The fabrication of syndiotactic polystyrene (sPS)/organoclay nanocomposite was conducted via a stepwise mixing process with poly(styrene-co-vinyloxazolin) (OPS), that is, melt intercalation of OPS into organoclay followed by blending with sPS. The microstructure of nanocomposite mainly depended on the arrangement type of the organic modifier in clay gallery. When organoclays that have a lateral bilayer arrangement were used, an exfoliated structure was obtained, whereas an intercalated structure was obtained when organoclay with a paraffinic monolayer arrangement were used. The thermal and mechanical properties of sPS nanocomposites were investigated in relation to their microstructures. From the thermograms of nonisothermal crystallization and melting, nanocomposites exhibited an enhanced overall crystallization rate but had less reduced crystallinity than a matrix polymer. Clay layers dispersed in a matrix polymer may serve as a nucleating agent and hinder the crystal growth of polymer chains. As a comparison of the two nanocomposites with different microstructures, because of the high degree of dispersion of its clay layer the exfoliated nanocomposite exhibited a faster crystallization rate and a lower degree of crystallinity than the intercalated one. Nanocomposites exhibited higher mechanical properties, such as strength and stiffness, than the matrix polymer as observed in the dynamic mechanical analysis and tensile tests. Exfoliated nanocomposites showed more enhanced mechanical properties than intercalated ones because of the uniformly dispersed clay layers. (C) 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.