Academic writing tips: How to construct and write Paragraphs
After sentences, paragraphs are the next level at which a piece of text is broken up. But what exactly are paragraphs, and how should they be constructed? This article explains and illustrates how paragraphs can be used to help convey your ideas more clearly.
What is a paragraph?
In its simplest sense, a paragraph is a collection of sentences that relate to a particular topic. A solid block of text covering a whole page can be quite discouraging for a reader, so each page of academic writing is generally be broken up into several paragraphs. There are no specific rules about exactly how long a paragraph should be, and the precise number of sentences in a paragraph is not necessarily important. However, a key thing to remember is that a paragraph should introduce, develop and possibly conclude a distinct area of the topic under consideration.
Let’s take the above paragraph as an example:
The first sentence (‘In its simplest…’) introduces the topic.
The next two sentences (‘A solid block…’ and ‘There are no…’) develop this idea and give more information.
The last sentence (‘However, a key…’) concludes the paragraph by giving an important piece of information related to the idea introduced in the first sentence.
When should you end a paragraph?
When you are writing, if you find that a single paragraph has filled half a page, then you are likely to have wandered away from the core idea that you introduced at its beginning. If this happens, it may be helpful to look back at what you have written and see if you can identify a sentence somewhere that moves away from the original idea. Each sentence should be in some way connected to and follow on from the one before it. If it does not, then this may be a good place to insert a paragraph break.
Let’s take both the paragraphs under the heading ‘What is a paragraph?’ above as an example:
The first (‘In its simplest…’) defines what a paragraph is.
The second (‘Let’s take the…’) considers and explains an example.
If there were no line break between them, then one paragraph would be discussing both the definition and the example, and these can be considered as two separate ideas.
Note: In this case though, the two ideas are indeed closely related, so a paragraph break is not mandatory. However, including one makes the text easier to read and understand. But this is probably a matter of style (as also individual preference) and warrants a separate discussion.
An important academic writing skill
Using appropriate paragraph breaks is important not only to the reader but also to you. You may find that thinking in terms of distinct paragraphs will actually help you to organise and express your ideas into a logical flow. Paragraph writing can therefore be an important research skill.
A paragraph should discuss one particular aspect of a topic, which it should introduce, develop and possibly conclude. Breaking up your writing into paragraphs will not only help a reader to understand your writing but will also help you to clearly express what you are trying to convey.
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