Paragraphs are small sections of text that have
- unity – the sentences are grouped together because they support one main idea
- coherence – sentences clearly relate to one another and appear in a logical order
- depth – the contents develop the main idea, offering multiple pieces of evidence to support it or providing an in-depth description of one piece of evidence.
Paragraphs result from brainstorming, analysis, and research. As you observe connections between your ideas and information, you determine which material belongs together in a paragraph and the order in which that information should appear.
Each paragraph has both a topic and a function. In other words, the sentences cohere around a certain idea, and they have a unique job to do to support the paper’s thesis.
In most cases, you should begin a paragraph with a topic sentence that describes its main idea. It can also articulate how the main idea connects to or supports your thesis. The rest of the sentences illustrate or provide evidence for that main idea. Each sentence should directly relate to the sentences that precede and follow it. Well-chosen transition phrases can help demonstrate the logical relationship between sentences.
Examine the organization. Can you tell what the topic is when you read the first sentence? Do the subsequent sentences support that main idea? Sometimes the topic sentence is in the paragraph but needs to be moved to the beginning from the middle or the end.
Look out for paragraphs that are too long. You may need more than one paragraph to support a certain point. If a paragraph has more than one idea or more than one function, you may need to divide it into two paragraphs.
When you divide a paragraph, make sure to re-evaluate the first sentence. Does it describe the main idea? Does it explain how the paragraph relates to the thesis?