Using paragraphs

A paragraph is a sequence of sentences (no fewer than five) that present a brief argument with one controlling idea that relates to your thesis statement.

What is a paragraph?

State the central idea of each paragraph explicitly in a topic sentence at the beginning of the paragraph. Where appropriate, the topic sentence is backed up with supporting evidence, quotations, critical opinion (references). Develop your paragraph from your topic sentence as follows:

  • Explain more fully what you mean, giving definitions or indicating distinctions.
  • Offer details, examples, or relevant quotations (with your comments).
  • Follow through a logical sequence, showing the connections among your ideas in a recognizable pattern such as cause and effect or comparison and contrast.
  • Diagram for a complete paragraph
    • Assertion (Topic sentence)
    • Critical discussion / References / Quotations
    • Concluding line/link to next paragraph

Try numbering your sentences to see how they correspond to this pattern. This will show if you have placed too much emphasis on one aspect of the argument of your paragraph. You should have one assertion and one conclusion. If you have more than one of either your paragraph’s argument will be unclear. Such diagrams enable you to make sure that your thoughts are developed logically through a paragraph, with enough evidential support.