Paragraphs and essays
Paragraphs are the building blocks of papers. A paragraph is a group of sentences that develops one main idea. A paragraph may stand by itself as a complete piece of writing, or it may be a section of a longer piece of writing, such as an essay. No single rule can prescribe how long a paragraph should be the unity and coherence of ideas among sentences is what constitutes a paragraph, but a paragraph that is too short can make a reader think that some basic information is missing. On the other hand, a paragraph that is too long will likely make a reader lose interest.
An effective paragraph must be long enough to develop the main idea the writer is expressing, usually six or seven sentences in length, but no more than ten or twelve sentences. While it is true that newspapers or magazines take liberties with the paragraph form and often have paragraphs as short as a single sentence, a well-developed piece of writing will seldom present a single sentence as a paragraph (unless the sentence is a piece of dialogue).
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Basic paragraph structure A paragraph consists of several sentences that are grouped together. This group of sentences together discusses one main subject.
Paragraphs have three basic principal parts. These three parts are the topic sentence, body sentences (supporting sentences), and the concluding sentence. A topic sentence is a sentence whose main idea or claim controls the rest of the paragraph. It consists of a topic and controlling idea, which is the point the writer makes about the title. The topic sentence is usually the first sentence of a paragraph, but not necessarily. It may come, for example, after a transition sentence; it may even come at the end of a paragraph. Topic sentences are not the only way to organize a paragraph, and not all paragraphs need a topic sentence.
For example, paragraphs that describe, narrate, or detail the steps in an experiment do not usually need topic sentences. Topic sentences are useful, however, in paragraphs that analyze and argue. Topic sentences are particularly useful for writers who have difficulty developing focused, unified paragraphs (i. e. , writers who tend to sprawl). Topic sentences help these writers develop a main idea or claim for their paragraphs, and, perhaps most importantly, they help these writers stay focused and keep paragraphs manageable. Topic sentences are also useful to readers because they guide them through sometimes complex argum 5eents.
Many well-known, experienced writers effectively use topic sentences to bridge between paragraphs. Topic sentences often begin with transitional clauses referring to the previous paragraph and the other part of the sentence shapes and controls what follows. Because of this topic sentence is sometimes called controlling sentence. Supporting sentences as their name indicates support or explain the idea expressed in the topic sentence. A supporting detail is a piece of evidence used by a writer to make the controlling idea of the topic sentence convincing and interesting to the reader.
A piece of evidence might be a descriptive image, an example taken from history or personal experience, a reason, a fact (such as a statistic), a quotation from an expert, or an anecdote used to illustrate a point. Of course, paragraphs in English often have more than two supporting ideas. Whenever possible, you should include enough details in your paragraphs to help your reader understand exactly what you are writing about. The Concluding Sentence In formal paragraphs you will sometimes see a sentence at the end of the paragraph which summarizes the information that has been presented.
This is the concluding sentence. You can think of a concluding sentence as a sort of topic sentence in reverse. You can understand concluding sentences with this example. Consider a hamburger that you can buy at a fast-food restaurant. A hamburger has a top bun (a kind of bread), meat, cheese, lettuce, and other elements in the middle of the hamburger, and a bottom bun. Note how the top bun and the bottom bun are very similar. The top bun, in a way, is like a topic sentence, and the bottom bun is like the concluding sentence. Both buns “hold” the meat, onions, and so on.
Similarly, the topic sentence and concluding sentence “hold” the supporting sentences in the paragraph. Not all academic paragraphs contain concluding sentences, especially if the paragraph is very short. However, if your paragraph is very long, it is a good idea to use a concluding sentence. Characteristics of a paragraph Every paragraph in a paper should be Unified—all of the sentences in a single paragraph should be related to a single controlling idea (often expressed in the topic sentence of the paragraph). Clearly related to the thesis—the sentences should all refer to the central idea, or thesis, of the paper (Rosen and Behrens 119).
