Chapter 10: Paragraphs and Paragraph Structure

Introduction to Chapter 10

In this chapter, you will learn about structuring paragraphs in a clear and logical way. These skills will enable you to look at ways that your own writing can be improved.

10.1     Paragraph Structure

Watch this video to get an overview of paragraph structure:

10.2     The Topic Sentence

Paragraphs contain three main parts: a topic sentence, supporting sentences, and a concluding sentence.

A topic sentence contains the topic and an opinion, or controlling idea. It is often, but not always, the first sentence of the paragraph. Paragraphs that begin with the topic sentence move from the general to the specific. They open with a general statement about a subject (and then discuss specific examples).

10.3     Supporting Sentences

If you think of a paragraph as a hamburger, the supporting sentences are the meat inside the bun. They make up the body of the paragraph by explaining, proving, or enhancing the controlling idea in the topic sentence. Most paragraphs contain at least three to six supporting sentences. However, a paragraph may contain any number of sentences, depending on the topic, audience, and purpose for writing.

The type of supporting sentence you choose will depend on what you are writing and why you are writing. For example, if you are attempting to persuade your audience to take a particular position you should rely on facts, statistics, and concrete examples, rather than personal opinions. Read the following example:

            Although it could be argued that there is much evidence to support the upholding of gender stereotypes in radio, the female DJ may give a voice to women which challenges the stereotypical view of the female as passive (topic sentence). Barnard (2000) suggests that “. . . the depiction of women in the commercials . . . reveals radio’s true perception of and attitude towards the female listener” (supporting sentence: quotation). His suggestion here would be that daytime radio tends to reinforce gender stereotypes (supporting sentence: reason); however, the decision to hire Zoe Ball to host the BBC Radio 1 Breakfast Show in 1997 reflects a decision to redress the balance (supporting sentence: example). Ball’s image as being a hardened drinker and her controversial lifestyle have been cited as contributing to what became known in the late 1990s as the ‘ladette culture’ (supporting sentence: fact). This suggests then that gender representation on mainstream primetime radio may have a significant impact on British popular culture (Calcutt) (concluding sentence).

To find information for your supporting sentences, you might consider using one of the following sources:

  • Your experiences
  • Reference book
  • Encyclopaedia
  • Website
  • Biography/autobiography
  • Map
  • Dictionary
  • Newspaper/magazine

10.4     Concluding Sentences

An effective concluding sentence draws together all the ideas you have raised in your paragraph. It reminds readers of the main point—the topic sentence—without restating it in exactly the same words. Using the hamburger example, the top bun (the topic sentence) and the bottom bun (the concluding sentence) are very similar. They frame the “meat” or body of the paragraph. Compare the topic sentence and concluding sentence from the previous example:

Topic sentence: There are numerous advantages to owning a hybrid car.

Concluding sentence: Given the low running costs and environmental benefits of owning a hybrid car, it is likely that many more people will follow Alex’s example in the near future.

Notice the use of the synonyms advantages and benefits. The concluding sentence reiterates the idea that owning a hybrid is advantageous without using the exact same words. It also summarizes two examples of the advantages covered in the supporting sentences: low running costs and environmental benefits.

You should avoid introducing any new ideas into your concluding sentence. A conclusion is intended to provide the reader with a sense of completion. Introducing a subject that is not covered in the paragraph may confuse the reader and weaken your writing.


Licenses and Attributions

  • Introduction to Chapter 10 was authored by: Pamela Herrington-Moriarty. License: CC BY-NC 4.0

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Integrated Reading and Writing Level 2 by Pamela Herrington Moriarty is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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