YourSidekick Role Responsibilities



There are at least two reasons why the ideas in a message should be well organized.  First, receivers tend to remember ideas that are structured according to some familiar systematic plan. Second, as a transmitter you will feel more confident when you have your ideas structured in a manner that seems reasonable to you and others.  To get a systematic plan that seems reasonable to you and others, we suggest that you prepare an outline.  The suggestions made here about patterns of organization and outlining are designed to help you structure your verbal message.

By the end of this unit, you should be able to

Describe organization.

Describe outlining.



A message usually consists of three phases:  an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.  The substantive phase can be further divided into a number of steps.  The nature of these steps depends on the transmitter's communicative purpose. 

If the transmitter's communicative purpose is to persuade, the substantive phase would be divided into the following steps: 

          I.  Definition of Problem.

         II.  Analysis of Problem.

        III.  Establishment of Criteria for the Solution.

         IV.  Development of the Solution.

          V.  Implementation of the Solution.  

The steps in the substantive phase for all four communication purposes are discussed in Unit 5.

The material used to develop each of the steps in the substantive phase as well as the material used in the introductory and concluding phases can be patterned in one or more of the following ways:

         1.  Chronological pattern.

         2.  Spatial pattern.

         3.  Topical pattern.

         4.  Cause-effect pattern.

         5.  Problem-solution pattern.

If the communicative purpose is to inform, the substantive phase itself would be divided using one of these patterns.  Let us consider each of the five patterns and how they may be used.


The chronological pattern arranges events in their order of occurrence in time.  This pattern is often used in describing how something should be done or how a process works.  The chronological pattern is also useful for describing a past event or detailing the causes of a problem when the causes developed over a period of time.

An example of the use of a chronological pattern is the steps in preparing the soil for a vegetable garden:

            I.  Check the acidity level of the soil.

           II.  Apply compost before digging the soil.

          III.  Dig the soil.

           IV.  Rake the garden to get a fine soil consistency.                           

Note that the speaker here starts with the first thing you would do in soil preparation and proceeds through time to the final events.


Certain subjects are best handled in a sequence that moves from one direction to the other.  For instance, in describing the instrument panel of an airplane to a new pilot, we might  begin on the extreme left and move to the right.  In describing the organizational chart of a large company, we might begin at the top and move to the bottom.  In a discussion of the major agricultural products grown in the United States we might begin on the east coast and move across the country westwardly.

Let us look at how the transceiver chose to explain her plan for a vegetable garden.

            I.  Here's my plan for my garden.          

                A.  On the north side I will plant corn

                    so that it will not shade smaller  


                B.  Just south of the corn I will plant

                    tomatoes which may also be quite   


                C.  In the south half I will plant     

                    beets, potatoes, and onions.       

                D.  On the east edge I will plant      

                    strawberries and asparagus.        


Many subjects break naturally into subtopics.  Whenever this is the case, it is wise to take advantage of the situation by discussing each subtopic.  In discussing efforts by American automobile manufacturers to clean up air pollution, our discussion might be divided into (1) efforts by General Motors, (2) efforts by Ford, and (3) efforts by Chrysler.

Let us look at the way the transceiver explained the criteria to be used in selecting a site for a vegetable garden.

            I.  There are three features to keep in    

                mind while selecting a site for your   


                A.  The site should have the proper    

                    amount of space for you.           

                B.  The site should have direct        

                    sunlight for about six hours each  


                C.  The site should have good drainage.


Occasionally a topic can be discussed in terms of the causes and effects of a problem.  Often the causes of the problem are discussed first and then the effects.  However, in some cases this order may be reversed.

A discussion of the problem of inflation could be arranged in the cause-effect pattern very easily.  First causes such as the laws laws of supply and demand, wage-cost push, and government fiscal policies could be discussed. Then effects such as higher prices and economic inequities could be outlined.

A speaker used the variation of the cause-effect pattern in which effects are discussed before causes in telling the audience about the importance of planting vegetables at the right time.

           I.  Although my peas came up and grew well  

               for a while last year, they died without

               producing peas.                                

          II.  I had planted in May and in our part of 

               the country peas must be planted in     

               February if they are going to produce.  


When your communicative purpose is either problem-solving or persuasion, you usually deal with the nature of a particular problem first and then discuss the solution to the problem.  This kind of organizational pattern is known as problem-solution.  Occasionally this pattern can be used when you have a communicative purpose other than problem-solving or persuasion. 

