An organized and developed paragraph consists of a general topic sentence followed by several details for development and support (proof, examples, quotations, explanation, analysis, etc.) and concluded with a closing statement that ties the whole paragraph’s point back to the thesis. The general format is very simple:
Think of the paragraph format like a sandwich. The topic and closing statements are like bread, general and used to hold everything else together. All the details (development) are like the filler in a sandwich: lettuce, tomato, meat, etc. The bread holds the sandwich together much like the topic and closing statements hold the specific details together as a cohesive, bite-sized unit. Make sure the details are varied, using some quotations and examples with the proof with a liberal helping of explanation and analysis of data. Otherwise, if you use only one kind of supporting detail, it’s like eating bread and lettuce: there’s no variety.
To check a paragraph, make sure the first sentence tells the reader the topic for the paragraph. Make sure each detail contained in the paragraph has some explanation or analysis; let the reader know why the material is relevant. Ask yourself, “So what?” Don’t assume the reader already knows the material. Just as in math where a student must show all steps to a problem, the writer must “show all steps” to the reader. The job of the writer requires accurately and efficiently communicating to the reader a specific point as designated in the thesis and clarified in each paragraph. Since the writer doesn’t know when the reader will pick up the paper, the writer should make sure each detail is fully explained. If you are writing for a teacher, you don’t know if the teacher will read your paper first, last, immediately before eating dinner, or right after watching The Simpsons, so make sure every detail is clear and relevant to the topic and each paragraph relates clearly to the thesis.
Once you write all the paragraphs of the essay, check the overall format, organization and development of the paper. If the thesis statement in the introduction paragraph matches the restated thesis in the conclusion paragraph and the topic and closing statements in each paragraph match, then you have a good backbone to your paper. You want to make sure your paper has a “spine.”
Once your paper has spine, look at your paper like a person. Is your paper anorexic or a body builder? Then work on fleshing out the ideas and beefing up the paper. Check each paragraph’s development (details) to see what ideas you need to further flesh out or examples you need to beef up. Remember that the reader only knows what is on the paper, so you need to make sure everything is clearly and sufficiently explained for the reader.
Anastasia Lankford ©2004
(Reprinted here with permission)
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