Academic Essays: How to Structure a Paragraph

In academic essays, paragraphs create the basic structure of your arguments. College-Writers.com team decided to provide you with the most important information on the elements of a paragraph, its structure, and how to construct paragraphs properly. We will also take a look at the most common difficulties associated with writing paragraphs.

The purpose of paragraphs in academic essays is to present a particular idea or claim that supports the main idea of the paper and provides an argument. Every paragraph should be dedicated to one point and directly related to what you’ve said in previous paragraphs.

Transitions and Topic Sentences

The best way to make sure your paragraph is related to the thesis statement and focused is to write a strong topic sentence. All the sentences that follow the topic sentence should support it and be related to the thesis. All the sentences should also be connected to each other, so you have to include transitions so that readers can easily move from one sentence to another.

Transitions and topic sentences are distinctive features of a good paragraph. In addition, you should choose the correct method of presenting the information and avoid some common mistakes.

Introduce, Provide, Explain, Conclude

Once you’ve written a topic sentence, you should write an introductory sentence. After this, provide evidence, and explain it. You may need to repeat this cycle, using new pieces of evidence. At the end of the paragraph, write a conclusion.

Good topic sentences explain the idea of the paragraph in relation to the thesis statement, while evidence is the main thing for the body of the paper. You should also support the main point of the paragraph. The explanation of the evidence is what gives purpose to the paragraph, and it’s usually written in the central section of the paragraph.

Introduce

The structure of a paragraph, in general, resembles the overall structure of the essay. Your essay also starts with an introduction, while a body of the essay consists of the evidence and its explanation. Your evidence should be either contextualized or introduced before you present it.

Provide and Explain

When providing evidence, you just state facts related to your argument described in this paragraph. You also have to explain how exactly this evidence supports your argument and the idea of your essay, in general. Don’t expect that your facts will speak for themselves. It’s always better to explain any claim in more detail.

When writing papers on sociology, you should explain the importance of statistical data. If you’re working on a literary study, include a quote from the source. In philosophy, you can rely on logic and assumptions. You should choose appropriate explanations based on your field of study.

Conclude

Just like the whole essay, a paragraph also needs a conclusion. To understand, whether or not you managed to summarize the paragraph properly, ask yourself whether the last sentence makes the whole paragraph look trustful.

Structure Template

This template will help you create a proper structure for any paragraph. You can adapt it to paragraphs of any kind. A proper paragraph, in general, looks as follows:

1. A topic sentence;

2. The introduction (one or more sentences);

3. Evidence (one or more sentences);

4. The explanation of the evidence (one or more sentences);

5. The conclusion of the paragraph or a sentence that introduces the new topic sentence.

Common Mistakes

Too short paragraphs

  • You can see a five-sentence structure in the template above. Of course, it’s possible to write the introduction and evidence in the same sentence, however, it’s hard to include all the crucial functions of the paragraph in just three sentences.
  • Short paragraphs are relatively rare. We suggest using them only when you want to make some emphasis or when the idea of the paragraph is rather obvious and doesn’t need a detailed explanation. Try to avoid two- and one-sentence-long paragraphs.

Too long paragraphs

  • If you use a standard 12-point font with double spaces and standard margins, one paragraph shouldn’t be longer than ¾ of the page. The length of a paragraph may change depending on the number of points covered in it.
  • Don’t forget that every paragraph should consider one point and it should contain its explanation.
  • When your topic shifts, we suggest writing two paragraphs so that you could conclude the previous idea and introduce the new one.
  • When your argument shifts but you keep writing about the same topic, we also suggest splitting a paragraph into two separate paragraphs.

Not focused paragraphs

  • A common mistake is making paragraphs “listy” and not focused on anything in particular. In this case, a paragraph doesn’t have enough details.
  • To solve this problem, focus on a few most important points and get rid of the others. You can also divide the paragraph into several sub-paragraphs so that each point will get more attention. You can also work on the transitions between points in relation to the thesis statement.
  • All the methods above require you to provide additional information, in order to make a discussion deeper or to explain the connections between points.
  • Most often, this problem occurs in long paragraphs, however, short paragraphs may also be not focused enough.

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