Rhetorical Patterns - Narration

The Rhetorical Patterns - Organizing Essays for Different Rhetorical Situations

The following pages will provide you with several effective ways of organizing information in your essays. Oftentimes, when you know who your audience is and what your purpose is for writing (which is called your rhetorical situation), you can begin to consider the organization of what is going to be in your paper, how you will introduce your paper, and what to write for your conclusion. The following rhetorical patterns will help you answer these questions.  


Narration  |  Description  |  Process  |  Exemplification  |  Classification  |  Comparison and Contrast
Cause and Effect  |  Persuasion and Argument


Definition: Narratives are essentially first-person stories involving real or imagined events, characters, and settings.

Description: An academic narrative normally has a point to it; that is, the story carries some sort of message for the audience. This message does not need to be a moral, in the conventional sense that you often hear: “What’s the moral of the story?” Instead, an academic narrative can be used to evoke in your audience a strong understanding and perhaps empathy with the events happening to the character or characters in the story. Narratives allow readers to see, hear, experience, and maybe even live in the story.

Conventions: Make sure that you have a complete story to tell, so that your readers will not wonder where a character came from or what happened to a character. These are often called “loose ends,” and they should be avoided in academic narratives. Focus your narrative on two elements: the character(s) and the events (or plot) that create the story. Remember to include information about the setting, which refers to both the place and the time period. Avoid “telling” your story; instead, “show” your readers the story by using rich descriptions and avoiding clichés at all costs. Using dialogue is one of the best ways of exposing a character’s traits and motivations.

Strategies: So that your narrative’s complexity and richness are revealed fully, ask the following questions as you begin pre-writing or drafting:

  • What happened to make it a story?
  • Who was involved?
  • When did it happen and over how long of a period of time did it happen?
  • What locations were involved in the story?
  • Why did this all happen and what can be learned from it?

Organization: Many readers expect the introduction to contain some information about the characters, the setting and the point of the narrative. You may consider organizing the paper so that each body paragraph contains one scene or event. Or you may consider using each body paragraph for a location or time period in the story. Using transitional expressions--like next, later, the following day, and so on--helps your readers maintain focus on the timeline and logical structure of your story.  Finally, many readers will often become confused if more than one person narrates the story; try to maintain a consistent point of view.

How do I draft my introduction?

In the story you intend to tell, do your characters, setting (date and place), and other information need some introduction before your story begins? Think about the three main elements of the narrative (character, setting, and plot) and use the introduction to briefly discuss each of them.

How do I create a thesis statement?

After you have decided what you want to say, consider what your main point is. If you are talking about a few events from your childhood and what you learned from those events, what is the larger issue that you are addressing? What can be learned from reading your narrative, not just about you, but about other people like you who might or might not have gone through similar experiences? Place your thesis statement at the end of the introduction.

How do I move my narrative smoothly from one event to another?

Carefully consider the words you employ as you tell your story. Even the most exciting narrative can become monotonous when every other sentence begins with “And then he,” “and then she,” and “and then he,” and so on. The following are better transition words:

  • First, second, third, fourth, next
  • Simultaneously, now, at the same time, during the same time period
  • Then, following, later, shortly afterwards, soon thereafter
  • Earlier, before, meanwhile,
  • Subsequently, consequently, because of that

You may also want to consider using dates to show how time has passed, such as December 21, 2007 or four years later or next summer.

How do I draft my conclusion?  

Since your readers will be dealing with a character undergoing some sort of change, it is important to make sure that this change is obvious. You may want to refer back to your main point and restate it in your conclusion. Make sure that the importance of the narrative for your readers, in their lives, is stated. Be consistent and make sure that the same narrator who begins the paper is the one ending it, even if she or he has gone through a large ordeal.

Checklist for Peer-Review Narrative Revision

  • Is there a header on the top of the first page with the student’s name, the professor’s name, the class, and the date?
  • Is there a title for the paper? Is it properly capitalized? Is it centered?
  • Where is the paper’s thesis statement? Is it understandable
  • Do the paper’s body paragraphs relate events in such a way so that they support the paper’s thesis?
  • Do all the body paragraphs have effective topic sentences that introduce each paragraph’s ideas?
  • Are there any generalizations or cliches? Can you help the paper’s writer by underlining the generalizations and cliches, and perhaps suggesting more effective and precise language?
  • Does the writer use dialogue? Are there any places where dialogue is either unnecessary or needed? Have the quotation marks and punctuation all been used correctly?
  • Has the narrative been “shown” to you or “told” to you?
  • Does the story flow properly? Are the body paragraphs ordered effectively?
  • Do the body paragraphs have transition sentences that wrap up the paragraphs?
  • Does the conclusion wrap up the narrative? By the time you read the conclusion, are all of your questions answered?
  • What was learned from this story? Is this essentially the same thing as the thesis?
  • Is there any information that you thought could have been left out? Was there any information that needed more explanation?
  • Are there any sentences that seem difficult to understand?
  • Are all the paragraphs indented? Is the font type the assigned size? Is it too small or too large? Are the margins all one inch all around? (Many readers report that reading is much easier when the “right justification” for the right margin is turned off, giving the paper a “ragged right” margin. Is the right margin ragged or justified?)