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5.9: Academic Writing Overview

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    Academic Writing Explanation and Practice

    What is a paragraph? 

           A paragraph is a group of related sentences which communicate one central idea.  A paragraph can be either short or long, depending on the subject (main idea) of the paragraph and how much the writer wants to say about that subject.

    How does a paragraph begin?

           A paragraph usually begins with a general statement about the main idea.  This sentence is called the topic sentence.   This sentence tells the reader what the rest of the paragraph will be about, and it limits the kind and amount of information that should be included in the paragraph.  Most of the time, the topic sentence is the first sentence in a paragraph, but more experienced writers will sometimes put the topic sentence in the middle or end of the paragraph.  For beginning writers, begin a paragraph with a topic sentence.  Once you become more confident in your writing, then you can vary where you put the topic sentence.  The ols saying “First you have to walk before you can run” applies here.

    How does the paragraph progress from the topic sentence?

           The topic sentence is followed by major points of information that support the topic sentence.  These sentences give more information that supports or explains the main idea of the paragraph.  Other sentences give examples and other supporting details that help the reader understand about the main idea.  At the end of the paragraph, it is often a good idea to put a concluding sentence.  (This is especially true in a one-paragraph composition.)

           Notice the paragraph below.  The first sentence, in bold type, is the topic sentence.  The main idea and the limit of discussion are underlined.  The sentences that follow support the main idea of the topic sentence.  The major points that follow the topic sentence are in italics.  The concluding sentence is also underlined.  Also, pay attention to the transition words or phrases from one thought to the next.  Transitions are very important to help make a paragraph flow along smoothly so that the reader can understand what is being said more easily and clearly.  Good writers always try to make their writing “easy” for the reader.

    5.9: Academic Writing Overview is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Don Bissonnette.

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