Methods of development are patterns of organization use to organize ideas about a topic. Although a lot of writing you will come across does not rely solely on one method of development, an understanding of these patterns will help you organize your ideas and get you writing more quickly.
An understanding of different methods of development and when to use them can save you valuable time in starting and organizing your essay. Many, if not most, essays by professional writers will contain elements of several types of development. A piece in the travel section of a newspaper could include narration, description, compare and contrast, classification, and illustration or example.
Narration is tells a story and explains how something happened. Generally, when writing a narrative paragraph you will usually relate events in the order in which they occurred. Your topic sentence should identify the situation or event and prepare the reader for a story.
You can write an engaging narrative about topics like losing your wallet, discovering that a friend has lied to you, or finding or getting fired from your first job. Keep in mind that in a narrative essay your readers are not looking for information: they are looking for some dramatic interest or conflict in your story. They want to be entertained or emotionally engaged.
Most narratives are written from the first person (the “I”) point of view as in the following example.
Process paragraph explains to do something in a series of steps. Also it explains how something works. Process writing need not be limited to concrete practical subjects such as building a doghouse or installing drywall. A process paragraph or essay might tell you how to plan a budget holiday, prepare for final exams, get a deal on a used car, or revive a sputtering romance. Pick a subject you know about and explain the process in logical steps.
Avoid topics like how to tie your shoes or how to bake an apple pie, which are unlikely to excite a reader. If you work out regularly, you might write about the steps to improved physical fitness. If you fish, you might offer advice on how to prepare yourself for a fishing trip. Write about what you know, and search for a unique slant on your topic.
Address the reader directly as you, but recall that there is an implied you in imperative (command) sentences. For example in the sentence, “Remove the lid.” the subject you is understood but not directly stated. Note how the reader is addressed and how the steps are organized in the following process paragraphs.
A classification paragraph, explains a subject by dividing into types or categories. Although we may not think about it much, we are constantly classifying things by breaking them into types, groups or categories. By classifying things, we better understand the distinct qualities of two subjects in the same general group. If we are shopping for a new bicycle, we have probably gone through a process of classification.
Do we want a road bike, a mountain bike, or a hybrid bike? By breaking down the larger category of bikes into different types of bikes, we are better able to understand the key features of different types of bikes and choose the type that best suits our needs.
Begin your classification paragraph or essay by breaking down your subject into at least three distinct groups or categories. If you are classifying drivers you might group them into reckless, sensible, and overly cautious. Your basis for classification then would be how they drive.
A division paragraph explains a subject by dividing it into its essential parts. Division is sometimes confused with classification, but it works a little differently. For example, if you were classifying restaurants, you might group them into fast food, ethnic, family, and gourmet. Approaching the subject of restaurants with a view to developing your essay through division, you would look at the qualities or the parts of a good restaurant such as food, service and atmosphere.
In a division essay you identify and explain the essential qualities that make up the whole. What are the qualities of the ideal city, job or friend? For some, the characteristics of the ideal city might include a pleasant climate, an attractive physical setting, and an active cultural scene, while for others ideal characteristics might include an active night life, cheap rents, good beaches, and a high numbers of single young people. Your ideal job might directly use your education and skills, present constant new challenges, and allow you to work independently. An ideal friend would be loyal, fun to be with, and mentally stimulating. You can use the same approach for any number of topics. Once you have defined the essential parts, you have the basic structure of your essay laid out.
>Comparison and Contrast
A comparison paragraph is explains how two subjects are similar or different. In our daily lives we constantly make comparisons. We compare breakfast serials, TV shows, teachers, music, girlfriends and boyfriends, jobs, etc. In fact we compare almost everything to something else. Then we make choices about what we like or don’t like and about what we want or definitely don’t want. We often don’t give much thought as to how we are making these comparisons, but usually there is an underlying logic.
By making comparisons carefully, we can make can make better choices. For example, if we are looking for a new computer we will probably look at several manufacturers and models and then make our decision. We may compare on the basis of price, features, brand reputation, and service quality. Once we have weighed all these points, we’ll decide what model to buy and where to buy it. We’ve all been through this process, but rarely have we had to write about it. Writing out our thoughts not only helps us better understand the reasons for making a decision, but can help others make more informed choices.
>Cause and Effect
Cause explains the reason why something happened, effect describes the results on an event, action or condition. There are many times when you are asked to examine a cause and effect relationship. When we visit a doctor, the doctor usually questions us carefully to determine the cause of our illness. Causes are the reasons that something happened; the causes of pollution, divorce, heart disease, anorexia, etc., can be identified and presented so that the reader gains a better knowledge of how the causes brought about certain results. Similarly, when we think of effects, we often think of benefits or advantages such as the benefits of exercise or the advantages of self-employment. Or we could look at the negative effects of a cause such as divorce, alcoholism, or global warming.
An example paragraph makes a point about a topic by providing examples to support it. An article about growing violence in kids’ sports might include several examples, which illustrate how violence has gotten out of hand in some situations. An essay about the dangers of drinking and driving could be made stronger by including several examples of the results of drinking and driving.
A descriptive paragraph describes a person, thing, place or situation. Unlike a narrative writing, descriptive writing does not tell a story but rather tries to convey a clear impression of what something is like. Effective descriptive writing relies on specific words and phrases that create a clear picture in the reader’s mind. Describing a house as unusual looking doesn’t help the reader visualize the house. However, if you note the lime green paint and fake Greek columns, the reader will start to form a mental picture.
Avoid words like interesting, nice, great, etc. which reveal nothing about the real nature of the topic. Look for specific words to describe sights, sounds, smells and both physical and emotional feelings. Try to make your reader see and feel the object or situation you are describing.
>Persuasive or Argument
A persuasive paragraph tries to persuade the reader to accept your point of view or even to change his or her point of view. In persuasive writing you take a clear position and then present evidence to support your position.