Here is how a speaker used the problem-solution pattern of arrangement to establish the importance of the topic in an information-giving speech on gardening. 

           I.  The "health" foods--fruits and          

               vegetables--may be dangerous to your    


               A.  In order to protect crops and keep  

                   food prices low, U.S. food producers

                   use 820 million pounds of approved  

                   pesticides a year.                   

                   1.  The most commonly used          

                       pesticides can cause cancer,    

                       birth defects, and liver,       

                       kidney, and nerve damage.       

                   2.  Five of the common pesticides   

                       that cause damage are captan,   

                       carbaryl, dimethoate,           

                       endosulfan, and methamidophos.   

              B.  The EPA has set restrictions on      

                  pesticide use in the U.S., but 50% of

                  the fruits and vegetables consumed   

                  here are produced abroad where       

                  restrictions on pesticide use are not

                  as strict as they are here.           

              C.  As Jay Feldman, national coordinator 

                  of the National Coalition Against the

                  Misuse of Pesticides has noted in the

                  March 27, 1989, issue of Time:       

                  1.  The accumulated effect of        

                      pesticide use constitutes a risk.

                  2.  "The total toxic burden is too   


          II.  One way to minimize the risk of         

               consuming foods treated with pesticides 

               is to raise our own gardens.


Outlining your presentation for a public communication event is very important, especially for the person who has little experience in public discussion or public speaking.  The most important benefit of preparing an outline is that your are assured the ideas in your presentation are being presented in a reasonable order.  In other words, outlining helps you to order ideas in a way that makes sense to you and is likely to make sense to others. 

A second benefit of outlining is that you discover the points you have not supported adequately before you actually make your presentation.  When you fail to make an outline, it is easy to never realize that some of your assertions are not supported.  When you prepare an outline, your lack of support for an assertion becomes clear during your preparation.  Then you have time to find support for the assertion or delete the assertion from your message. 

The first step in preparing an outline is to write down your specific purpose.  A speaker stated her specific purpose in this manner: "I want the audience to understand how to raise their own vegetable gardens." 

The second step is to list the main points that support the specific purpose.  The individual giving an information-giving speech on gardening stated her main points in the planning stage in the following manner 

           I.  You must plan the garden.

          II.  You must put the plan into action.

Note that each main point was stated in a single, complete sentence.  Note also that the sentences were worded in a parallel manner and contained one idea. 

The third step involves developing each of the main points.  This is done by taking each main point in turn and listing the subpoints that provide support for the main point.  The speaker on gardening developed the first main point as follows: 

         I.  You must plan the garden.                 

             A.  Rate all vegetables you are           

                 considering on desirability criteria. 

             B.  Decide which vegetables you will grow.

             C.  Select the site of your garden.       

             D.  Draw you garden plan to scale.        

             E.  Select the seed.                       

Again note that each symbol has only one idea and that each idea is stated in a complete sentence.  Another important factor to be aware of in outlining is that each of the ideas supporting the main point should be directly relevant to the main point.  Also each of the subpoints listed should be of equal importance; that is, one of the subpoints should not be a division or part of another subpoint. 

Usually you will find that each subpoint needs further development.  When each of the subpoints for the first main point has been developed, you are ready to move to the development of the second main point. 

The entire outline for the speech on gardening is reproduced here.  Notice that a consistent set of symbols is utilized. Notice that only one complete sentence is paired with each symbol. Notice that points at the same level (Roman numerals, capital letters, Arabic numerals, or noncapitalized letters) are of equal importance.  

Notice that subpoints are directly relevant to the point they support and do not overlap each other. As you study the outline, try to determine the pattern of organization used to sequence points at the same level.  For example, what pattern of organization was used in sequencing points 1, 2, and 3 under II.C in the body? 

The Introductory Phase

          I.  The "health" foods--fruits and           

              vegetables--may be dangerous to your     


              A.  In order to protect crops and keep   

                  food prices low, U.S. Food producers 

                  use 820 million pounds of approved   

                  pesticides a year.                   

                  1.  Captan used on grapes, peaches,  

                      strawberries, and apples can     

                      cause cancer.                    

                  2.  Carbaryl used on corn, bananas,  

                      peaches, grapes, and oranges can 

                      cause kidney damage.             

                  3.  Dimethoate used on green beans,  

                      grapes, watermelon, cabbage, and 

                      broccoli can cause cancer and    

                      birth defects.                    

