No matter what type of paper you write, it needs to have a clear thread through it, and sections need to
clearly link. One of the challenges is that writing is linear – it has a start point and an end point. By contrast,
much academic content is complex – more like a website, where things are related in many different
directions. The challenge of writing is to turn the multi-facetted nature of the content (where everything is
related and linked to everything else, like the internet) into a simple, one-directional argument. Some
general principles hold.
How should my paper be organized as a simple, one-directional argument about a complex international
political economy topic?
- At the most general level, it’s a good idea to start your paper broad,
- Have specific aims at the end of your introduction, and
- Have a detailed ‘meaty’ part in the middle.
- Towards the end, you need to get back to the big picture, preferably the same context that you
How do I make disciplinary specific technical background accessible to all readers?
The other general principle is that you must not assume background knowledge beyond the obvious in your
discipline. In other words, your chain of argument must not leave out steps that are important for the reader.
Ask yourself how you would need to explain the general gist of your paper to your friend who studies a
different discipline, or to your aunt. A good structure tends to make sense even to ‘uninformed’ people. If
they do not get the basic structure you are proposing, it’s likely that you have left out important steps in
Essay papers are fundamentally different. They have no set rules, which makes it even more important that
they follow a logical, and clearly understandable thread. Often, it is a good idea to outline what this thread
is specifically at the end of the Introduction.
Also, even though it is an essay, sub-headings can be immensely useful. Check your subheadings – if,
without any further information, they tell a logical story, you have probably worked out a useful structure.