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Beginner paragraphs

In essays and short answer questions, information about a topic is written in paragraph form. While there can be variations in the form of a paragraph, its structure follows a particular pattern (recipe) that you can apply to your writing tasks.

This workshop:

Key words: paragraph, topic sentence, support sentence, concluding sentence

About the function of a paragraph

The paragraph is the basic unit for organising information in your writing. You use paragraphs to structure information in all of your exam and assignment essays and short answer questions. If you write well-constructed paragraphs, then the reader/marker will be able to understand what it is that you are trying to explain. If you write poorly constructed paragraphs, then the marker has to go on a 'treasure hunt' to find information—the perfect recipe for losing those valuable marks.

The structure of a paragraph

A paragraph has a distinct pattern that you can use to structure your writing. It is made up of a group of sentences that contribute to developing ONE main idea.

Exercise 1: Paragraph structure

Click on each part of the paragraph for a description of its function.

Exercise 2: The parts of a paragraph

Read the following paragraph. Then, CLICK on the paragraph label and DRAG it to the correct part of this paragraph.

Exercise 3: The topic sentence

The topic sentence is missing from this paragraph. Read the rest of the paragraph and think of a suitable topic sentence.

What is the missing topic sentence for this paragraph?
A short paragraph can be about four sentences long as you only need a few facts (evidence) to support your argument. If you are developing a complex idea or argument, then your paragraph may be longer. For example, a long paragraph could have up to ten sentences. Therefore, you should aim to write paragraphs that are between four and ten sentences in length.
Which of the following would be the best topic sentence for the above paragraph?
The topic sentence must be used to start a paragraph.
The reader's attention is lost when paragraphs are too long.
In formal academic writing, the length of a paragraph
may vary.
Paragraphs should be four to ten sentences long.

Exercise 4: Editing for correct paragraph structure

When you develop some understandings about paragraph structure, you will be able to EDIT your paragraphs to make sure that they are following the rules. See if you can work out why the following paragraphs are correctly or incorrectly written.

1.
All students need to know how to write a good paragraph.
However, not all students know how to master this skill when they begin university studies.
Poor paragraph writing can result in lowered marks in assignment tasks and exams because markers are unable to interpret students' answers.
As academic success is so dependent on mastery of writing skills, students need to learn this skill as quickly as possible.

Comment on the above paragraph
Incorrect because the supporting sentences DO NOT MATCH the topic sentence.
Incorrect because a paragraph is a GROUP of sentences, so each sentence DOES NOT start on a new line.
Correct because the paragraph sticks to the topic sentence AND starts the next sentence on the same line as the previous sentence.

2.
All students need to know how to write a good paragraph. The main parts of a paragraph are topic sentence, supporting sentences and concluding sentence. Students may receive lower marks for poorly constructed paragraphs. Paragraphs in Law essays are different from paragraphs in other subject areas.

Comment on the above paragraph
Incorrect because the supporting sentences DO NOT MATCH the topic sentence.
Incorrect because a paragraph is a GROUP of sentences, so each sent ence DOES NOT start on a new line.
Correct because the paragraph sticks to the topic sentence AND starts the next sentence on the same line as the previous sentence.

3.
All students need to know how to write a good paragraph. However, not all students know how to master this skill when they begin university studies. Poor paragraph writing can result in lowered marks in assignment tasks and exams because markers are unable to interpret students' answers. As academic success is so dependent on mastery of writing skills, students need to learn this skill as quickly as possible.

Comment on the above paragraph
Incorrect because the supporting sentences DO NOT MATCH the topic sentence.
Incorrect because a paragraph is a GROUP of sentences, so each sentence DOES NOT start on a new line.
Correct because the paragraph sticks to the topic sentence AND starts the next sentence on the same line as the previous sentence.

Five easy steps to paragraph writing

Every paragraph you write in your essay is worth marks, so put an effort into each and every paragraph.

Click on the following steps for the details.

Step 1: Write the topic sentence

Step 2: Brainstorm your information

Step 3: Organise your information

Step 4: Write & revise your draft paragraph

Step 5: Proofread your paragraph

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