Hey, what’s a paragraph anyway? A paragraph is a group of sentences (usually between 6 and 10 though there is no rule) that focuses on a central idea. The role of the paragraph is to cluster information around a central idea (topic sentence) that supports the essay’s main point.
Topic Sentences Every paragraph must have a topic sentence. A topic sentence contains a topic (what the paragraph is about) It also contains a controlling idea (what the writer thinks about the topic) The topic sentence should be like a one-sentence summary that tells the reader what to expect in the coming paragraph. Please look at the example on pg 24.
All living creatures manage some form of communication. The dance patterns of bees in their hive help to point the way to distant flower fields or announce successful foraging. Male stickleback fish regularly swim upside-down to indicate outrage in a courtship contest. Male deer and lemurs mark territorial ownership by rubbing their own body secretions on boundary stones or trees. Everyone has seen a frightened dog put his tail between his legs and run in panic. We, too, use gestures, expression, postures, and movement to give our words point. -Olivia Vlahos, Human Beginnings
Practice Students at another college wrote these topic sentences. Which ones are strong? Which ones are weak? Why? How would you revise the weaker ones to make them strong? I would hate to have the age of drinking be legalized at 18. If the age limit for drinking would be lowered to 18 years old I believe that it would be a problem due to the fact that at 18 years old most of the teens aren’t responsible enough to handle alcohol. Lowering the drinking age could cause teens to have many problems. The only acceptable answer for being allowed to drink under the age of 21 is enlistment into the armed forces. I am against lowering the national drinking age to 18. The drinking age should not be lowered to 18 even though at 18 you are considered an adult.
Paragraph Unity Sentences that don’t support the topic sentence destroy paragraph unity. This means the paragraph will not be well focused, and won’t help the reader understand your point. Please look at the example on page 25 As a solution, try omitting what doesn’t belong and use it in another paragraph.
As the result of tax cuts, the educations facilities of Lincoln High School have reached an all-time low. Some of the books date back to 1990 and have long since shed their covers. The few computers in working order must share one printer. The lack of lab equipment makes it necessary for four or five students to work at one table, with most watching rather than performing experiments. Also, the chemistry instructor left to have a baby at the beginning of the semester and most of the students don’t like the substitute. As for the furniture, many of the upright chairs have become recliners, and the desk legs are so unbalanced that they play seesaw on the floor.
Group Exercise Writer's Reference on the web Writer's Reference on the web
Develop the main idea/give adequate support There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to paragraph length. Paragraphs need to be long enough to get the job done, which means convincing the audience that you’ve supported your point. See page 26.
Make Paragraphs Coherent (C4-d) Link ideas Repeat key words Use parallel structures Maintain consistency Provide transitions
Basic Model of a Paragraph Topic SentencePrimary Support Secondary Support (explain) Secondary Support (example) Secondary Support (long term effect/result) Primary Support Secondary Support (explain) Secondary Support (example) Secondary Support (long term effect/result) Primary Support Secondary Support (explain) Secondary Support (example) Secondary Support (long term effect/result) Conclusion/Summary
Topic Sentence: the main idea around which the paragraph will be built Primary Support: Primary supports are like the foundation of a house: we use them to set up the details or secondary supports to build the paragraph. Secondary Supports: secondary supports are the details or framework of an essay. These are the way we support the topic sentence and primary supports and give the readers the detail they need.
Class Practice: Let’s say we all agree with the statement “the day after the superbowl should be a national holiday.” What are three Primary (big) supports we could use to support a topic sentence that agrees with that statement?
Now let’s fill in some details. Spend a few minutes in groups discussing these three and let’s see if we can put something together Primary 1: Primary 2: Primary 3:
Paragraph Outline An outline for this paragraph would look something like this, only longer, because we have three primary supports (and this slide just isn’t big enough). Topic Sentence: The day after the Superbowl should be a national holiday. Primary Support: People would have time to sober up. Secondary Support a (explain): People drink a lot during football games, so they need time to recover. SSb(example): My brother always gets drunk at the game and ends up unable to work the next day. SSc(effect/result/analysis): People end up getting written up or losing their job for being hungover or too sick to go work.