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Starting A Body Paragraph In An Essay

  • 1

    Recognize the structure of an argumentative paragraph. Most argumentative paragraphs have a clearly defined structure, especially if they are in an academic context. Each paragraph helps to support the overarching thesis (or argumentative claim) of the paper, and each paragraph presents new information that can convince a reader that your position is the correct one. The components that make up a paragraph are the following:
    • Topic sentence. A topic sentence explains to the reader what the paragraph is about. It usually ties back to the bigger argument in some way, and it explains why the paragraph belongs in the essay. Sometimes a topic sentence might be 2 or even 3 sentences long, though it is usually just a single sentence.[2]
    • Evidence. Most body paragraphs in an argumentative paper include some kind of proof that your position is the correct one. This evidence can be all kinds of things: quotations, surveys, or even your own observations.[3] Your paragraphs are where this evidence can be presented in a convincing way.[4]
    • Analysis. A good paragraph doesn't just present evidence. It also takes some time to explain why the evidence is worthwhile, what it means, and why it is better than other pieces of evidence out there. This is where your own analysis comes into play.
    • Conclusions and transitions. After the analysis, a good paragraph will conclude by explaining why the paragraph is significant, how it fits in with the thesis of the essay, and will begin to set up the next paragraph.[5]
  • 2

    Reread your thesis statement. If you are writing an argumentative essay, each paragraph should help further your overarching claim. Before you can write an argumentative paragraph, you must have your thesis statement firmly in mind. A thesis statement is a 1-3 sentence description of what you are arguing and why it is important. Are you arguing that all Americans should use energy-efficient bulbs in their homes? Or are you arguing that all citizens should have the freedom to choose which products they buy? Make sure you have a clear idea of your argument before you begin writing.[6]

  • 3

    Write the evidence and analysis first. Often it is easier to start writing in the middle of an argumentative paragraph instead of at the beginning of the paragraph. If you are stressing out about starting a paragraph from the beginning, tell yourself that you will focus on the part of the paragraph that is easiest to write: the evidence and analysis. Once you have finished the more straightforward component of a paragraph, you can move on to the topic sentence.

  • 4

    List all the evidence that supports your thesis statement. No matter what kind of argument you are making, you will have to use evidence in order to convince your reader that you are correct. Your evidence could be many things: historical documentation, quotations from experts, results from a scientific study, a survey, or your own observations.[7] Before you proceed with your paragraph, list out every piece of evidence that you think supports your claim.[8]

  • 5

    Choose 1-3 related pieces of evidence for your paragraph. Each paragraph you write must be unified and self-contained. This means that you cannot have too many pieces of evidence to analyze in each paragraph. Instead, each paragraph should have just 1-3 related pieces of evidence. Take a close look at all the evidence you have gathered. Are there any pieces of evidence that seem like they link together? That is a good indication that they belong in the same paragraph.[9] Some indications that evidence might link together include:
    • If they share common themes or ideas
    • If they share a common source (such as the same document or study)
    • If they share a common author
    • If they are the same type of evidence (such as two surveys that demonstrate similar results)
  • 6

    Write about your evidence using the 6 W's of writing. The 6 W's of writing are theWho,What,When,'Where,Why,andHow. This is the important background information your reader will need in order to understand the points you are making.[10] As you write out your related pieces of evidence, keep your reader in mind. Always explain what your evidence is, how and why it was collected, and what it means. A few special things to keep in mind include:
    • You must define any key terms or jargon that might be unfamiliar to your reader. (What)
    • You must provide any key dates and locations, if relevant (such as where a historical document was signed). (When/Where)
    • You must describe how evidence was obtained. For example, you might want to explain the methods of a scientific study that provided you with your evidence. (How)
    • You must explain who provided you with your evidence. Do you have a quotation from an expert? Why is this person considered knowledgeable about your topic? (Who)
    • You must explain why you think this evidence is important or notable. (Why)
  • 7

    Write 2-3 sentences analyzing your evidence. After you present your key, related piece(s) of evidence, you have to spend some time explaining how you believe the evidence contributes to your larger argument. This is where your own analysis comes into play. You cannot simply list evidence and move on: you have to explain its importance. A few questions you can ask yourself as you analyze your evidence include:
    • What is it that ties this evidence together?
    • How does this evidence help prove my thesis?
    • Are there any counterpoints or alternative explanations I should keep in mind?
    • What makes this evidence stand out? Is there anything special or interesting about it?
  • 8

    Write your topic sentence. The topic sentence of each paragraph is a signpost that the reader will use to follow your argument. Your introduction will include your thesis statement, and each paragraph will build upon this thesis by offering evidence. As the reader goes through your paper, she will recognize how each paragraph contributes to the thesis.[11] Remember that the thesis is the larger argument, and the topic sentence helps prove the thesis by focusing on a smaller topic or idea. This topic sentence will make a claim or argument, which is then defended or reinforced in the following sentences. Identify the main idea of your paragraph and write a mini thesis statement that states this main idea. Let's say your thesis statement is "Charlie Brown is the most important comic strip character in America," your essay might have the following topic sentences:
    • "The high ratings that Charlie Brown television specials have garnered for decades demonstrate the influence of this character."
    • "Some people contend that superheroes such as Superman are more important than Charlie Brown. However, studies show that most Americans identify more readily with the hapless Charlie than with the powerful, alien Superman."
    • "Media historians point to Charlie Brown's catchphrases, distinctive appearance, and sage wisdom as reasons why this character is beloved by adults and children alike."
  • 9

