Research – Structure

A story should have a beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order. Jean-Luc Godard


“To satisfy the basic conditions for a plot, a sequence of events cannot be merely chronological; the sequence must be meaningful, intelligibly connected, every component standing in some logical relation to the others” (Partner & Foot 2013)

In other words, as Aristotle simply puts it everything must have a beginning, middle and an end. However Jean-Luc Godard adds a dimension when he said that a story should have a beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order. We have all seen movies that start at the end and then go back 6 weeks or 2 years and build up the story from there.

Let’s have a look at some theory around structure.

Latin Rhetoricians

Corbett & Connors (1999, P. 20) describe six parts of discourse, we have put these in the following table with an explanation:

Introduction (exordium)Here we set an objective, build credibility, potentially use a creative and transition into the rest of the presentation.
The Statement of Facts (narratio)This may be interpreted as the background to the topic.
The outline (divisio)Here we give our audience a road map or agenda of where we are going to take them for the rest of the presentation.
The proof of the case (confirmatio)In rhetoric proof or confirmation refers to the positioning of your argument in a favourable manner. This is where we put our persuasive information and will follow the divisions created in the previous section. This is the main body of the presentation.
The refutation of the opposing arguments (confutatio)Refutation was the stage where presenters would refute the arguments of other presenters, for example in a debate. This is not always relevant, but can be interpreted as an extension of the previous section where we add a discussion on the alternatives to our proposal.
The conclusion (peroratio)The conclusion of the presentation is our opportunity to end the presentation in a way that ensures our audience understands the main points of our presentation by restating in summary form our facts or arguments and
to offer a concluding remark as to what you want the audience to do next. (p. 283)

Henry Boettinger1 – Moving Mountains

Henry Boettinger (1974 p. 37) suggest we “present our idea(s) in this structure sequence: statement of the problem, development of its relevant aspects, and resolution of the problem and its development. Use this structure and you will send you idea rolling down the well worn grooves of the human mind. Ignore it and you send it into rocky, unknown canyons from which it may never return.”

Andrew Abela in his book Advanced Presentation by Design (2008, p. 75), has taken this sequence and helped us use it as a structure tool. He calls it the SCoRE method and is depicted below.

SituationThe occasion for this presentation: something that everyone in your audience will agree on:
ComplicationA problem that the audience has
ResolutionYour contribution to solving this problem
ExampleAn illustration of your contribution

We then repeat the sequence without the situation as follows

ComplicationThe most likely “come-back” to what you’ve proposed: “Yeah, but…”
ResolutionHow you resolve that objection
ExampleAn illustration of your response

We then continue with this sequence until we have disposed of all likely objections.

Judith Dwyer ((Dwyer 2013 p. 432) offers a straight forward approach and like our basic structure mentioned at the start of this section, it has a beginning, middle and an end.

IntroductionSubject, objective and creative or hook
BodyInforms, persuades or entertains the audience
ConclusionSummary of main points and concluding key message


Abela, AV 2008, Advanced presentations by design creating communication that drives action, San Franiso, Calif. : Pfeiffer, San Francisco, Calif.

Boettinger, HM 1974, Moving mountains; or, The art and craft of letting others see things your way, 1st Collier Booksedn., Collier Books, New York,.

Corbett, EPJ & Connors, RJ 1999, Classical rhetoric for the modern student, 4thedn., Oxford University Press, New York.

Dwyer, J 2013, Communication for business and the professions : strategies and skills, 5e..edn.

Partner, N. 2013. The Fundamental Things Apply: Aristotle’s Narrative Theory and the Classical Origins of Postmodern History. In: The SAGE Handbook of Historical Theory, 55 City Road, London: SAGE Publications, Ltd pp. 495-507.

1 “Henry Boettinger is an internationally known consultant in telecommunications, and former Director of Corporate Planning at AT & T. His lively and imaginative style is characteristic of both his life and writing. A cellist, painter, and electrical engineer who attended John Hopkins University, he lives in Cornwall, England, with his accomplished wife, Shirley. Articulate, visionary and practical, he has been called the” communicator’s communicator.” A visiting Fellow of Oxford University, and a fellow of the International Academy of Management, Boettinger is at home in the diverse cultures of science, technology, and the arts, yet speaks the language familiar to persons oriented toward action and achievemnet.” (Boettinger 1974 p. 343)