Organizing and Categorizing Ideas, Concepts and Information

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  • 0:28 Narrative
  • 0:54 Organizing in Space…
  • 1:48 Comparison/Contrast
  • 2:58 Problem and Solution
  • 3:47 General/Specific and…
  • 4:33 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Cathy Wilson

Cathy Wilson has taught college literature and composition, junior-high and high-school English, and secondary art. She has a master's degree in American Literature.

In this lesson, you will learn clear, simple ways to group your ideas together. First, you'll figure out what the paper is about, and then the rest is easy!

Organizing Your Ideas

You probably sort things out all the time - socks for the sock drawer, forks and spoons in the silverware drawer. Maybe you even sort out your songs on your phone or your mp3 player - by album, artist, or your favorites in a playlist.

It's the same thing we do when we sort out ideas for a paper, and it can be just as easy. Here are a few tips for sorting out ideas for the papers that you write.


If you are writing a story, which your teacher may also call a narrative, your paper will be easy to organize. Just be sure to put your ideas in order: first, second, third, and so on. Be sure you get everything in the right order. There's nothing more annoying than hearing, 'Oh, wait a minute! I forgot to say that back when she was thirteen, she got her first dog!' or something like that.

Organizing in Space

If you are writing about where things are located - whether in a small space, like a drawer or a room, or a big space, like a neighborhood or even a town - you can organize your ideas by where things are located - from one side to the other, from the center and outwards, bottom to top, and so on. You might organize a paper this way if you are describing something, which your teacher may call a description paper.

By Importance

You can figure out what your most important idea is and start with that first. For example, if you're trying to convince someone of something, like changing a dress-code rule at school or adding a salad bar to the lunchroom, you might start with your most important point. Sometimes, though, you start with your least important point and work up to your most powerful idea at the end.


Your teacher may sometimes assign you a comparison/contrast paper. Comparing means finding the ways things are alike, while contrasting means finding ways things are different. There are two ways to do this.

In the first way, you can put all the similarities together and then put all the differences together. As an example, you could write all the ways that baseball and football are the same in one part of your paper, while you might put all the ways that baseball and football are different in another part of your paper.

Comparison Contrast

Or, the second way, you could alternate between the ways they are similar and different. For example, if you were comparing and contrasting two friends, you might start out by writing about their height. You could say, 'Joanna is tall, but Susie is short,' and write details for each one.

Then you might write about their talents. You could say, 'Joanna is artistic, while Susie is musical,' and write all the details about each one. You would continue on explaining different characteristics for each friend.

Problem and Solution

If you need to write about how to solve a problem, you can use the same two ways of organizing as you did in comparison/contrast. You could either write everything about the problem and then everything about the solution, or you could write about different parts of the problem and a solution for each part.

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