Paragraph Construction & Development

12 Jun

Many written tasks require proper paragraph development. Whether you are writing a response paper, tackling a longer essay, or completing a scholarship application, developing strong paragraphs will help you more effectively communicate and support your overall point. There are three main types of paragraphs: introductory paragraphs (or introductions), body paragraphs, and concluding paragraphs (or conclusions). Today, we will discuss these three different types of paragraphs and some strategies for constructing and developing strong paragraphs.

Introductory Paragraphs/Introductions 

Your introductory paragraph, or introduction, is the first paragraph your reader encounters. While some assignments and reports may require an abstract, which would precede your introductory paragraph, it is in your introduction where you first get into the topic and illustrate your purpose. Your introductory paragraph will also contain your thesis statement. While there are many different ways to approach your introduction, there are a few strategies that you can use to guide you. Check out this video and then we’ll discuss some of the dos and don’ts of introductory paragraphs!

Although there is no one way to construct an introduction, as they mention in the video, it is best to begin generally. You can also begin with what is called a “hook”. This is a first sentence in your introduction where you can include a quote, a statement, a statistic, or some general piece of interest that “hooks” your reader or gets them interested in your general subject and the essay that will follow. Once you have generally introduced your topic and hooked your reader, you then want to gradually narrow your topic until you come to your thesis statement. Remember, your thesis statement should show your reader the scope and focus of your essay.

Dos and Don’ts of Introductory Paragraphs

  • Do make sure to grab your reader’s attention. Make sure to begin with a strong hook and try to maintain that reader interest throughout the paragraph. Do make sure that your hook is relevant to your overall discussion!
  • Do not announce your intentions. Unless specifically instructed to do so, avoid statements like “In this paper, I will…” and “The purpose of this essay is to…” While these may work for some written response scenarios, you can often strengthen your writing by jumping into the topic and showing your reader your main point.
  • Do construct a thesis statement that works for you! The video describes one method of constructing a thesis statement: detailing three topics and your main point. Remember, this is not the only type of thesis statement that you can use!
  • Do consider placing your thesis statement as the last sentence in your introduction. While this is not the only place where you can put your thesis statement, it can often act as a natural transition into your first body paragraph.

Body Paragraphs

Once you have carefully crafted your introductory paragraph and thesis statement, it is time to begin developing strong body paragraphs. While there are no general rules for the number of body paragraphs needed in an essay or their length, in general, try to include at least three body paragraphs per essay (as this will give you the overall structure of a five paragraph essay), and try to develop at least five sentences per body paragraph. Check out this video discussing body paragraph development, and then we will break down the parts of a body paragraph.

The first sentence in your body paragraph is your topic sentence. Remember, your topic sentence should introduce the main point of your body paragraph to your reader. It is also a place where you can transition from the previous paragraph and idea into this new paragraph and idea. Once you have developed a strong topic sentence, as they discussed in the video, you want to develop strong supporting sentences. In your supporting sentences, you want to include any details, supporting information, examples, or even quotes that develop the paragraph’s point. Finally, you want to develop a concluding sentence. This sentence should wrap up the paragraph and the idea that you are discussing while preparing your reader to transition into the next paragraph.

Dos and Don’ts of Body Paragraphs

  • Do develop one idea per paragraph. Remember, you want to break your overall point (as articulated in your thesis statement) down into manageable chunks that you can discuss in your body paragraph. Then, focus on one chunk of information or one aspect of your overall point per paragraph.
  • Do fully develop each paragraph. Make sure that each paragraph has a strong topic sentence, good supporting information, and a concluding sentence that transitions into the next paragraph. If a paragraph seems underdeveloped, try adding more supporting information and analysis!
  • Do not include irrelevant information. Make sure that every sentence in your body paragraph supports and details the main point that you articulated in that paragraph’s topic sentence. If you come across something that does not connect to the topic sentence, see if you can develop the idea in a different paragraph or remove it from your essay altogether.
  • Don’t forget your transitions! You can use transitional words to help you move from one body paragraph to the next.

Concluding Paragraphs/Conclusions

After you have fully detailed your main point and your topic by constructing a strong introduction with a strong thesis statement and body paragraphs that provide appropriate support and development, you will want to develop a concluding paragraph. If your introduction is the first thing that your reader experiences, your conclusion is the last thing that your reader will read. You want to make sure to appropriately conclude your essay while also leaving your reader with something to think about! Check out this video on some helpful concluding strategies that can connect back to your introduction, and then we will review tips for constructing a strong conclusion!

Concluding paragraphs are often the most difficult to write. Once you have fully introduced your topic in your introduction (and included a strong thesis statement) and you have developed multiple focused body paragraphs, it can seem like there is not much else to say. That said, it is important to look back on what you have said in your essay and effectively wrap it up without repeating yourself. One way to accomplish this, as the video said, is to look back at your thesis statement. You can use this thesis statement to develop a specific summary statement, and then broaden your paragraph. To do this, try to find some connection between your overall point, the outside world, and your reader. This gives them something to take away from your writing.

Dos and Don’ts of Concluding Paragraphs

  • Do not repeat your thesis statement. Do not copy and paste your thesis statement from your introduction into your conclusion. While it is important to revisit these ideas when wrapping up your essay, you want to reevaluate your thesis in light of all of the information that you have presented in your body paragraphs.
  • Do make sure to fully develop your conclusion. Although this is the end of your essay and the end of your paragraph development, do not let it fall short! Make sure to fully conclude your essay and try to leave your reader with something to think about!

Are you having difficulty developing strong paragraphs? Schedule an appointment in the Writing Center today!

© Alyssa Ryan 

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One Response to “Paragraph Construction & Development”

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  1. Resources for Getting Started | The Christ College Writing Center - March 1, 2016

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