Paragraphs

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PARAGRAPHS Paragraphs Paragraphs This discussion will help you understand how paragraphs are formed, how to develop stronger paragraphs, and how to completely and clearly express your ideas. What is a Paragraph? Paragraphs are the "uilding "loc#s of papers. $any students define paragraphs in terms of length% a paragraph is a group of at least five sentences, a paragraph is half a page long, etc. &n reality, though, the unity and coherence of ideas among sentences is what constitutes a paragraph. A paragraph is defined as 'a group of sentences or a single sentence that forms a unit( )*unsford and +onnors ,,-.. *ength and appearance do not determine whether a section in a paper is a paragraph. /or instance, in some styles of writing, particularly 0ournalistic styles, a paragraph can "e 0ust one sentence long. 1ltimately, a paragraph is a sentence or group of sentences that support one main idea. &n this handout, we will refer to this as the 'controlling idea,( "ecause it controls what happens in the rest of the paragraph. How Do I Decide What to Put in a Paragraph? 3efore you can "egin to determine what the composition of a particular paragraph will "e, you must first decide on a wor#ing thesis for your paper. hat is the most important idea that you are trying to convey to your reader! The information in each paragraph must "e related to that idea. &n other words, your paragraphs should remind your reader that there is a recurrent relationship "etween your thesis and the information in each paragraph. A wor#ing thesis functions li#e a seed from which your paper, and your ideas, will grow. The whole process is an organic one4a natural progression from a seed to a full5 "lown paper where there are direct, familial relationships "etween all of the ideas in the paper. The decision a"out what to put into your paragraphs "egins with the germination of a seed of ideas6 this 'germination process( is "etter #nown as "rainstorming. There are many techni7ues for "rainstorming6 whichever one you choose, this stage of paragraph development cannot "e s#ipped. 3uilding paragraphs can "e li#e "uilding a s#yscraper% there must "e a well5planned foundation that supports what you are "uilding. Any crac#s, inconsistencies, or other corruptions of the foundation can cause your whole paper to crum"le. So, let8s suppose that you have done some "rainstorming to develop your thesis. hat else should you #eep in mind as you "egin to create paragraphs! 9very paragraph in a paper should "e • Unified4All of the sentences in a single paragraph should "e related to a single controlling idea )often expressed in the topic sentence of the paragraph..

hat is a Paragraph!

How 2o & 2ecide hat to Put in a Paragraph!

Adapted from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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• • •

Clearly related to the thesis4The sentences should all refer to the central idea, or thesis, of the paper )Rosen and 3ehrens ,,:.. Coherent4The sentences should "e arranged in a logical manner and should follow a definite plan for development )Rosen and 3ehrens ,,:.. Well-developed49very idea discussed in the paragraph should "e ade7uately explained and supported through evidence and details that wor# together to explain the paragraph8s controlling idea )Rosen and 3ehrens ,,:..

How Do I Organize a Paragraph? There are many different ways to organi<e a paragraph. The organi<ation you choose will depend on the controlling idea of the paragraph. 3elow are a few possi"ilities for organi<ation, with "rief examples. • arration! Tell a story. Go chronologically, from start to finish. ;ne =orth +arolina man found 7uite a surprise last year while fishing in the +ataw"a River% a piranha. >erry $elton, of Gastonia, reeled in a one pound, four ounce fish with an unusual "ite. $elton could not identify it, "ut a near"y fisherman did. $elton at first could not "elieve he had caught a piranha. He said, 'That ain8t no piranha. They ain8t got piranha around here.( $elton was right% the fish is native to South America, and =orth +arolina prohi"its owning the fish as a pet or introducing the species to local waterways. The sharp5toothed, carnivorous fish li#ely found itself in the +ataw"a River when its illegal owner released the fish after growing tired of it. ildlife officials hope that the piranha was the only of its #ind in the river, "ut locals are thin#ing twice "efore they wade in the water. • Description! Provide specific details a"out what something loo#s, smells, tastes, sounds, or feels li#e. ;rgani<e spatially, in order of appearance, or "y topic. Piranhas are omnivorous, freshwater fish, which are mostly #nown for their single row of sharp, triangular teeth in "oth 0aws. Piranhas8 teeth come together in a scissor5li#e "ite and are used for puncture and tearing. 3a"y piranha are small, a"out the si<e of a thum"nail, "ut full5 grown piranha grow up to a"out -5,? inches, and some individual fish up to @ feet long have "een found. The many species of piranha vary in color, though most are either silvery with an orange under"elly and throat or almost entirely "lac#. • Process! 9xplain how something wor#s, step "y step. Perhaps follow a se7uence4first, second, third. Aou can safely swim with piranhas, "ut it8s important to #now how and
Adapted from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

