How to structure a text?
How do you start writing?
The blank-page-syndrome is the fear of every student. According to your schedule, you should write your introduction today but you can’t put a single word onto the page. Sheer panic breaks out.
You already know that you can’t write your entire paper chronologically. Similarly, you can’t write your text perfectly the first time you work on it. Start by making an overview of all the questions that you should be answered and answer them schematically before you start writing full text.
Now that you know which questions you want to answer and how you will answer them, you can start structuring your content further. As soon as you have structured your content, you can start looking for links between the different parts of your text. Is the link a cause, consequence, or just the next point in your enumeration? But we will focus on this later, when discussing signal words.
Don’t let perfectionism get in the way
A first version is a first version. When you write a sentence, it doesn’t have to be perfect immediately. Just make sure you have something in writing first, no matter how badly it is written. Afterwards, you can go over your text again for a second and third time to improve it. It is easier to revise a text than to write it. This will save you time and avoid frustration.
Sections and paragraphs
Your paper has different elements, namely chapters, sections and paragraphs. These are the most important elements that give your text structure. A chapter is divided into sections and sections, in turn, are divided into paragraphs. Using these elements in a good way makes your text clear and enjoyable to read.
Chapters consist of sections. A section contains an argumentation on a specific topic. In shorter texts, a section can also be an entire chapter. In longer texts, sections often have subtitles.
A section contains a complete argumentation on a specific topic. Start your section with a short introduction on what you will discuss in your section and end it with a short conclusion.
Sections contain argumentations and each argumentation consists of different arguments, which form the paragraphs of your text. This means that every paragraph discusses only one argument which supports your argumentation. Paragraphs are visually separated in two ways: they always start on a new line and they could be intended (which means the first line of the paragraph is positioned a bit more to the right than the other lines).
Easy on the eye
Paragraphs shouldn’t be too short. An average paragraph is between three and ten sentences long but this is not the most important thing. Paragraphs do not only structure the content of your paper but they also make sure that the page is well-balanced and easy on the eye. Take a step back and have a look at the layout of your text. If you feel like there is too much going on because you have too much intended text or because your text is too long, you should decide to restructure your text. In any case, make sure you have enough white space on your pages.
Paragraphs stand on their own
Write paragraphs that stand on their own. The first sentence of every paragraph should clarify what the main idea is of that paragraph. The other sentences clarify this further. You should be able to read the entire section by only reading the first sentences of your paragraphs.
Organic molecules which contain a three-membered ring are characterised by high ring strain as a consequence of the bond angle of about 60° instead of 109.5° for sp3- or sp2-hybridized carbon atoms. As a consequence, the synthesis of this type of molecule has been impossible for a long time. The past few decades, however, it has become possible to synthesise a wide range of (hetero)cyclic three-membered rings that were proved to be very suitable as reactive intermediaries and reagents in organic syntheses.
Heterocyclic three-membered rings are particularly useful as reagents or intermediaries in organic chemistry because of their high ring strain. This ring strain is a consequence of the bond angle of about 60° instead of 109.5° for sp3- or sp2-hybridized carbon atoms. Even though the synthesis of three-membered rings seemed impossible for a long time because of this, in the past decades, a number of techniques have emerged to synthesise these “metastable” molecules.
Some paragraphs are so-called structuring paragraphs: they give an overview of the content of a section or even the entire paper. These paragraphs are usually placed at the start and the end of chapters. At the start of a chapter, you mention what will be discussed in the chapter briefly. At the end of a chapter, you summarize what has been discussed briefly and you introduce the rest of the paper.
Even though sections and paragraphs give your paper already some structure, you also need to make sure that your argumentation is clear and that your paragraphs are linked to each other. This way, the reader can follow your argumentation easily.
To clarify these links, you need linking words. Linking words are words or expressions that establish the link between sentences. You could easily consider signal words as the glue within and between paragraphs.
Your links should be explicit. Implicit links make a text unclear and difficult to read, especially if the topic is already quite complicated. In a scientific paper, clarity always comes first.
Alcohols have a retention time of 30 to 35 seconds. Butanol has a retention time of 31 seconds. 3.3-di-t-butyl-2-methyl-butanol has a retention time of 8 seconds. Alifates have a retention time of 5 seconds to 10 seconds. Butane has a retention time of 7 seconds. The retention time depends on the affinity between the eluent and the stationary phase. The stationary phase is silica which is a polar medium. Tertiary butyl hinders the interaction with silica.
On the one hand, alcohols have a retention time of 30 to 35 seconds. Butanol, for example, has a retention time of 31 seconds. An important exception is 3.3-di-t-butyl-2-methyl-butanol, which has a retention time of 8 seconds. Alifates, on the contrary, have a retention time of 5 to 10 seconds. Butane, for example, has a retention time of 7 seconds. The difference between alcohols and alifates is due to the dependence of the retention time on the affinity between the eluent and the stationary phase. In this case, the stationary phase silica is a polar medium that has a high affinity for alcohols. Yet in the case of the alcohol 3.3-di-t-butyl-2-methyl-butanol, tertiary butyl hinders the interaction with silica.
Depending on the type of link, there are a range of signal words that you can use to establish links in your text. If you are not certain how to use these linking words in your sentence, you can always look them up in a dictionary such as Longman to see some example sentences or you can go to Google Scholar, type the linking words between citation marks and see how they are frequently used in articles.
To add an idea – additionally, also, as well as, besides, furthermore, in addition, moreover, and, not only, another
To express contrast of concession – at the same time, by contrast, however, in contrast, in spite of this, instead, nevertheless, nonetheless, on the contrary, on the other hand, still, yet, but, although, even if, even though, whereas, while, as for, contrary to, despite, in contrast to, in spite of, instead of
To give an alternative or condition – alternatively, otherwise, either, or, if, even if, on condition that, otherwise, provided that, providing that, unless, apart from
To compare – by comparison, equally, in comparison, in the same way, likewise, similarly, on the one hand, on the other hand, while, in comparison to, either, or
To restate or explain – as a matter of fact, in fact, indeed, that is, the fact is, the point is, in that, the fact being that, the point being that, in other words
To give a result – accordingly, as a result, as a consequence, hence, therefore, thus, so, so that, as a result of
To give a cause or reason – because of this, as, because, considering, for, given, in case, in view of the fact that, since, because of, due to
To give a purpose – for that purpose, to that end, in order that, in order to, so, so as to, so that, to
To given an enumeration – the first, firstly, the second, secondly, the third, thirdly, next, the last, lastly, finally
To give an example – for example, for instance, indeed, in particular, particularly, specifically, an example of, such as
To give a conclusion – briefly, in brief, , in short, in conclusion, as a conclusion, to conclude
To generalise – all in all, all things considered, as a rule, basically, generally, in general, on average, on the whole, overall
How detailed should your paper be?
Keep it concise.
Keep your reasoning clear and easy to follow by using linking words consistently, but avoid repetition. Don’t rephrase the same statement three or four times, even when it is throughout the entire paper. Always stick to the point and be straightforward in your claims. Ask yourself if a statement is supported enough by various, strong arguments and if so, never write extra lines just to fill up your paper. It might feel good to you, but for a reader or a jury member it will just cause frustration.