Analyzing Thought Structure/Structuring/Part 1

Analyzing Thought Structure:

Analyzing thought structure is also known as structuring. It is an observation tool we use to help us see the logical flow of thought in a passage by discovering the main ideas and how they are explained in the text itself.

We do need a quick grammar reminder though – sorry to those of you who hated this in school! A noun is a person, place or thing, a pronoun replaces a noun (he, she, it, you etc) and a verb is the action or state of being. If you remember from English, there are independent clauses and subordinate or dependent clauses. An independent clause is a complete thought and contains a subject and verb at a minimum.The dependent clauses help the main clause accomplish its purpose.

We need to be able to identify a complete thought. We will be bringing the complete thoughts to the left margin and the supporting thoughts under the word or phrase they help explain.We will also leave the words in the order they are found in the text. Sometimes people think this is like diagramming sentences but it is quite a bit simpler and different so don’t panic! Because of how structuring works, it is best to use translations like the NASB or the ESV which are considered to be closest to the original language structure.

One caution here, there are many ways to do this right.There are big picture people who will keep bigger chunks of the sentence together and detail people who will break down every phrase and clause. Either way works because this is a tool to help YOU see the main thoughts in the text.Where you can go wrong is if you don’t recognize that a supporting thought is just that and bring it to the left margin, or you are indenting complete thoughts thereby making them appear subordinate.

We will be reading the text over and over and over again. As we do, we will begin to see what is obvious and easy to understand and what is not. Structuring will help us see how the passage flows and separate out the main thoughts. As with all Bible study it is important to remember that context rules in interpretation.

The best way to do this is to start and explain as we go. So we are going to work through the book of Philemon together, explaining the process a few verses at a time.

1.You will need to copy the entire text of the book or passage you want to study into a word processor document. You can easily copy the text and paste from an online Bible site like will also provide a copy in the file area at the top of the Facebook group. Beloved Truth has copyright access so no worries there.

  1. Set up your page to a landscape orientation so you have lots of room out to the right.

  2. Set your tabs to be fairly short so you don’t have to do a lot of moving the text with the space bar.You will be using enter, tab and space bar a lot!

  3. Choose a font in 12 or 14 that is easy on your eyes.

5.Your structured copy will become your observation worksheets.You will find these will make later observations easier as much of the observation work will be done already. As you analyze the thought structure, you will identify contrasts and comparisons, lists, commands etc.

So your next assignment is to get the book of Philemon copied and ready to work with.


In our next post, we will begin structuring the book. Also, read through it a couple of times before you start structuring looking for main ideas and complete thoughts.

  1. If you prefer, you can also write out the text by hand as you are structuring.This is actually not a bad idea because research is showing that the act of writing ignites our brains in ways that using the computer does not. So it’s up to you. Because I use structured text as my OW (observation worksheets), I prefer it to be in the word processor. Plus, if I get into my study and realize that I didn’t structure something right, it is easier to correct.

*Next see a Short Guide to Analyzing Thought Structure HERE

Reference: Understanding and Applying the Bible by Robertson McQuilken

The Mission Has Not Changed

Jesus’ commission to Saul of Tarsus (renamed Paul) “. . .But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ “(Acts 26:16-18 ESV)

We have the same profound opportunity. God is sending His church into this world to offer redemption and transformation. Living our faith, sharing our lives–the task is not yet done. . .


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