Coherent—the sentences should be arranged in a logical manner and should follow a definite plan for development (Rosen and Behrens 119). Well-developed—Every idea discussed in the paragraph should be adequately explained and supported through evidence and details that work together to explain the paragraph’s controlling idea (Rosen and Behrens 119). 5-step process to paragraph development Step1. Decide on a controlling idea and create a topic sentence Paragraph development begins with the formulation of the controlling idea. This idea directs the paragraph’s development.
Often, the controlling idea of a paragraph will appear in the form of a topic sentence. In some cases, you may need more than one sentence to express a paragraph’s controlling idea. Step 2. Explain the controlling idea Paragraph development continues with an expression of the rationale or the explanation that the writer gives for how the reader should interpret the information presented in the idea statement or topic sentence of the paragraph. The writer explains his/her thinking about the main topic, idea, or focus of the paragraph. Step 3. Give an example (or multiple examples)
Paragraph development progresses with the expression of some type of support or evidence for the idea and the explanation that came before it. The example serves as a sign or representation of the relationship established in the idea and explanation portions of the paragraph. Here are two examples that we could use to illustrate the double meanings in slave spirituals: Step4. Explain the example(s) The next movement in paragraph development is an explanation of each example and its relevance to the topic sentence and rationale that were stated at the beginning of the paragraph.
This explanation shows readers why you chose to use this/or these particular examples as evidence to support the major claim, or focus, in your paragraph. Continue the pattern of giving examples and explaining them until all points/examples that the writer deems necessary have been made and explained. NONE of your examples should be left unexplained. You might be able to explain the relationship between the example and the topic sentence in the same sentence which introduced the example. More often, however, you will need to explain that relationship in a separate sentence.
Look at these explanations for the two examples in the slave spirituals paragraph: Step 5. Complete the paragraph’s idea or transition into the next paragraph The final movement in paragraph development involves tying up the loose ends of the paragraph and reminding the reader of the relevance of the information in this paragraph to the main or controlling idea of the paper. At this point, you can remind your reader about the relevance of the information that you just discussed in the paragraph. You might feel more comfortable, however, simply transitioning your reader to the next development in the next paragraph.
An essay is a piece of writing that develops a topic in five or more paragraphs, including an introductory paragraph that states the thesis, three or more supporting paragraphs that develop the topic, and a concluding paragraph. KINDS OF PARAGRAPHS IN THE COMPLETE COLLEGE ESSAY 1. The introductory paragraph is the first paragraph of the essay. Its purpose is to lead the reader to the thesis statement in an inviting and interesting way that will encourage the reader to continue reading. A thesis statement is usually found at the end of the introductory paragraph.
Support paragraphs (sometimes called body paragraphs) provide evidence that the thesis is valid. An acceptable college essay must have at least three well-developed support paragraphs. (You have studied these types of support paragraphs in Part 4 of this book. ) Each support paragraph should flow logically to the next support paragraph. This is often accomplished by the careful use of transitional expressions. 3. The concluding paragraph is the final paragraph of the essay. Its purpose is to give the reader a sense that the essay has come to a satisfying conclusion.
By this point, the reader should have the feeling that everything the essay needed to say has been said. Brief Overview of the 10 Essay Writing Steps Below are brief summaries of each of the ten steps to writing an essay. 1. Defining the topic: – Student writing suffers when the chosen topic is too general. A good writer must recognize when the topic needs to be narrowed or qualified so that the material will fit the length of an essay and also fit the writer’s knowledge and experience. 2. Research: Begin the essay writing process by researching your topic, making yourself an expert.
Utilize the internet, the academic databases, and the library. Take notes and immerse yourself in the words of great thinkers. 3. Analysis: Now that you have a good knowledge base, start analyzing the arguments of the essays you’re reading. Clearly define the claims, write out the reasons, the evidence. Look for weaknesses of logic, and also strengths. Learning how to write an essay begins by learning how to analyze essays written by others. 4. Brainstorming: Your essay will require insight of your own, genuine essay-writing brilliance.
Ask yourself a dozen questions and answer them. Meditate with a pen in your hand. Take walks and think and think until you come up with original insights to write about. 5. Thesis: Pick your best idea and pin it down in a clear assertion that you can write your entire essay around. Your thesis is your main point, summed up in a concise sentence that lets the reader know where you’re going, and why. It’s practically impossible to write a good essay without a clear thesis. 6. Outline: Sketch out your essay before straightway writing it out.
