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How to structure a paragraph

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Description: This resource highlights the importance of clear and effective paragraphing to essay coherence. The resource explains the basic aims and structure of a paragraph, along with a checklist of features. Signposting words and phrases can be particularly useful for introducing theory, linking or concluding an essay.
Estimated activity time: 20 minutes
Type of media: Handout/s, Webpage, Helpsheet, PDF file
Licence: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 3.0
(This resource can be freely repurposed and reused)
Category: Academic Writing
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Date: This information/resource was last updated in .

HOW TO STRUCTURE A PARAGRAPH

This post was originally added to Learnhigher on:


Introduction

A paragraph is a unit of text within a longer piece of writing which discusses one key idea in relation to a given topic. It should include:

  • A topic sentence, which introduces the main idea of the paragraph, followed by further sentences which analyse and develop the idea
  • Examples, in the form of evidence or brief quotations which support and develop the idea or argument and these should be appropriately referenced according to the conventions of the Discipline or School
  • A link to the preceding paragraph in order to produce a fluent and cohesive piece of writing. You should also finish the paragraph with a concluding sentence to sum up the implications or impact of your point within the wider context of the question
  • Signposting words (see table below), which can be used throughout to create reference points which explicitly demonstrate how the question is being answered

Suggestion

Use signposting words and phrases from the lists below to develop your writing:

 

Introducing theory Linking Concluding / summing up
... states because In summary
... argues however To conclude
... proposes but This demonstrates
... suggests since This suggests
... points out also In conclusion
... believes as a result To summarise
... observes so Briefly

Checklist

  • Linking sentence
  • Topic sentence
  • Evidence with reference
  • Development sentences
  • Concluding sentence
  • Signposting words
  • Reference to the question

For example

Below is a sample assignment question:

 Examine the impact of the representation of women on contemporary radio.

The following paragraph brings together all of the elements listed to form a cohesive paragraph:

[linking sentence] Although it could be [signposting word] argued that there is much evidence to support the upholding of gender stereotypes in radio, [topic sentence] the female DJ may give a voice to women which challenges the stereotypical view of the female as passive. [evidence with reference]Barnard (2000) suggests that

“. . . the depiction of women in the commercials . . . reveals radio’s true perception of and attitude towards the female listener.”

[development sentences] His suggestion here would be that daytime radio tends to reinforce gender stereotypes; however the decision to hire Zoe Ball to host the BBC Radio 1 Breakfast Show in 1997 reflects a decision to redress the balance. Ball’s image as being a hardened drinker and her controversial lifestyle have been cited as contributing to what became known in the late 1990s as the ‘ladette culture.’ [concluding sentence and reference to the question] This [signposting word] suggests then that gender representation on mainstream primetime radio may have a significant impact on British popular culture (Calcutt 2000).

Common Mistakes

Failure to develop your point may result in a weak structure and incoherent argument.

Now you’ve read the guide, we suggest that you have a go at the How to structure a paragraph worksheet.


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