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What is a paragraph?
A paragraph develops ONE main idea through a series of related sentences. This main idea is usually introduced in the first sentence of the paragraph, called the topic sentence. The idea is then developed further through the sentences that follow.
A paragraph is usually around 250 words and consists of five or six sentences, although this can vary depending on the purpose of the paragraph, and the length of the piece you are writing. Paragraphs play an important role in writing because they provide a framework for organising your ideas in a logical order. Using a clear structure for your paragraphs helps guide the reader through your written work.
A useful way of understanding paragraph structure is to think of it as a block that is divided into three sections: the beginning, the middle, and the end.
A basic paragraph follows this structure:
Topic Sentence (TS) - the beginning
- Needs to state ONE idea clearly
- Useful Tip: Always put the most important information first!
Supporting Sentences (SS) - the middle
- Elaborates and explains the idea introduced in the topic sentence
- Provides evidence and examples
- Explains the evidence or example included - why is it relevant?
Concluding Sentence (CS) - the end
- Makes links: back to the main idea of the paragraph; back to research question or topic of the assignment; to the next paragraph
When to start a new paragraph:
- Start new main points or new ideas in a new paragraph. If you have an extended idea across multiple paragraphs, each new point within that idea should have its own paragraph.
- Use a new paragraph to introduce a contrasting or different position. Use a clear topic sentence to identify the main idea.
- If the paragraph becomes too long or the material is overly complex, you will need to create a break to make your writing more readable. Try splitting long paragraphs into two shorter paragraphs. This means you will need to write a new topic sentence at the start of the new paragraph.
- Introductions and conclusions are usually written as separate paragraphs.
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