5 Step #2: Primary Pattern of Development

“Gears” by xresch, Pixabay is in the Public Domain, CC0

Many college essays follow a primary pattern of development for laying out their ideas and expressing their main thesis. A pattern of development is the way the essay is organized, from one paragraph to the next, in order to present its thesis and the relevant, authoritative support for it.

Your readers will be experiencing your essay in time. That is, they will read it starting in paragraph one and then two, then three, four, five, six… This may seem obvious, but you will need to consider how the reader will experience the essay in time and in relation to your thesis statement.

Thus, we will need to organize the essay into a coherent pattern which allows the reader to easily follow our logic through the essay and fully relate it back to our central theme(s). Some essays use a combination of patterns to communicate their ideas but usually a primary pattern is established to present the overall structure and logical flow of the essay. Common patterns include:

  • Narration & Description
  • Exemplification
  • Cause & Effect
  • Comparison & Contrast
  • There are several more variations of patterns of development (see below) but these are the most common.

BEST: Patterns of development work best when they are used consistently and in conjunction with the structure and theme of the primary thesis statement.

  • Follow this link to a more developed discussion on the more popular modes of essay writing.
  • Consult this handout on the basic understanding and uses of the primary patterns of development.
  • Consult this handout on the patterns of development discussed as the modes of essay writing.
  • Here is a useful link that helps to visualize and summarize the primary patterns of rhetorical writing.
  • And one more useful link that does more of a deep dive into the modes. With relevant exercises and questions.


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The Writing Process by Andrew Gurevich is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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