Evaluating and Revising Organization for a Particular Purpose

A photograph of the board game Monopoly. It shows the game board, the cards, the game money, and a pair of dice.

Source: Monopoly: The Heirloom Edition, squareh00r, Flickr

Let’s suppose you have written an essay about how much fun it is to play a board game on a rainy day. You want to make the point that this is something families can do together, so you emphasize the connection with your sisters, mother, and father. You also include lots of typical conversation to give an impression of how the game leads to good family talk.

Now, however, you want to use this essay to present the idea that board games can be intellectually challenging. You want to emphasize the skill involved rather than the mellow mood of the experience. How should you change your organization?

Some parts of your essay will, of course, remain the same. You are revising, not starting from scratch. Some parts you will want to change so that you accomplish your purpose: you no longer want to just make board games seem like a good way to have fun with your family; you want to show that board games can be intellectually challenging. You will need to revise the organization of the essay, the way it begins, the topics it emphasizes, and the topics it includes.

Look at the descriptive statements about the unrevised essay below. Decide whether the part of the essay described needs to be revised or can be left as it is. Choose your response by clicking “Yes” or “No.”

  1. You have started by describing an afternoon during a summer rain when you and several family members spent a few hours playing Clue. You have included dialogue and some moments when everyone was enjoying the game.
  2. Does this need to be revised for the essay on the challenge of board games?

    Try Again. The introduction could begin with the scene described above, but should shift at some point toward your new thesis: that board games can be challenging.

    Correct! This is a perfectly good way to start the essay, but the introduction should also include a thesis sentence that announces the main idea.

  3. You have included this statement at the end of the introduction: “I will always remember that game of Clue and how close I felt to my family as I played the game with them. Since then board games have become an important part of our time together.”
  4. Does this need to be revised for the essay on the challenge of board games?

    Correct! You must revise this thesis statement. You might observe that in the midst of having fun, you were also facing an intellectual challenge.
    Try Again. If this statement comes as the end of the introduction, consider revising so that it introduces the idea of board games being challenging.

  5. You emphasize the fun involved in assessing suspects and describe your way of narrowing down the possibilities by a process of elimination.
  6. Does this need to be revised for the essay on the challenge of board games?

    Try Again. Some words may need to be changed to give the description a different feel, but organizationally, including this fits both essays.
    Correct! Even though some parts of the description could be revised, this description will fit well in both essays.

  7. You include an analogy comparing the board game with doing a jigsaw puzzle together. You point out that several people can put together a jigsaw puzzle at once, but they will spend most of the time talking with one other. The puzzle becomes an excuse to be together.
  8. Does this need to be revised for the essay on the challenge of board games?

    Correct! The analogy you use for the revised essay should support the point you want to make. The analogy should focus on the intellectual part of the experience, not on how it brings people together.
    Try Again. Organizationally, an analogy is a significant part of your essay. This one will confuse readers who expect your essay to show how challenging board games can be.

  9. You include references to other board games your family enjoys playing together including Hungry Hungry Hippos, Candy Land, and Chutes and Ladders.
  10. Does this need to be revised for the essay on the challenge of board games?

    Correct! It is a good idea to use some examples besides Clue, but this list does not include any games that are considered intellectually challenging.
    Try Again. Using some other examples of games besides Clue is important, but use challenging games: Monopoly, Scrabble, and Risk would be good examples.

We have looked at how elements of organization such as how to begin, which topics to emphasize, and which topics to include are affected by an author’s purpose. Now let’s try actually making some notes about these aspects of the organization in revision of an essay.

A drawing of the character Tom Sawyer. He is an adolescent wearing a brimmed hat with no shoes on his feet.

Source: Tom Sawyer 1876 frontispiece, True Williams, Wikimedia

We will pretend that you have already written an essay about a group of students preparing for and presenting a scene from Tom Sawyer. Suppose you wrote this essay with the purpose to entertain while showing how students get along and sometimes don’t get along when they work together. Now you want to revise it to be instructive, to suggest to your readers how they could adapt another fictional scene for a different class presentation. In other words, you want to revise the essay to help someone undertaking a similar project.

Below you will find an outline of the essay indicating its beginning, its emphasis, and its included topics. After you read the description of each part of the essay, click on the possible revision that seems best to you.

Original version:

The essay begins by describing a conversation among the group that is supposed to prepare the play. They plan and disagree and argue and finally agree on a way to present the scene where Tom Sawyer tricks his friends into whitewashing Aunt Polly’s fence.

How would you revise?

Do nothing. This is a great way to show how much fun it is to plan and perform.
Try Again. It might be better to begin with the promise of a good result: the success of the final performance. If you start by describing the disagreements, readers might think you are not going to help them.

Start with something different. Begin by describing the successful final performance. Lead into a description of the purpose of this essay. Include the description of the planning meeting later in the essay.

Correct! This gives readers a vision of the payoff, a reason to work through the difficulties of collaborating on a presentation.

Reduce the description of the meeting and include instead a list of important aspects of a good planning meeting.
Try Again. Some readers will want to immediately get to the point. However, most will welcome an introduction that shows the end result.

A photograph of a basketball rim, backboard, and net outside.

Source: Basketball, Chiceaux, Flickr

Original version:

The essay continues chronologically to the writing of the script. The students all gather at one person’s house and have refreshments, write up the script with everyone suggesting lines, and then play some basketball in the driveway.

How would you revise?

Do nothing. This is a great way to show how much fun it can be to write the script.
Try Again. This might make an excellent diary entry, but instead discuss how things might go wrong and how they can be redirected so that the writing gets done.

Include the description of the writing but highlight what the students learned about making decisions in a group.
Correct! Both a description of the experience and comments about and reflections on the experience are important.

Omit the description of this meeting. Add an outline of the important aspects of a good writing session.
Try Again. Your authority on this topic comes from your experience. You need to describe the session as well as what you learned from it.

Original version:

The essay has a paragraph about rehearsal including that several people forgot lines and others dressed up in improvised costumes to be silly.

How would you revise?

Do nothing. This is a great way to show how much fun it is to play and perform.
Try Again. The purpose of the essay is not to reminisce.

Include some of this to indicate how collaborating doesn’t necessarily go the way you expect, but also include a list of what is necessary and how certain problems can be solved.
Correct! It is important to ride two horses at the same time: Discuss hints for doing this project successfully but also describe how the process often looks in real life.

Add an anecdote about dressing up as a child and how much fun it used to be to pretend you were grown up.
Try Again. This is seriously off topic. It does not inform a reader about how to succeed or what to expect with a performance project.

A photograph of several high school students and adults standing together and applauding

Source: Applause, polychromaticStrobe, Flickr

Original version:

The essay emphasizes the performance during class, the applause, the teacher’s compliments, and the celebration after school.

How would you revise?

Do nothing. This is a great way to show how much fun it is to play and perform.
Try Again. It is good to allow readers a vision of the payoff, but there is a better answer.

Go into more detail about how the teacher graded this and how the grade on this project affected the overall grades of the students who participated.
Try Again. This focus on grading is irrelevant to the purpose of the essay.

Keep some description of the performance and appreciation but emphasize the aspects of the project that made it worth doing. Make some comments on what you would like to do differently if you decide to do another presentation like this.
Correct! This is a better choice than the first option. It includes reflections and how you would change things next time. Ideas for improvement are the most important part of an informational essay.