                  4.  Endosulfan used on spinach,      

                      lettuce, celery, strawberries,   

                      cauliflower, and pears can cause 

                      liver and kidney damage.         

                  5.  Methamidophos used on tomatoes,  

                      cauliflower, cabbage, cantaloupe,

                      and bell peppers can affect the  

                      nervous system.                   

             B.  The EPA has set restrictions on       

                 pesticide use in the U.S., But 50% of 

                 the fruits and vegetables consumed    

                 here are produced abroad where        

                 restrictions on pesticide use are not 

                 as strict as they are here.            

             C.  As Jay Feldman, national coordinator  

                 of the National Coalition Against the 

                 Misuse of Pesticides, has noted in the

                 March 27, 1989, issue of Time:        

                 1.  The accumulated effect of         

                     pesticide use constitutes a risk. 

                 2.  "I may have Alar on my apples,    

                     lead arsenate on my grapefruit,   

                     captan on my vegetables.  Alone,  

                     each of them may constitute a     

                     negligible risk. But when you add 

                     them up, the total toxic burden is

                     too high."                         

         II.  One way to minimize the risk of consuming

              foods treated with pesticides is to raise

              our own gardens.                         

              A.  During the past ten years my family  

                  has raised 90 per cent of its own    


              B.  Raising your own vegetable garden    

                  involves two major steps.            

                  1.  You must plan the garden.        

                  2.  You must put the plan into action.


        The Body                          

          I.  You must plan the garden.                

              A.  Rate vegetables on a number of       


                  1.  Is the vegetable one that your   

                      family enjoys eating?            

                  2.  Is the vegetable one that is     

                      likely to be in limited supply in


                  3.  Is the vegetable expensive in the


                  4.  Is the vegetable high in food    


              B.  Decide which vegetables you will     


                  1.  Vegetables with high rating      

                      should be given top priority.    

                  2.  Vegetables that require large    

                      amounts of space should be grown 

                      only if you have sufficient space. 

                  3.  Vegetables that are not suited to

                      your geographic area should be   


              C.  Select the site of your garden.       

                  1.  The site should have the proper  

                      amount of space for you.         

                      a.  The proper amount of space   

                          for you depends on the space 

                          you have available.          

                          (i)  If you have a backyard, 

                               you will have plenty of 


                         (ii)  Do not overlook the     

                               possibility of window   


                      b.  The proper amount of space   

                          for you depends on how many  

                          people will be fed from the  


                      c.  The proper amount of space   

                          for you depends on how much  

                          time you can give to         

                          cultivating your garden.     

                  2.  The site should have direct      

                      sunlight for about six hours a   

                      day from early April through     

                      early September.                 

                  3.  The site should have good drainage. 

              D.  Draw your garden plan to scale.      

                  1.  Plants that are likely to grow   

                      tall should be planted so that   

                      they do not shade other plants.  

                  2.  Perennial vegetables should be   

                      located at one side so they do   

                      not interfere with soil          

                      preparation for annual plants.   

                  3.  Here is my plan for my garden.    

                    a.  On the north side I will     

                          plant corn so that it will   

                          not shade smaller plants.    

                      b.  Just south of the corn I will

                          plant tomatoes, which may    

                          also be quite tall.          

                      c.  In the south half I will     

                          plant beets, potatoes, and   


                      d.  On the east edge I will plant

                          strawberries and asparagus.  

                      (i)  These plants are perennials.

                     (Ii)  They are separated so the   

                           rest of the garden can be   

                           cultivated without          

                           disturbing them.


              E.  Select the seed.                     

                  1.  Purchase new seeds.              

                      a.  According to the Wise Garden 

                          Encyclopedia, 1970 edition   

                          page 1111, most good         

                          vegetables are hybrids.      

                      b.  Seeds saved from last year's 

                          crop will not produce plants 

                          like those from which they   


                 2.  Purchase seeds for vegetables that

                     are suited to your geographic     


                     a.  Your county extension agent   

                         usually can recommend the     

                         variety that does well in your


                     b.  Seed catalogs and gardening   

                         supply dealers may also be    


         II.  You must put the plan into action        

              A.  You must prepare the soil.           

                  1.  Check the acidity level of the   


                      a.  Just like bread without the  

                          proper amount of yeast will  

                          either not rise enough or    

                          rise too much, plants will   

                          not grow correctly unless    

                          they have the proper amount  

                          of acid.                       

                     b.  A soil sample of about one   

                          pint can be analyzed by your 

                          county agent.                

                      c.  If your soil is too high or  

                          too low in acidity, this     

                          should be corrected before   

                          you plant. 

