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HMEC 2030W - 2011 Summer Session: Paragraphing

Key resources to work on Paper #1, #2, & #3 of the course.

What is a paragraph?

A paragraph is a unit or "chunk" of meaning. A paragraph usually contains five to eight sentences, each of which contributes to developing one central idea. 

The way you organize your paragraphs will have a major effect on your reader, strongly influencing how easily s/he will be able to move through the ideas in your paper. This is because readers "chunk" ideas when they read. Most readers cannot easily remember all of the details in a written piece, but they can remember larger units of meaning and connect them into a logical whole. Those larger units of meaning are your paragraphs.

 Your paper will feel organized to your reader if each of your paragraphs 

  • advances the argument in your paper
  • focuses on one key idea
  • develops that key idea by providing sufficient evidence


Two types of paragraphs

Checking paragraph focus

Revising Strategy: Reverse Outlining

Reverse outlining is a great way to assess how you've organized your paragraphs after you've written a draft or even part of a draft. To reverse outline, note down - in outline form - the main idea of each of your body paragraphs.

If you can't easily identify the main idea of a paragraph, that means the paragraph needs some work - it may need  a clearer focus on one main idea.

If you notice that ideas are repeated in different parts of the paper, you may need to move ideas around.

Additional resources: Paragraphing

For more information on effective paragraphing, check out the Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL).  Use "paragraph" as a search term and you will find the essential information about writing well-formed paragraphs in English.