______________________________________________________________ Paragraph structures provide a map for your ideas, guiding readers through your reasoning. Keep this simple set of principles in mind while you write, and use it as a checklist when you're revising.
Use Topic Sentences
State the central idea of each paragraph explicitly in a topic sentence. That's one way to show that you have thought through your material.
In academic writing, the topic sentence nearly always works best at the beginning of a paragraph so that the reader knows what to expect. Don't count on your readers to guess what your paragraph is going to be about.
NOTE: The first and last paragraphs of an essay are exceptions to this rule. In both instances, readers already know you're leading up to something, and you can save the topic sentence to make a strong paragraph ending.
Expand on the Topic Sentences
The body of a paragraph develops and demonstrates what your topic sentences state. Here are some common patterns:
Explain more fully what you mean, giving definitions or indicating distinctions. Offer details, examples, or relevant quotations (with your comments). Follow through a logical sequence, showing the connections among your ideas in a recognizable pattern such as cause and effect or comparison and contrast.
(To see other strategies for developing paragraphs, follow this link to U of Ottawa's HyperGrammar. To learn more about topic sentences, see our file on Using Topic Sentences.)
Be sure your intended logic is clear. Often the simplest words do the most to pull together ideas. •
Pronouns such as it and they and this keep the focus on the ideas announced at the beginning of the paragraph—as long as they are clearly linked to specific nouns (see the Purdue University file on pronoun reference).
Deliberate repetition of key words also helps. The paragraph below shows the interweaving of key nouns...