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Class notes

(Straight outta your textbook)

Common Patterns for Organizing Information

  • Grouping items formally (formal classification)

  • Grouping items informally (informal classification)

  • Comparing alternatives

  • Describing an object (partioning) note: I call this component parts

  • Describing a process (segmenting) note: I call this sequential steps

  • Describing cause and effect

  • Persuading that a cause and effect relationship exists

  • Describing a problem and its solution

  • Combining pattern

Beth explains with Legos

Formal Classification
  • Every item has a place

  • Every item has only one place

  • Groupings are useful to your readers

Group items according to some observable (objective) characteristic that every item possesses. There are usually several. Imagine sorting your Legos into bins. You could sort them by color, by size, or by theme (eg, the Star Wars collection). 

Informal Classification

Basically what you use when formal classification doesn't work or doesn't fit your topic, audience, purpose, or occasion. In informal classification, you replace the objective principle of classification with a subjective one. For example, you could sort your Legos by the ones that you use most often or the ones that you like best. These are subjective principles rather than objective ones, but they might be the most useful organizing strategies for particular situations. 


These are usually written 

  • To help readers make a decision, or

  • To help readers understand research findings

Comparisons can be organized in divided patterns or alternating patterns. To continue our Lego example, you could compare Lego brand bricks to other brands. A divided pattern would place the objects (alternatives) side by side and use component parts or features (criteria) under each heading. For example: ​

Lego brand                Duplo brand

Colors                          Colors

Quality                         Quality

Variety                          Variety

An alternating pattern would organize the information by the component parts or features (criteria). For example










Describe an object

This is a pretty simple one: you just identify the component parts and label them by location or function. Here's your Lego example: 

Little nobby things

Smooth sides

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