Organizing a Multiple-Subject PaperWriter's Web
(printable version here)

Many assignments will ask you to compare or contrast two (or more) different things, such as a past lifestyle and a present one, or a common issue in two literary works. When you write these sorts of papers, try to integrate your sets of ideas as much as possible.

Try to isolate several issues to discuss. For a sample history paper, let's assume that you have decided to discuss marriage customs in two societies. If you discuss marriage customs in the Middle Ages and then switch to discussing the life of a young person in the present, it is clear that you haven't planned your paper well.

Instead, choose closely related issues; for example, you might choose to talk about marriage and child raising in both societies. You might organize the paper like this:

A. Marriage

    1. The Middle Ages
    2. Today

B. Child Raising

    1. The M.A.
    2. Today

As you work on the part of the paper that discusses the present, remember what you just said about the Middle Ages. You may begin some sentences with phrases such as these: "As compared to the Middle Ages..." or "On the other hand, today...." Be sure to move back and forth between the two time periods you discuss so that there are not two distinct and independent sections of your paper.

Avoiding the "Two Essay" Trap

There is a danger that such an essay might resemble two "mini-essays," one about marriage and the other about children. Using strong transitions would help, or you might consider a second organizational option. First, discuss the Middle Ages; you could deal with marriage and child raising in that era, then marriage and child raising today. This paper would look like this:

A. Middle Ages

1. Marriage
2. Child Raising

B. Today

1. Marriage
2. Child Raising

As you plan your own papers, decide which approach (perhaps you can come up with another approach on you own) would work best with your assignment. Make several outlines and sketch out your ideas before you decide which is best.

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