How can & ;rgani<e a Paragraph!

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How can & ;rgani<e a Paragraph!

when to do it. /irst, chose an appropriate time, prefera"ly at night and during the rainy season. Avoid piranha5infested waters during the dry season, when food supplies are low and piranhas are more desperate. Piranhas feed during the day, so night5time swimming is much safer. Second, streamline your movement. ild or erratic activity attracts the attention of piranhas. Swim slowly and smoothly. /inally, never enter the water with an open wound or raw meat. Piranhas attac# larger animals only when they are wounded. The presence of "lood in the water may tempt the fish to attac#. &f you follow these simple precautions, you will have little to fear. • Classification! Separate into groups or explain the various parts of a topic. Piranhas comprise more than B?5-? species of fish, depending on whom you as#. The many species fall into four genera% Pygocentrus, Pygopristis, Serrasalmus, and Pristobrycon. Piranha in the Pygocentrus genus are the most common variety, the #ind you might find in a pet store. Pygopristis piranha are her"ivores, feasting on seeds and fruits, not flesh. &n contrast, fish in the Serrasalmus genus eat only meat, and their teeth are ra<or5sharp. Pristobrycon are the least friendly of all piranhas6 they often "ite the fins of other fish, even fish of the same species. The la"el piranha, then, refers to a wide variety of species. • Illustration! Give examples and explain how those examples prove your point.

C5Step Process to Paragraph 2evelopment

"-#tep Process to Paragraph Develop$ent *et8s wal# through a C5step process to "uilding a paragraph. 9ach step of the process will include an explanation of the step and a "it of 'model( text to illustrate how the step wor#s. ;ur finished model paragraph will "e a"out slave spirituals, the original songs that African Americans created during slavery. The model paragraph uses illustration )giving examples. to prove its point. #tep %& Decide on a controlling idea and create a topic sentence Paragraph development "egins with the formulation of the controlling idea. This idea directs the paragraph8s development. ;ften, the controlling idea of a paragraph will appear in the form of a topic sentence. &n some cases, you may need more than one sentence to express a paragraph8s controlling idea. Here is the controlling idea for our 'model paragraph,( expressed in a topic sentence% 'odel controlling idea and topic sentence4 Slave spirituals often had hidden double meanings. #tep (& )*plain the controlling idea

Adapted from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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C5Step Process to Paragraph 2evelopment

