Organisation: in more depth

time to complete: 10 minutes

Some genres of text are so distinctive in their organization that they are easy to identify, such as a dissertation. If you are lucky, they may also include the type of genre they belong to at the top of the page, such as Book Review or Lab Report.

However, there is variation even within the same genre: for example, a Book Review in an academic journal might be different in terms of length or language to a Book Review that a module assignment may ask you to do. For this reason, you need to be sure you chose the right type for your assignments.

When in doubt, always ask your module instructor to understand what they expect you to produce.

The examples below come from the same broad genre: a peer-reviewed journal article. Text 1 is a text from philosophy and Text 2 is a text from sociology. They may both be referred to as “essays” or “research papers,” which can be confusing, but they are not the same. They share some features but not others. So, let’s find out by comparing their organisation.

Task: Look at the table of contents (organisation) reproduced below, and identify which organisation features they share and which they don’t. e.g. Text 2 includes an Abstract while Text 1 does not. You can check your answers below after. 

Text 1

Marcellesi, A., (2013). Is Race a Cause? Philosophy of Science [online]. 80(5), 650–659.

1 Introduction

2  The Counterfactual Approach

3 The Argument against Race Being a Cause

4 Against the Argument against Race Being a Cause

   4.1 Why Believe Premise 5?

   4.2 Why Believe Premise 1?

5 A Positive Argument for Race Being a Cause

6 Conclusion









Text 2

Ridolfo, H., Chepp, V. & Milkie, M.A. (2013). Race and Girls’ Self-Evaluations: How Mothering Matters. Sex Roles [online]. 68, 496–509




   Theoretical Background

      Self-Evaluation of Adolescent Girls

      Mothers and Adolescent Daughters

      Current Study and Hypothesis


   Data and Sample

   Dependent Variables

   Independent Variables

   Control Variables



   Problem-Solving Ability



  • Broad structure: introduction, main body, references

  • Continuous text

  • Academic author

  • Lengthy footnotes


  • Text 2 doesn’t have a conventional conclusion.

  • Text 1 has a structure that is standard in philosophy (arguments for/against).

  • Text 2 has a standard research structure (abstract, literature review, methodology, results, discussion).


  • The section “Limitations and future Research” in Text 2 includes the common features of a conclusion. 

  • One could say that the two texts represent two sub-genres of “peer-reviewed journal articles.

Unlike the examples in the previous section, with these two texts we cannot tell the difference at first glance – we need to look more closely at the organization. In the next section, we look at the language of texts which can be very helpful in identifying genres that are organized in a similar way. 

Language is also important for your own assignments because when you are asked to produce a specific genre, you need to not only have the appropriate structure, but also the appropriate language.


  • Just like there are many genres in both academic and non-academic writing, there are also variations of genres, which we call sub-genres.
  • To identify the type of text we’re looking at, we need to look at the overall structure of the text, and in particular the headings of each section.
  • With experience and exposure to multiple types of texts you will become better able to tell apart the different sub-categories in your field of study.