Organize Essays with the Keyhole Essay Organizer

The keyhole essay organizer seems to have been created by a writing instructor named Sheridan Baker many decades ago. Here is a variation, adapted from a version published at the now-vanished Grammar and Composition wikispace. The keyhole essay organizer can be a helpful visual reminder of what goes into a basic essay. I hope you find it useful!

Keyhole essay organizer

keyhole essay organizer for writing and composition

Suggestions for essay introduction:

  • Discuss related history
  • Use an anecdote
  • Use a provocative quotation
  • Ask a rhetorical question
  • Relate a dramatic episode
  • Use wit, humor (if appropriate)
  • Does your title capture your reader’s interest?
  • Does it hint at the direction of your subject matter?

Suggestions for essay conclusion:

  • Suggest a larger pattern
  • Use a “clinching” quotation
  • Draw inferences from your presentation of ideas
  • Look forward and make predictions
  • Suggest solutions, resolutions


  • A thesis sets forth the main idea of your paper; a topic sentence sets forth the main idea of your paragraph.
  • An effective thesis has an “edge” to it, one that arouses your reader’s interest.
  • Tailor it to the scope of your issue, not to a multi-volume set

Handbook for Writers: Excellence in Literature

You can find a lot more information about how to write essays and other compositions in the Excellence in Literature Handbook for Writers. This essential reference contains over 400 pages of writing instruction, grammar, style, and usage advice, and more. It’s a perfect companion for high school, college, and beyond.

You can see other variations of the keyhole essay organizer at this post on Gypsy Scholar, or by looking at the image results in a Google search. One particularly interesting variation is the NewView Keyhole Outline by Bill Drew. As you work with this graphic organizer, perhaps you will come up with a variation of your own!

2 Responses

  1. Brad Hawley says:

    I just ran across this post out of the blue, and I thought you might want to know about the Owl Purdue website. It’s one of the best, if not THE best, free online writing resource available. Many colleges and universities use it and recommend it to their students. I’ve been teaching college writing for over twenty years, and I think the Owl Purdue site is the best single site available for those who are homeschooling their children and want to start preparing them for writing at the college level. I also recommend THEY SAY / I SAY as an essential text, along with THE NUTS AND BOLTS OF COLLEGE WRITING. Once your child starts to prepare for college, a good book to read is THE TRANSITION TO COLLEGE WRITING.

    I hope these resources are helpful!

    • Thank you, Brad. I appreciate that. I mention Purdue’s OWL from time to time, but probably need to have a permanent link. It’s definitely a great resource. Your recommended books look very helpful—I may have to add them to my own library! Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

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