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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!

Deconstructing the Prompt & Assignment Description

14 Jan

It is the second week of the semester and already the assignments are rolling in! Whether one of your professors has asked you to write a reflection, reading response, or essay, there are a few things that you can do before and during the writing process to ensure that you stay on the write – I mean right – track.

Facing your blank page or blank computer screen can often be one of the most challenging and daunting steps in the writing process. There are two things that you can do to make it easier to get started. First, brainstorming ideas about your overall topic can help tremendously! As discussed in our earlier blog post on Brainstorming Techniques, brainstorming not only helps you come up with details and ideas regarding your topic, but it can also can help you determine the structure and scope of your writing. It can also help you determine what you do and do not know, revealing areas where more research or reflection may be needed.

While brainstorming is incredibly helpful for generating ideas and finding a direction for your writing, there is one other thing that you want to keep in mind as you get started on any writing assignment: the assignment prompt and description. Usually, when students are completing a writing project, the instructor has provided a prompt or description containing details about the assignment and what the student should do to complete the assignment. Often, this is not a simple one-sentence prompt or question, but rather a paragraph or several paragraphs. Anything included in the assignment description provides information for the writer, although it may seem difficult to determine what the professor is getting at.

Before beginning a writing assignment, you want to make sure to deconstruct the assignment prompt and description. You can think about the prompt as doing two things. First, there is undoubtedly something (such as a question or statement) that asks you to take an argument or stance on something.  This shows you what type of writing you should do. For example, a question or statement posing two positions on a topic and asking you to identify with one of the positions indicates that you will want to take an argumenative approach. This is different from a question or statement that asks you to consider what you have learned from a particular reading or class activity, where a more reflective approach is in order. Paying close attention to the guiding statement or question in the prompt helps you to determine what type of writing you need to do – and this can greatly improve the focus and purpose of your writing.

Secondly, any additional material outside of the guiding statement or question is worthy of consideration as well. Any additional information that your instructor provides in the prompt is there to show you what course material (from class meetings or outside readings) that you should tie in, or what points you should make. This lets you know what you want to be sure to include in your writing assignment. For example, a writing assignment may ask you to make an argument on a particular topic in its initial guiding statement or question. In the additional material, though, the instructor may specify chapters or readings that you need to consider or include, or they may provide you with a structure to follow as you write and different points that you want to make as you progress through the assignment. For these reasons, it is incredibly important to consider all of the information in the assignment prompt or description – and not just the guiding statement or question!

If you cannot see a connection between the initial guiding question or statement and the additional material, you are not sure how to address or include everything that you need to, or you just want to make sure you are on the right track, speak with your instructor or visit the Writing Center for assistance! And don’t forget to brainstorm!

Brainstorming Techniques

12 Nov

Have you ever had difficulty getting started on an assignment? You might sit at your desk and stare at your pen and paper or computer for hours as you try to decide where to begin and what to write about. Brainstorming ideas can help to generate ideas for an assignment, which can help you decide where to begin and how to structure your assignment. Different students have different preferences when it comes to brainstorming – and different assignments may even require different approaches. Today, we will review some common brainstorming techniques and how to use them.

Freewriting

Freewriting is one of the easiest brainstorming techniques. To freewrite, you just have to write. Don’t know what to write about? Write about anything that comes to mind regarding your topic! This can help you generate ideas, decide on a direct for your assignment, and determine what you already know and what you don’t know about your topic. Some tips for freewriting:

  • Set a goal for yourself. Write for five minutes straight. Write 500 words. Just write!
  • Do not worry about your spelling, punctuation, or grammar. You can address that later!
  • Do not worry about if your sentence ‘sounds good’ or not. Get the ideas down first, and you can work on your word choice later.
  • Try to turn off your inner editor or critic. Don’t worry if you jump around; it’s all about getting those ideas out there!

Researching

Researching is another common brainstorming technique. This can be helpful if you are having difficulty choosing a topic, or if you know what you need to write about but you are having trouble picking a direction. Conducting even preliminary research can help you determine what has already been said on your topic; this can make it easier to decide what you want focus on in your assignment. Some tips when researching:

  • Keep your assignment requirements in mind. If your assignment calls for research, this brainstorming technique will help you to generate ideas and acquire possible sources for use in your assignment.
  • Know what you’re working with and what you need to do. If you need to use scholarly sources, stick to academic journals and books. If you are free to use whatever sources you would like, consider not only academic journals and books, but also magazines, newspapers, internet articles, and even films! There are even a number of documentaries on YouTube that can provide you with good information or ideas.
  • Keep track of your research! Keep a list of the information that you come across or any points that you find interesting. Keep track of any information that you may want to include in your finished assignment – this will make it easier to develop your Works Cited or References page later on!
  • Don’t just look on Google! Utilize the online library to gain access to library databases, books, and more!
  • If you are having trouble researching your topic, set up an appointment with a research librarian. They are always happy to help students navigate through the many available resources. 

