Paragraphs in Essay Writing
According to Oxford’s Lexico Dictionary,a paragraph is “a distinct section of a piece of writing, usually dealing with a single theme and indicated by a new line, indentation, or numbering.”
In other words, a paragraph is a group of related sentences used to develop a single idea.
The main idea in paragraph is usually introduced using a topic sentence, the writer should then develop the idea further using related arguments, evidence, facts or even opinions.
A standard paragraph is usually 150-250 words; the number of sentences varies depending on the paragraph’s length.
Why are Paragraphs important in academic writing ?
Paragraphing is an indispensable skill in essay writing; one that will help you develop your ideas in a more organized and logical manner.
Experts agree that the use of paragraphs helps guide readers through your essay.
For example, here is what RMIT University states in relation to paragraphing:
“If information is organised and your main points are clear, you will get better marks. Making your ideas and arguments stand out is mostly done through having clear and well-structured paragraphs.”
What are the characteristics of Paragraphs ?
Each type of essay is structured using paragraphs although the number, order and length of your paragraphs differs depending on the purpose of your writing.
Here are four fundamental features that characterize all effective paragraphs:
- Relevance in the sense that the paragraph links back to the main theme of your essay
- Coherence meaning that there is a clear and logical connection between sentences.
- Order in terms of how you organize and present your ideas
- Completeness meaning that each paragraph contains a conclusive explanation of the topic sentence. A complete paragraph is one that contains a topic sentence, at least three supporting sentences and a conclusive sentence. Remember the concluding sentence of your paragraph should help the reader transit to the next paragraph, in addition to summarizing the current paragraph.
How to Write a Paragraph ?
As a rule of thumb, each paragraph should discuss a single idea. A really effective way of developing paragraphs is to follow the TEEL approach:
Topic Sentence: start with the topic of your paragraph
Elaborate: explain why the topic is important.
Example/ Evidence: justify your assertions with evidence (facts, references)
Link: Link back to the topic
When to Start a New Paragraph
Experts recommend you start a new paragraph when transiting to a new topic. Remember it is okay to include multiple ideas in the same paragraph as long as they support your topic sentence.
However, consider starting a new paragraph when you realize that a single point is getting overly elaborate.
Here are other instances when you need to start new paragraphs :
- When introducing contrasting information – this is common when writing an argumentative essay counter claim.
- To give your readers a breather- Adding paragraphs between long discussions or explanations is an opportunity for your readers to pause. Paragraphing also makes your essay more readable.
- After stating a thesis statement- you should always state your essay’s thesis statement in the last sentence of the introductory paragraph. Anything else you write after the thesis statement must begin on a new paragraph.
- When writing the conclusion- regardless of the essay type, remember to use paragraphing to separate the conclusion from the body.
A common mistakes among writers is to think of paragraphs in terms of isolated sections – a paragraph is meant to be part of a larger claim/ argument therefore your transition between paragraphs should be seamless.