If someone walked up to you today and asked you to define a paragraph, what would be your answer? Many define paragraphs according to their length, citing how much space a paragraph takes up on a physical page or how many sentences it has. In reality, paragraphs are better thought of as a group of sentences focused on a sequence of points or examples in an argument or narrative. Paragraphs are the building blocks of academic papers, articles, and blog posts.
Topic sentences are key
To start an effective paragraph, begin with a topic sentence. Topic sentences should clearly relate to your thesis statement (the argument you are trying to drive home), and they should be arranged logically throughout your paper to develop your argument. The paragraph is what fleshes out the topic sentence by containing important information which not only validates the topic sentence, but supports your thesis.
Your thesis is your overall argument, in a broad perspective, and opens your paper. It can be a single sentence, a paragraph, or a chapter in a novel. The rest of your paper will break this into segments, the sub-arguments which become supporting points. If you struggle with a strong thesis, begin with the conclusion section, and work backwards by identifying each point along the way. Then you can make your opening thesis paragraph.
Create coherence by organizing
Did you know that there are different kinds of paragraphs? Some paragraphs provide examples and illustrations that flesh out the argument of the thesis. Others provide narration and are arranged in chronological order. Still others will compare and contrast ideas, offer an analogy, or provide the cause and effect of the main argument. Create clear links in order to use these different types of paragraphs coherently. Your conclusion should include brief elements of all your points (without restating them) and merge them together to answer the question posed in your opening thesis.
Remember your fourth grade book report? The first part of the assignment was likely an outline. An outline is a time-honored way for creating the structure of paragraphs that defend the argument of your piece. By creating an outline, you can easily see how ideas support one another and build the credibility of your augment, making your writing more effective in reaching your audience. Then, when you have your draft, have someone else read it! Your mind will make assumptions or connections which others might not naturally. You need another person to tell you where you need more detail because you lost your reader.
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