Clustering/Webbing  

Clustering and Webbing can work well for more visual learners. With either technique, you draw a cluster of circles or a web of shapes and use your visual representation to help you generate ideas. Some tips for clustering or making a web:

  • Start with your main idea in the center. This main idea should represent the focal point of your assignment. It may be your research question, your overall topic, the term or concept that you were instructed to write about – whatever is at the heart of your assignment.
  • Branch out from your main idea using clusters of circles or by expanding your web. After you have developed your main idea, try to develop supporting ideas and examples. For each supporting idea or example, branch out again to include major and minor details.
  • Try to include every possible supporting point or example that you can think of and brainstorm ideas for each point. Then, when you have finished your cluster or web, go back through it. Select the points that you know that you want to write about. Eliminate the points that you do not want or need to include.
  • Use your finished cluster or web to help you structure your assignment. Arrange your supporting points in a logical manner, and use your major and minor details to help you as you write. Try to focus at least one paragraph on each supporting point (although you may need more than one paragraph in some occasions).

Cubing

When cubing, you are approaching your topic from different perspectives to better see the whole picture. Cubing can be particularly helpful when you have an assigned topic or you already have an idea. The cubing process helps you to brainstorm different ways of approaching your topic, which can allow you to decide the scope and focus of your essay more easily. Tips for cubing:

  • Consider your topic from all perspectives. Ask yourself:
    • What is it?
    • What is it like or unlike?
    • What does it make you think of?
    • What is it made of?
    • How can it be used?
    • How can you support it or oppose it?
  • You could also break your topic down according to three categories:
    • The topic & its features, parts, challenges, etc.
    • The history of the topic & its evolution 
    • The topic’s influences, & things the topic has influenced

These four brainstorming techniques can help you to develop ideas and even decide on the scope and focus of your writing. Use these brainstorming techniques to generate ideas and avoid Writer’s Block! If you are having difficulty starting an assignment or you are having trouble brainstorming ideas, feel free to schedule an appointment in the Writing Center for help!

Nursing 206 Students!

17 Sep

Your writing assignment is due in approximately one month! From the assignment description:

Write a two – three page scholarly paper utilizing current APA format in which you answer the question, “How will you use critical thinking and/or clinical reasoning in your nursing practice when making clinical decisions for a group of patients?” Support your answer with evidence from two scholarly articles.

How can the Writing Center help?

The Writing Center can help you with the completion of this writing assignment in several ways:

Prewriting

Not sure what to write about or where to begin? Having trouble answering the assignment question? Not sure what a “scholarly article” is, or how to use it in your writing assignment? Come to the Writing Center!

At the Writing Center, we can help you brainstorm ideas, identify scholarly sources from popular sources, and work on demystify the assignment so that you are confident as you begin writing. Schedule an appointment today to begin brainstorming ideas (and even constructing an outline)!

Drafting

Have a general idea of what to write about, but are unsure of how to get there? Having trouble developing substantial body paragraphs? Worried you have a start to the assignment but won’t be able to meet the two – three page requirement? Experiencing Writer’s Block? Come to the Writing Center!

At the Writing Center, we can help you transform the ideas and writing that you already have into a finished draft. It doesn’t matter if you have written a sentence, a paragraph, or a page – we can work with what you already have to identify areas of further development and work toward the completion of a finished draft. Schedule an appointment today for assistance with the drafting process!

Revising & Editing

Have you finished the assignment, but you’re not sure if it’s quite right? Worried that you may be missing something? Want an extra set of eyes to look over your draft and assist you with identifying any necessary areas for revision? Come to the Writing Center!

At the Writing Center, we can help you identify revision opportunities. In looking at everything from your tone and voice, to your focus and flow, we can help you identify areas where you can improve your writing. We also have a number of resources on common grammatical and mechanical issues and APA style to assist you as you edit.

Don’t wait until the last minute! As the deadline approaches, appointment slots will fill up quickly.  Book an appointment today to ensure you will get the necessary assistance when you need it!

© Alyssa Ryan and The Christ College Writing Center (2013-2016)