Paragraphs and how to use them.

Paragraphs are incredibly important– whether you’re writing a short response paper or an epic long dissertation, you need them.


Without them, your writing will seem like a long, unedited diatribe– endless lines of unorganized information that will lose your readers and your professor.

In order to fully understand what paragraphs are and how to fully use them, it’s helpful if you think of them in the following ways:

– Paragraphs are units of composition.
Think of each paragraph as a separate unit, an individual nugget or dose of information. Each new bit of information should be showcased to your reader, separately. This helps you, the writer, separate your topics and develop your overall argument in a logical and organized fashion. For the reader, your argument is more digestible and easier to read.

So, with that said…

– Paragraphs should always introduce a new idea.
Whether you are subdividing a topic at hand or introducing an entirely different topic, paragraphs should contain new, unique, pieces of information that are parts of a cohesive whole.

Some examples where your paper should have a natural paragraph break are:
– when there is a change in setting or time (such as discussing periods in history or different geographical locations)
– when you are citing and explaining a specific case as an example, or
– when you are presenting an additional argument or counter-argument
– in introduction of a set of new arguments/topics or in conclusion or them, or of your paper.

– Paragraphs should begin with topic sentences.
In order to fully accomplish what I said above, each paragraph should state its new topic within the first two sentences. By doing so, your reader will understand that you are transitioning from the previous topic to the next, how you’re doing so and why. You would also be preparing your reader (and your professor) for what you will be outlining further in the paragraph and throughout your argument as a whole.

Using transitional words or phrases are a good start. Here are a few examples:

Adding information: Also, as well, besides
Comparing ideas: Likewise, similarly
Contrasting ideas: At the same time, conversely, even so, in contrast, nevertheless,
Using an example: For example, for instance, in other words, specifically,
Continuing a previous idea: Later, meanwhile, next, subsequently, then
Following from a previous idea: accordingly, as a result, consequently, as such, therefore, thus
Concluding ideas: Finally, in short, in summary, that is, that is to say, to sum up.

Stefanie Arr

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