Context: Because preventative medicine has the potential for reducing costs, reducing suffering,and ultimately saving lives, we should advocate for a shift toward funding preventative measures in medical insurance plans. This shift has started to occur, but needs careful and thoughtful support to legislate inclusion. What might you do personally, locally, and nationally to support preventative medicine coverage?

If an essay’s structure—or the structure of any piece of writing—is not organic, then a reader will be confused. It will be as though someone gave you a set of directions but left out a critical right-hand turn, so that all of a sudden you’re somewhere you didn’t expect to be. The main point to remember is that one supporting idea needs to lead logically into the next.

The following video discusses organic, logical essay structure.

A Way to Double-Check Support Structure

Doing a reverse outline on your own essay draft can help you determine whether your idea structure is logical. After you draft your support, set the draft aside for a while. Then go back to it and annotate/list/outline just the main idea of each paragraph. You should be able to see at a glance if one idea leads logically and organically into the next, or if you need to add, subtract, or move ideas around.

try it

Here’s a working thesis:

Lack of preventative medicine shows we need a whole new concept of health and wellness.

Re-arrange the concepts below to create an organic structure that develops ideas logically. Note that the concepts are not yet full topic sentences; writing is not a linear process, and you can start to structure supporting ideas even before you have full topic sentences.

  1. here’s why conventional medicine is not set up for prevention
  2. we have to think more broadly about what constitutes health and wellness and how to support these attributes in many ways; in fact, we are starting to see this shift happening
  3. here’s what I mean by conventional medicine
  4. here’s what would have to happen to really do preventative medicine right