Use one-line sentences to describe paragraphs, and bullet points to describe what each paragraph will contain. Play with the essay’s order. Map out the structure of your argument, and make sure each paragraph is unified. 7. Introduction: Now sit down and write the essay. The introduction should grab the reader’s attention, set up the issue, and lead in to your thesis. Your intro is merely a buildup of the issue, a stage of bringing your reader into the essay’s argument. (Note: The title and first paragraph are probably the most important elements in your essay.
This is an essay-writing point that doesn’t always sink in within the context of the classroom. In the first paragraph you either hook the reader’s interest or lose it. Of course your teacher, who’s getting paid to teach you how to write an essay, will read the essay you’ve written regardless, but in the real world, readers make up their minds about whether or not to read your essay by glancing at the title alone. ) 7. Paragraphs: Each individual paragraph should be focused on a single idea that supports your thesis.
Begin paragraphs with topic sentences, support assertions with evidence, and expound your ideas in the clearest, most sensible way you can. Speak to your reader as if he or she were sitting in front of you. In other words, instead of writing the essay, try talking the essay. 8. Conclusion: Gracefully exit your essay by making a quick wrap-up sentence, and then end on some memorable thought, perhaps a quotation, or an interesting twist of logic, or some call to action. Is there something you want the reader to walk away and do? Let him or her know exactly what.
Format your essay according to the correct guidelines for citation. All borrowed ideas and quotations should be correctly cited in the body of your text, followed up with a Works Cited (references) page listing the details of your sources. 10. Language: You’re not done writing your essay until you’ve polished your language by correcting the grammar, making sentences flow, incoporating rhythm, emphasis, adjusting the formality, giving it a level-headed tone, and making other intuitive edits. Proofread until it reads just how you want it to sound.
Writing an essay can be tedious, but you don’t want to bungle the hours of conceptual work you’ve put into writing your essay by leaving a few slippy misppallings and pourly wordedd phrazies. The relationship between a paragraph and an essay is symbiotic; you can’t write an essay without using paragraphs, and four or more consecutive paragraphs about the same subject matter become an essay. Both paragraphs and essays have a distinct beginning, middle and end.
A paragraph is a mini-essay. Both have a limited subject with (a) precise opinion(s) In writing either a paragraph or an essay writers do three things: 1. Writers tell the readers what they are going to tell them 2. Writers tell this to them and illustrate/prove it, giving details to explain or develop the support 3. Writers then tell readers what they have just told them. 1. Both paragraphs and essays begin with a topic sentence, or a thesis statement that explains to the reader what the paragraph or essay is about.
Paragraphs and essays both require supporting details that elaborate on the statements made in the topic sentence or thesis statement. Both paragraphs and essays must end with a conclusion. Both paragraph and essay fulfill those four characteristics these are unity, coherence, cohesion and completeness. A thesis statement for an essay is longer and more detailed than the topic sentence at the beginning of a paragraph. In a paragraph, each subsequent sentence builds upon the point made in the topic sentence; in an essay, the first sentence in each paragraph discusses points made in the thesis statement.
In a paragraph, the sentences following the topic sentence are called “supporting details. ” In an essay, the paragraphs following the thesis statement are called “supporting paragraphs. ” Each supporting paragraph has its own supporting details. Paragraphs must end with a concluding sentence that states the basic point of the paragraph. It should not rephrase or reiterate the topic sentence. Essays end with a conclusion paragraph that summarizes the content of the essay and reiterates the thesis statement with different phrasing.
The conclusion paragraph usually revisits the points introduced in the supporting paragraphs to prove to the reader that, from the writer’s point of view, the thesis statement was correct. 2. Paragraphs and essays differ in their length. Paragraphs are typically between five and six sentences long. They’re composed of a topic sentence and four or five supporting details. Essays contain at least five paragraphs; they’re composed of an introductory paragraph (which includes the thesis statement), at least three supporting paragraphs and a conclusion paragraph. 3. Besides having transitional phrases essays have transitional paragraphs.