Paragraph Structure

Paragraphs

The manner in which you present your material is vital. As you know, an essay (or any academic text) is built up around paragraphs. They help the reader understand the organization of your essay and grasp its main points. A paragraph is a series of sentences that are organized and coherent, and are all related to a single topic. The main rule is:

One paragraph= one new point in your argument

Furthermore, each paragraph typically contains a three-part structure:

1. Introduction: including a topic sentence and transition words
2. Body: discussing the main thesis, using various forms of evidence
3. Conclusion: commenting and drawing connections

Paragraphs principles

  • Each paragraph should contain one new point in your overall thesis
  • Each paragraph should be able to stand on its own and have its own internal structure
  • Each paragraph should state its purpose early on, in the form of a topic sentence

Try extracting the first line from your essay paragraphs and see if you can follow your main line of argument. If you can’t, they your essay is not so easy to follow as you might want it to be. (Of course, not every argument has to be organized this way. But try to look up a few articles in some “serious” newspapers: you will find this structure widely used!)

The reason why paragraphs should be “headlined” with reference to the overall argument is to keep that argument in the reader’s mind, thereby making it easier for them to see the relevance of the rest of the paragraph. This way, the reader doesn’t lose track, and neither do you.

  • Let the thesis decide how your arguments should be organized, not chronology! (Neither with literary texts nor “real” history).
  • Paragraphs should be visually separated by either line shift or indents. Not both.

Connecting paragraphs

Ideally, paragraphs should be well connected to each other. Order your paragraphs so that each one follows logically on from the previous one. To make this logic more obvious, you can use transition words (or “connectors”), so that the paragraphs flow better and the reader is always kept on track. The easiest way of doing this is by using words like similarly, likewise, by the same token, yet, nevertheless, however, etc. Or, you may use longer phrases such as “It is ironic, therefore, that…….” or “Although less obvious, an equally important point here is the fact that…..”

Works consulted
"Successful Writing Proficiency" by Virginia Evans
"Academic Writing" by Macmillan Publishing

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