Writing Structured Paragraphs

19.04.23 Improving your academic writing Time to read: 6min

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Having the skill to structure meaningful paragraphs and develop connections between them is important for developing and sustaining a convincing argument in academic writing. By bringing out ideas and evidence using a natural flow, your work will be much more readable. This technique will enable writers to achieve higher attainment levels in assignments and enhance the quality of your day-to-day writing.

It is flow and connectivity that allows readers to follow the argument’s thread from one sentence to the other and from one paragraph to the other.

Paragraphs - FAQ

An academic paragraph has to entail 4 parts namely: a topic sentence, evidence supporting your point, analysis on the importance of the point and how it affects the overall argument and lastly, a link to the subsequent paragraph if there is.

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In academic writing, the ideal number of sentences in a paragraph varies from three to ten sentences. It will vary from class to class. For example in historical writing, there should be between four and six paragraphs in a two-page paper, or six and twelve in a five-page paper. If it is more it becomes difficult to see the larger contours of your argument. On the other hand if it is less, it’s hard to see where sections start and end.

Each paragraph needs to outline one idea. If there is another idea propping up, begin a new paragraph. You can have one idea and several bits of supporting information within a single paragraph. As long as they relate to the overall topic of the paragraph, you can also have several points in a single paragraph.

Paragraphs: Definition

Each section of academic writing is structured by headings and paragraphs. Paragraphs are the building blocks that build sections of a text. An academic paragraph entails the points that the writer wants to make with supporting evidence and arguments.

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Paragraphs: Structure

There is no particular structure of academic paragraphs. However, they should include the following points:

  1. Topic sentence: What is the point that your paragraph is making? A topic sentence needs to appear at the start of a paragraph, but not necessarily the first sentence. It needs to state the main point clearly in the paragraph. Before writing an essay, write down a list of the topic sentences you intend to use. This will help your argument to flow well from one point to the other.
  2. Evidence: This part addresses the reason why you believe what you have written as your topic sentence. In most cases, the development is mostly quoted or paraphrased material. Depending on the assignment’s nature
  3. Analysis/Explanation: This is the section of a paragraph where the academic writer explains to the reader why the evidence is relevant to the argument in general. It answers the question, “So what?”. In this section, inform the reader in what manner does the information provided in the paragraph answer the question, and how it results in the conclusion.

Different Types of Paragraphs

There are several types of paragraphs. The type of paragraph to be used depends on various factors such as the logical order of the information and ideas, position of the paragraph, and the type of writing being produced. Here are some of the types of paragraphs.

Definition paragraph

This type of paragraph is used to define a concept, and to show how it relates to a given discipline or context. A definition paragraph’s starting point is a basic definition in the topic sentence. Then use support sentences to provide more information such as description, explanation and examples.

Analysis or classification paragraph

This type of paragraph groups together separate items according to their shared characteristics. It is used to organize items, ideas or information into categories. The way it will be organized depends on the subject area and purpose.

The topic sentence involves introducing the items that are being classified. The supporting sentences will give more information regarding the items, and how their traits fit into a given category. In the conclusion, repeat what the category the item belongs to.

Compare or contrast paragraph

Compare or contrast paragraphs are used to examine similarities and differences. Compare looks at the similarities whereas contrast looks at the differences. This type of paragraph is beneficial for literature reports and reviews.

The topic sentence introduces the items that are being compared or contrasted. The supporting sentences identify, discuss and describe the similarities and differences of the items. In the conclusion, interpret and summarize the similarities and differences that have been discussed.

Argument paragraph

An argument paragraph is used to present a point of view, and gives evidence that supports the stance taken by the writer. The evidence that supports the stance could be statistics, reasons, personal experience, expert research or confirmed facts.

The topic sentence should introduce the position and argument for or against the case. The supporting sentences should give reasons for the writer’s position and give examples and facts that support it. Its conclusion should restate the position.

Explanation paragraph

An explanation paragraph is used if the writer is required to describe how something or a process works, and the steps in the process. The topic sentence introduces what will be described. The supporting sentences explain every step of the process, in a chronological order that the steps will be conducted. Also, the supporting sentences should provide information on how something happens and the reason. The conclusion will give a brief summary of the entire process.

Useful Transition Words for Paragraphs

Transitions glue essays and ideas together. They create logical connections between paragraphs and sections of your papers. Basically, they inform the reader what they should do with the information that is presented to them. Here are some transition words for academic writing:

Use case Transition Words
Similarity In the same way, just as … so too, also, similarly
Cause and effect Consequently, accordingly, therefore, thus, hence, so
Additional support/evidence Additionally, also, again, besides, furthermore, moreover
Place/position Adjacent, beyond, below, nearby, above
Time Afterward, before, currently, during, earlier, immediately, subsequently
Contrast/exception However, in spite of, on the other hand, notwithstanding, nonetheless, nevertheless
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How Long Should a Paragraph be?

There is no specific length of an academic paragraph. However, it should be lengthy enough to entail all the aforementioned materials. That could range between 100 to 250 words.

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In a Nutshell

  • A paragraph contains the writer’s points with supporting evidence and arguments.
  • The sentences in the paragraphs may contain citations from anecdotal evidences, examples and information sources.
  • Paragraphs are divided into various types such as argument, classification, compare or contrast, definition, and explanation paragraphs.
  • Normal paragraphs contain between three to ten sentences.
  • A paragraph should have a topic sentence, evidence, and supporting sentences.
  • Academic paragraphs should be clearly written and give the main idea in the topic sentence.
  • Paragraphs should have clear links among sentences to have a good coherence.
  • Transition words are words with specific meanings that show the relationship between ideas in paragraphs, and tell readers what they need to think or how to react in a given manner to the writer’s ideas.