                  2.  Apply compost before digging the 


                  3.  Dig the soil.                    

                      a.  If the ground has been frozen

                          during the winter, wait until

                          the soil is dry.             

                      b.  Dig about eight to ten inches

                          deep throughout the garden.  

                  4.  Rake the garden to get a fine    

                      soil consistency. 

              B.  You must plant the garden.           

                  1.  Planting should be done about a  

                      week or two after soil           


                  2.  Planting should be done at the   

                      right time for each kind of      


                      a.  Last year I planted peas in  

                          early May, but after getting 

                          a good start, they began to  

                          die before they formed pods. 

                      b.  I had planted too late.      

                  3.  Planting should be done at the   

                      proper depth for each kind of    


              C.  You must care for the plants as they 


                  1.  Plants need water.               

                      a.  Water thoroughly about once a


                      b.  Avoid light sprinklings,     

                          because plants will not set  

                          deep roots if only the soil  

                          surface is moistened. 

                 2.  Mulches can help plants if they   

                     are properly used.                

                     a.  They conserve soil moisture.  

                     b.  They keep weeds down.         

                     c.  They produce an even soil     


                     d.  They have some undesirable    

                         effects which must be guarded 


                     (i)  Some mulches contain seed    

                          that may sprout and grow.    

                    (Ii)  Some mulches like black      

                          plastic increase soil        

                          temperature by absorbing more

                          heat than soil normally      


                   (iii)  When mulches are placed too  

                          close to plants, they may    

                          cause plants to be thin and  


                 3.  Weeds must be kept under control.

                      a.  Weeds can sap soil moisture  

                          and crowd out vegetables.    

                      b.  Avoid hoeing weeds so deep   

                          that you cut roots of        


                      (i)  Two years ago a friend of   

                           mine hoed weeds in his corn 


                     (Ii)  The next morning all of the 

                           corn was lying flat on the  

                           ground because he had been  

                           chopping too deep and too   

                           close to the cornstalks.


        The Conclusion                      

          I.  After you get home today, begin your work

              on this two step procedure:              

              A.  Plan your garden.                    

              B.  Put the plan into action.            

         II.  For more information, consult with your  

              country extension agent.

        III.  When you complete this two-step          

              procedure, you can expect the following  


              A.  A more healthful supply of vegetables

                  will be on your table.               

              B.  Better-tasting vegetables than you   

                  can buy will please your palate.     

              C.  You will find that your grocery       

                  budget will stretch further.         

              D.  You will have had an enjoyable time  

                  doing something constructive.        


You have met the objectives of this unit if you can

Describe organization.          

Describe outlining.

In this unit we have focused on how we organize our messages.  A prepared message usually consists of three major parts:  an introduction, a substantive phase or body, and a conclusion.  Although the introductions and conclusions for informative and persuasive speeches differ somewhat, they have these things in common:  the introductions prepare the receivers for the material presented in the body, and the conclusions bring the presentation to a strategic close.

There are five basic patterns of organization which can be used to develop the body of an informative speech or to develop the five major steps in the body of a persuasive speech.  They are the following:

1.  Chronological pattern which arranges events according to a time sequence,                 

2.  Spatial pattern which orders things according to direction or their arrangement in space,   

3.  Topical pattern which breaks a large subject into its component parts,                     

4.  Cause/effect pattern which deals with a problem in terms of antecedents and consequences, and                             

5.  Problem/solution pattern which is often used in persuasion but also can be used to present material in informative speeches.             

You can double check your organization to see if it is complete and logical by developing a sentence outline.  Outlining consists of the following steps:

1.  Write down your specific purpose.             

2.  List the main points that support the specific purpose.                             

3.  Develop each of the main points by breaking each into its component subpoints.  Some subpoints will need further division.         

4.  Each point should be written in a complete sentence and should contain only one idea; each subpoint should be directly relevant to the point it is under; and each subpoint at a given level of subordination should be of equal importance.                             

5.  Prepare the introduction and conclusion.      









Table of Contents of this Unit:

Preview of the Unit

Unit Objective 01, Organization

Unit Objective 02, Outlining

Review of the Unit

Communication Challenges

For Further Reading 

End of the Unit