Paragraph Basics Video Lecture
This example is a statistics, showing that Wall Street executives make up 53% of the professors at Smith, but only 29% at Johnson. After developing details and examples for each supporting idea in the paragraph, you need to write a conclusion sentence. When you write the rough draft of your paragraph, it's a good idea to use different colored pens or pencils to underline the supporting sentences and details.
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This lesson is about paragraph basics. These are some of the types of paragraphs in English writing. You often need to write these kinds of paragraphs in school. Most academic paragraphs, and that means paragraphs you write for school, need to start with a topic sentence. The topic sentence tells the reader what the paragraph will be about. Good paragraphs need several supporting ideas that help to support the topic sentence. Each supporting idea needs details and examples to help explain and develop the idea. Finally, paragraphs need a conclusion sentence. Let’s look closer at topic sentences. Remember, a topic sentence tells what the paragraph will be about. To do this, good topic sentences must have two parts. They need to state the topic and they need to have a controlling idea. The topic tells the reader what the paragraph is going to be about, the controlling idea tells the reader what you want to say about the topic. The controlling idea also gives the reader an idea of what type of paragraph will follow. Now, let’s look at some examples. This is a very basic topic sentence but it has a topic and a controlling idea. Rabbits is the topic and makes good pets is the controlling idea. We can understand that the paragraph will probably give us reasons or examples, so this will probably be an argument or illustrative paragraph. Look at the next sentence and see if you can find the topic and controlling idea. The topic is what the sentence is about. The topic is Smith University, and the controlling idea is that it has a better MBA program than Johnson University. Because of the words better than, we can figure out that this paragraph will be a contrast paragraph. What about the next sentence? The topic is minimum-wage workers and the controlling idea is that they are demanding a higher salary. We can guess that this paragraph will probably tell us the reasons or causes for demanding a new salary. So this will probably be a cause paragraph. Let’s take one of our topic sentences, and write some supporting ideas for it. We can point out that Smith requires a one-year internship for graduation but Johnson does not. This is one thing that makes Smith better than Johnson. Another thing could be that Smith has more former Wall Street executives working as professors than Johnson. And we could point out that more Smith graduates go to work for Fortune 500 companies than Johnson graduates. Notice that all of these supporting ideas are more specific than the topic sentence. They also, are always in which Smith has a better program than Johnson. But our reader may not be convinced by only these ideas. So we need to provide some details and examples for each supporting idea. Here’s an example. This was one of our supporting ideas for contrasting Smith’s and Johnson’s MBA programs. To develop it, we use some details and examples. First here, we have a specific example. This example is a statistics, showing that Wall Street executives make up 53% of the professors at Smith, but only 29% at Johnson. We then explain why the example is important, with a couple of details. They develop the idea that having Wall Street executives as professors sets Smith University apart from Johnson University, and makes its MBA program better. These details are the most specific sentences in the paragraph. After developing details and examples for each supporting idea in the paragraph, you need to write a conclusion sentence. The conclusion should reflect the topic sentence. Here was our topic sentence. And here is our conclusion. Notice that the conclusion is saying the same thing, but with different words and grammar. In the topic sentence, we said Smith was better than Johnson University. But in the conclusion, we use the synonym preferable. We also have different subjects starting the two sentences. Smith University is the subject of the first sentence, but it is part of the object of the conclusion sentence, so we have different grammar. But the two sentences mean pretty much the same thing. Now, let’s look at the whole paragraph. Our topic sentence and conclusion sentence are in black. The supporting sentences are red and the details are blue. When you write the rough draft of your paragraph, it’s a good idea to use different colored pens or pencils to underline the supporting sentences and details. Make sure your paragraph has lots of these red and blue sentences. That’s how you make sure it’s well developed The next thing we need to do to our paragraph is to check for unity. Unity means that all of the sentences in the paragraph are related to the topic sentence. So, I need to check that all three of my supporting sentences are supporting the idea that Smith University has a better MBA program than Johnson University. Then, I need to make sure my details and examples are helping to develop those supporting ideas. I cannot write about something that doesn’t relate to my topic sentence. We also need to check our paragraph for cohesion. That means, we need to make sure all of the ideas flow smoothly. To create cohesion, we use transitions on our supporting ideas. We can also use transitions on some of our details. We also use repetition, or repeated words, or synonyms of our keywords. Our topic sentence uses the words Smith, Johnson, and MBA program. So we repeat those words throughout the paragraph. Our first supporting sentence uses the word internship. So we repeat that in our detail. But notice in the second supporting idea we use the words Wall Street executives. In the details, we repeat this term once, but then we change it a little or use synonyms. So our paragraph is cohesive. You might think that repetition is not a good thing. Maybe a teacher has told you that before. It’s true that we don’t want to be too repetitive. To summarize what we’ve learned, remember that all academic paragraphs need to start with a topic sentence that states the topic and controlling idea for the paragraph. This will let you know what the paragraph will be about, and what type of paragraph it will be. Then you need to have several supporting sentences to support the topic sentence. Each of those sentences needs to have several details or examples to develop it. You must have lots of specific sentences in your paragraph to have a good paragraph. And you need to end your paragraph with a conclusion sentence that repeats the ideas stated in your topic sentence. Do this with different words and grammar. Finally, check your paragraph for unity and cohesion. All of the sentences need to be related to the topic sentence and they need to flow smoothly using transitions and key words.
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