Paragraph And Essay Structure - Wikispaces

Paragraph Structure
Section C4 in A Writer’s Reference
Hey, what’s a paragraph anyway?
A paragraph is a group of sentences (usually between 6
and 10 though there is no rule) that focuses on a central
The role of the paragraph is to cluster information
around a central idea (topic sentence) that supports the
essay’s main point.
Topic Sentences
Every paragraph must have a topic sentence.
A topic sentence contains a topic (what the paragraph is
It also contains a controlling idea (what the writer thinks about
the topic)
The topic sentence should be like a one-sentence summary
that tells the reader what to expect in the coming paragraph.
Please look at the example on pg 24.
All living creatures manage some form of communication.
The dance patterns of bees in their hive help to point the
way to distant flower fields or announce successful
foraging. Male stickleback fish regularly swim upside-down
to indicate outrage in a courtship contest. Male deer and
lemurs mark territorial ownership by rubbing their own
body secretions on boundary stones or trees. Everyone
has seen a frightened dog put his tail between his legs and
run in panic. We, too, use gestures, expression, postures,
and movement to give our words point.
-Olivia Vlahos, Human Beginnings
I would hate to have the age of drinking be legalized at
If the age limit for drinking would be lowered to 18
years old I believe that it would be a problem due to the
fact that at 18 years old most of the teens aren’t
responsible enough to handle alcohol.
Lowering the drinking age could cause teens to have
many problems.
The only acceptable answer for being allowed to drink
under the age of 21 is enlistment into the armed forces.
I am against lowering the national drinking age to 18.
The drinking age should not be lowered to 18 even
though at 18 you are considered an adult.
Students at another college
wrote these topic
sentences. Which ones are
strong? Which ones are
weak? Why? How would
you revise the weaker ones
to make them strong?
Paragraph Unity
Sentences that don’t support the topic sentence destroy
paragraph unity. This means the paragraph will not be well
focused, and won’t help the reader understand your
Please look at the example on page 25
As a solution, try omitting what doesn’t belong and use it
in another paragraph.
As the result of tax cuts, the educations facilities of
Lincoln High School have reached an all-time low. Some
of the books date back to 1990 and have long since shed
their covers. The few computers in working order must
share one printer. The lack of lab equipment makes it
necessary for four or five students to work at one table,
with most watching rather than performing experiments.
Also, the chemistry instructor left to have a baby at the
beginning of the semester and most of the students don’t like
the substitute. As for the furniture, many of the upright
chairs have become recliners, and the desk legs are so
unbalanced that they play seesaw on the floor.
Group Exercise
Writer's Reference on the web
Develop the main idea/give adequate
There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to
paragraph length. Paragraphs need to be long enough to
get the job done, which means convincing the audience
that you’ve supported your point.
See page 26.
Make Paragraphs Coherent (C4-d)
Link ideas
Repeat key words
Use parallel structures
Maintain consistency
Provide transitions
Basic Model
of a Paragraph
Secondary Support
Primary Support
Secondary Support
Secondary Support
(long term
Secondary Support
Topic Sentence
Primary Support
Secondary Support
Secondary Support
(long term
Secondary Support
Primary Support
Secondary Support
Secondary Support
(long term
Topic Sentence: the main idea around which the
paragraph will be built
Primary Support: Primary supports are like the
foundation of a house: we use them to set up the details
or secondary supports to build the paragraph.
Secondary Supports: secondary supports are the details
or framework of an essay. These are the way we support
the topic sentence and primary supports and give the
readers the detail they need.
Class Practice: Let’s say we all agree with the statement
“the day after the superbowl should be a national
What are three Primary (big) supports we could use to
support a topic sentence that agrees with that statement?
Now let’s fill in some details. Spend a few minutes in
groups discussing these three and let’s see if we can put
something together
Primary 1:
Primary 2:
Primary 3:
Topic Sentence: The day after the
Superbowl should be a national
Primary Support: People would have
time to sober up.
Secondary Support a (explain):
People drink a lot during football
games, so they need time to recover.
SSb(example): My brother always
gets drunk at the game and ends up
unable to work the next day.
SSc(effect/result/analysis): People
end up getting written up or losing
their job for being hungover or too
sick to go work.
Paragraph Outline
An outline for this
paragraph would look
something like this, only
longer, because we have
three primary supports
(and this slide just isn’t big

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