Paragraph development continues with an expression of the rationale or the explanation that the writer gives for how the reader should interpret the information presented in the idea statement or topic sentence of the paragraph. The writer explains hisDher thin#ing a"out the main topic, idea, or focus of the paragraph. Here8s the sentence that would follow the controlling idea a"out slave spirituals% 'odel e*planation4On one level, spirituals referenced heaven, Jesus, and the soul; but on another level, the songs spoke about slave resistance. #tep +& ,ive an e*a$ple -or $ultiple e*a$ples. Paragraph development progresses with the expression of some type of support or evidence for the idea and the explanation that came "efore it. The example serves as a sign or representation of the relationship esta"lished in the idea and explanation portions of the paragraph. Here are two examples that we could use to illustrate the dou"le meanings in slave spirituals% 'odel e*a$ple /4 For example, according to Frederick ouglass, the song !O "anaan, S#eet "anaan$ spoke of slaves% longing for heaven, but it also expressed their desire to escape to the &orth. "areful listeners heard this second meaning in the follo#ing lyrics' !( don%t expect to stay ) *uch longer here. ) +un to Jesus, shun the danger. ) ( don%t expect to stay.$ 'odel e*a$ple 04 Slaves even used songs like !Steal ,#ay to Jesus -at midnight.$ to announce to other slaves the time and place of secret, forbidden meetings. #tep 1& )*plain the e*a$ple-s. The next movement in paragraph development is an explanation of each example and its relevance to the topic sentence and rationale that were stated at the "eginning of the paragraph. This explanation shows readers why you chose to use thisDor these particular examples as evidence to support the ma0or claim, or focus, in your paragraph. +ontinue the pattern of giving examples and explaining them until all pointsDexamples that the writer deems necessary have "een made and explained. =;=9 of your examples should "e left unexplained. Aou might "e a"le to explain the relationship "etween the example and the topic sentence in the same sentence which introduced the example. $ore often, however, you will need to explain that relationship in a separate sentence. *oo# at these explanations for the two examples in the slave spirituals paragraph% 'odel e*planation for e*a$ple /4 /hen slaves sang this song, they could have been speaking of their departure from this life and their arrival in heaven; ho#ever, they also could have been describing their

C5Step Process to Paragraph 2evelopment

Adapted from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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plans to leave the South and run, not to Jesus, but to the &orth. 'odel e*planation for e*a$ple 0401he relationship bet#een example 2 and the main idea of the paragraph3s controlling idea is clear enough #ithout adding another sentence to explain it.4 #tep "& Co$plete the paragraph2s idea or transition into the ne*t paragraph The final movement in paragraph development involves tying up the loose ends of the paragraph and reminding the reader of the relevance of the information in this paragraph to the main or controlling idea of the paper. At this point, you can remind your reader a"out the relevance of the information that you 0ust discussed in the paragraph. Aou might feel more comforta"le, however, simply transitioning your reader to the next development in the next paragraph. Here8s an example of a sentence that completes the slave spirituals paragraph% 'odel sentence for co$pleting a paragraph 4 /hat #hites heard as merely spiritual songs, slaves discerned as detailed messages. 1he hidden meanings in spirituals allo#ed slaves to sing #hat they could not say. Notice that the example and explanation steps of this 5-step process (steps 3 and 4) can be repeated as needed. The idea is that you continue to use this pattern until you have completely developed the main idea of the paragraph. Co$pleted 'odel Paragraph Slave spirituals often had hidden double meanings. On one level, spirituals referenced heaven, Jesus, and the soul, but on another level, the songs spoke about slave resistance. For example, according to Frederick ouglass, the song !O "anaan, S#eet "anaan$ spoke of slaves% longing for heaven, but it also expressed their desire to escape to the &orth. "areful listeners heard this second meaning in the follo#ing lyrics' !( don%t expect to stay ) *uch longer here. ) +un to Jesus, shun the danger. ) ( don%t expect to stay.$ /hen slaves sang this song, they could have been speaking of their departure from this life and their arrival in heaven; ho#ever, they also could have been describing their plans to leave the South and run, not to Jesus, but to the &orth. Slaves even used songs like !Steal ,#ay to Jesus -at midnight.$ to announce to other slaves the time and place of secret, forbidden meetings. /hat #hites heard as merely spiritual songs, slaves discerned as detailed messages. 1he hidden meanings in spirituals allo#ed slaves to sing #hat they could not say.

