General to specific structure

time to complete: 10 minutes

It is common in UK academic writing that the body of your writing starts in a general way, and then focuses on specifics. This is called general-specific structure or deductive structure.

This is a progression of ideas from general statements to specific detail, and it applies to paragraphs and essays as a whole.

How to organise a general-specific structure

This general-specific pattern means that the first part of the essay begins with:

  • The context of the study¬†
  • Key ideas or theories¬†
  • Background information on key elements of the research

The remainder of your writing often looks at the specifics:

  • Analysis of particular examples or case studies
  • Detailed discussion of key ideas in the context of these examples
  • Development of your own argument based on these examples

Here is an example of a paragraph from an Engineering essay that moves from a general to specific point in one paragraph through the use of an illustrated example. Read the paragraph and notice how ideas move from general to specific. The darker colours represent general and the lighter more specific: