Organizing a Chapter or Paper: the Micro-Structure

  • Patrick Dunleavy
Part of the Palgrave Study Skills book series (MASTSK)


The building blocks of a completed thesis are chapters. Yet if these blocks are to hold together they must themselves be effectively structured internally, so that they can bear a load rather than crumbling away under pressure. A first step then is to divide the chapter into parts. In addition, two elements of designing internal structure are commonly mishandled: devising headings and subheadings to highlight your organizing pattern; and writing the starts and ends of the chapter and its main sections. I discuss these three issues in turn.


Main Section Section Heading False Start Substantive Argument Blank Line 
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  1. 2.
    Stanislaw Lem, Solaris (London: Faber, 1970), p. 120.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Robert J. Sternberg, The Psychologist’s Companion: A Guide to Scientific Writing for Students and Researchers (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press and British Psychological Society, 1988), p. 58.Google Scholar
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    Michelangelo quoted in A. D. Sertillanges, The Intellectual Life: Its Spirits, Conditions and Methods (Dublin: Mercier Press, 1978), translated by Mary Ryan, p. 222.Google Scholar
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    Johanne Wolfgang von Goethe, quoted in R. Andrews, The Routledge Dictionary of Quotations (London: Routledge, 1987), p. 292. The same quotation from Faust is also rendered as: ‘When ideas fail, words come in very handy’, in L. D. Eigen and J. P. Siegel, Dictionary of Political Quotations (London: Robert Hale, 1994), p. 466.Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1979), translated by Alan Sheridan.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Patrick Dunleavy 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patrick Dunleavy
    • 1
  1. 1.London School of Economics and Political ScienceLondonUK

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