    Make sure the topic sentence supports the rest of the paragraph. After you’ve written your topic sentence, reread your evidence and analysis. Ask yourself if the topic sentence supports the paragraph’s ideas and details. Do they fit together? Are there ideas that seem out of place? If so, think about how you can alter the topic sentence to cover all of the ideas in the paragraph.
    • If there are too many ideas, you may need to break up the paragraph into two separate paragraphs.
    • Be sure that your topic sentence isn't simply a restatement of the thesis itself. Each paragraph should have a distinct, unique topic sentence. If you are simply restating "Charlie Brown is important" at the beginning of each body paragraph, you will have to narrow down your topic sentences more thoroughly.[12]
  • 10

    Conclude your paragraph. Unlike full essays, not every paragraph will have a full conclusion. However, it can be effective to devote a sentence to tying up the loose ends of your paragraph and emphasizing how your paragraph has just contributed to your thesis. You want to do this economically and quickly. Write one final sentence that bolsters your argument before moving on to the next set of ideas. Some key words and phrases to use in a concluding sentence include "Therefore," "Ultimately," "As you can see," and "Thus."

  • 11

    Start a new paragraph when you move on to a new idea. You should begin a new paragraph when you move on to a new point or idea. By starting a new paragraph, you signal to your reader that you’re shifting gears in some way.[13] Some cues that you should begin a new paragraph include:
    • When you begin to discuss a different theme or topic
    • When you begin to address contrasting ideas or counterarguments
    • When you address a different type of evidence
    • When you discuss a different time period, generation, or person
    • When your current paragraph is becoming unwieldy. If you have too many sentences in your paragraph, you may have too many ideas. Either cut your paragraph into two, or edit down your writing to make it more readable.
  • It is a good idea to occasionally use linking words and phrases at the start of a new paragraph. They can help to link what you have said in the previous paragraph to what you are about to say in your new paragraph.

    These link words and phrases are often referred to as signposts. This is because they help to indicate to the reader when one point ends and other begins, as well as the relationship between each point.

    Used with care, they can help to guide examiners and tutors through your essay. As well as bolster the impression of a coherent, flowing and logical piece of work.

    Useful linking words and phrases that can be used at the start of new paragraphs:

    A contrary explanation is that, …

    Although, …

    As a consequence, …

    As a result, …

    As we have seen, …

    At the same time, …

    Accordingly, …

    An equally significant aspect of…

    Another, significant factor in…

    Before considering X it is important to note Y

    By the same token, …

    But we should also consider, …

    Despite these criticisms, …it’s popularity remains high.

    Certainly, there is no shortage of disagreement within…

    Consequently, …

    Correspondingly, …

    Conversely, …

    Chaytor, … in particular, has focused on the

    Despite this, …

    Despite these criticisms, … the popularity of X remains largely undiminished.

    Each of these theoretical positions make an important contribution to our understanding of, …

    Evidence for in support of this position, can be found in…,

    Evidently,

    For this reason, …

    For these reasons, …

    Furthermore, …

    Given, the current high profile debate with regard to, …it is quite surprising that …

    Given, the advantages of … outlined in the previous paragraph, …it is quite predictable that …

    However, …

    Having considered X, it is also reasonable to look at …

    Hence, …

    In addition to, …

    In contrast, …

    In this way, …

    In this manner, …

    In the final analysis, …

    In short, …

    Indeed, …

    It can be seen from the above analysis that, …

    It could also be said that, …

    It is however, important to note the limitations of…

    It is important to note however, that …

    It is important however not to assume the applicability of, …in all cases.

    It is important however not to overemphasis the strengths of …

    In the face of such criticism, proponents of, …have responded in a number of ways.

    Moreover, …

    Notwithstanding such criticism, ….it’s popularity remains largely undiminished.

    Notwithstanding these limitations, ….it worth remains in a number of situations.

    Noting the compelling nature of this new evidence, …has suggested that.

    Nevertheless, …remains a growing problem.

    Nonetheless, the number of, …has continued to expand at an exponential rate.

    Despite these criticisms, …it’s popularity remains high.

    On the other hand, critics of, …point to its blindness, with respect to.

    Of central concern therefore to, …sociologists is explaining how societal processes and institutions…

    Proponents of…, have also suggested that…

    Subsequently, …

    Similarly, …

    The sentiment expressed in the quotation, embodies the view that, …

    This interpretation of, … has not been without it’s detractors however.

    This approach is similar to the, …. position

    This critique, unfortunately, implies a singular cause of, …

    This point is also sustained by the work of, …

    Thirdly, …

    This counter argument is supported by evidence from, …

    The use of the term, …

    Therefore, …

    There appears then to be an acceleration in the growth of

    There is also, however, a further point to be considered.

    These technological developments have greatly increased the growth in, …

    Thus, …

    To be able to understand, …

    Undoubtedly, …

    While such failures must not be discounted, … there were in comparison small, when compared

    Whilst the discussion in the preceding paragraph, …

    Whether crime rates were actually lower at this time continues to be a matter of debate. Evidence from…

    There are an almost limitless number of linking phrases and words one can use. What is important is that they complement the style of your writing.

    Use these examples to arouse your creativity.

    Remember that you don’t have to use them all the time. Using words like, ‘therefore’ ‘subsequently’ ‘moreover’ etc. for every new paragraph would probably become repetitive and detract from the key component of most academic work – critical analysis.

    Finally, remember to succinctly, identify the key paragraphs and/or sections of your essay during your introductory paragraph. Then restate them along side an unambiguous position in your concluding paragraph. Again this will help to communicate a clear and understandable progression and structure, to those who read or mark your essay.

    Best wishes.
    S J Tonge.

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