Everything has a form. In writing, the goal is to find a form that suits your material and purpose. You may sense a clear pattern emerging early in your writing process, or you may try out a few promising designs.

Some writers are heavy planners. They like to begin with an outline or at least a detailed understanding of where the writing will go and how it will get there. Others prefer to improvise, to follow their impulses and inspirations.

Effective organization requires you to see your subject as a whole and as a system of interrelated parts. As you move from a broad overview to a  look at an individual detail, you need to see, and let your reader see, how the two levels are related. Consider, for instance, a deck of playing cards. Fresh out of the box and wrapped in cellophane, it seems to be one single thing. Strewn randomly about the floor, each card is individual, complete, yet part of a larger system. And of course each card has parts—a front and a back, markings for suit and number.

Analysis refers to dividing a whole into parts. Synthesis refers to the process of constructing a whole from an assortment of pieces.

Many organizational patterns, especially outlines, are built on a hierarchical structure that classifies ideas and facts according to their level of generalization. At the top level is the thesis. Below this are the major conceptual divisions, each of which may be further divided along paragraph lines. This is the essential pattern of the Thesis/Support Essay, which takes the pyramidal structure through four levels (thesis, topic sentence, support sentence, detail).