Thompson Rivers University

Paragraph Structure and Development

  Posted on: March 30, 2017

by Pam Erikson

Paragraphs are the units, or building blocks, of an essay. An essay consists of different types of paragraphs that have specific functions: the introduction, which introduces the topic, context and thesis of your essay; the body paragraphs, which provide the evidence for your argument, descriptions and explanations; and the conclusion, which summarizes your argument and wraps up your essay.

Each paragraph, regardless of what type, deals with one idea and follows this structure: topic sentence, body and concluding sentence— almost like a mini essay inside your essay. If the essay is a chain, the paragraphs are the links in the chain.

  • The topic sentence introduces a new idea and the main point of the paragraph. It is a mini-argument that will help support your main argument: the thesis statement.
  • The body develops the main point and can include analysis, description, facts, examples, and explanations.
  • The concluding sentence makes a final statement about the paragraph’s topic. It summarizes the main idea as expressed in the topic sentence (using different words), and usually includes a major point about the paragraph that was not in the topic sentence.

A paragraph must be coherent, which means that the train of ideas must flow smoothly and be clear to the reader. Coherence can be achieved through strategies such as repetition of key words, parallelism, and transitions. Transition words can show cause and effect, comparisons and contrasts, sequences, time, exceptions or examples.

Some examples of transition words are: furthermore, in contrast, similarly, because, consequently, also, for example, firstly, finally, in fact, although, but, however, and meanwhile.

Finally, the concluding sentence should logically connect to the topic sentence of the following paragraph in an essay, which keeps all the links in the chain hooked together.

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