+ompleted $odel Paragraph

+ompleted $odel Paragraph

Adapted from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Trou"le5 Shooting Paragraphs

3rou4leshooting Paragraphs • Pro4le$! the paragraph has no topic sentence& &magine each paragraph as a sandwich. The real content of the sandwich4the meat or other filling4 is in the middle. &t includes all the evidence you need to ma#e the point. 3ut it gets #ind of messy to eat a sandwich without any "read. Aour readers don8t #now what to do with all the evidence you8ve given them. So, the top slice of "read )the first sentence of the paragraph. explains the topic )or controlling idea. of the paragraph. And, the "ottom slice )the last sentence of the paragraph. tells the reader how the paragraph relates to the "roader argument. &n the original and revised paragraphs "elow, notice how a topic sentence expressing the controlling idea tells the reader the point of all the evidence. Original paragraph Piranhas rarely feed on large animals; they eat smaller fish and a5uatic plants. /hen confronted #ith humans, piranhas% first instinct is to flee, not attack. 1heir fear of humans makes sense. Far more piranhas are eaten by people than people are eaten by piranhas. (f the fish are #ell6fed, they #on%t bite humans. 5evised paragraph ,lthough most people consider piranhas to be 5uite dangerous, they are, for the most part, entirely harmless. Piranhas rarely feed on large animals; they eat smaller fish and a5uatic plants. /hen confronted #ith humans, piranhas% first instinct is to flee, not attack. 1heir fear of humans makes sense. Far more piranhas are eaten by people than people are eaten by piranhas. (f the fish are #ell6fed, they #on%t bite humans. ;nce you have mastered the use of topic sentences, you may decide that the topic sentence for a particular paragraph really shouldn8t "e the first sentence of the paragraph. This is fine4the topic sentence can actually go at the "eginning, middle, or end of a paragraph6 what8s important is that it is in there somewhere so that readers #now what the main idea of the paragraph is and how it relates "ac# to the thesis of your paper. Suppose that we wanted to start the piranha paragraph with a transition sentence4 something that reminds the reader of what happened in the previous paragraph4rather than with the topic sentence. *et8s suppose that the previous paragraph was a"out all #inds of animals that people are afraid of, li#e shar#s, sna#es, and spiders. ;ur paragraph might loo# li#e this )the topic sentence is underlined.% 7ike sharks, snakes, and spiders, pirahnas are #idely feared. ,lthough most people consider piranhas to be 5uite dangerous, they are, for the most part, entirely harmless. Piranhas rarely feed on large animals; they eat smaller fish and a5uatic plants. /hen confronted #ith humans, piranhas% first

Adapted from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Trou"le5 Shooting Paragraphs •

instinct is to flee, not attack. 1heir fear of humans makes sense. Far more piranhas are eaten by people than people are eaten by piranhas. (f the fish are #ell6fed, they #on%t bite humans. Pro4le$! the paragraph has $ore than one controlling idea& &f a paragraph has more than one main idea, consider eliminating sentences that relate to the second idea, or split the paragraph into two or more paragraphs, each with only one main idea. &n the following paragraph, the final two sentences "ranch off into a different topic6 so, the revised paragraph eliminates them and concludes with a sentence that reminds the reader of the paragraph8s main idea. Original paragraph ,lthough most people consider piranhas to be 5uite dangerous, they are, for the most part, entirely harmless. Piranhas rarely feed on large animals; they eat smaller fish and a5uatic plants. /hen confronted #ith humans, piranhas% first instinct is to flee, not attack. 1heir fear of humans makes sense. Far more piranhas are eaten by people than people are eaten by piranhas. , number of South ,merican groups eat piranhas. 1hey fry or grill the fish and then serve them #ith coconut milk or tucupi, a sauce made from fermented manioc 8uices. 5evised paragraph ,lthough most people consider piranhas to be 5uite dangerous, they are, for the most part, entirely harmless. Piranhas rarely feed on large animals; they eat smaller fish and a5uatic plants. /hen confronted #ith humans, piranhas% first instinct is to flee, not attack. 1heir fear of humans makes sense. Far more piranhas are eaten by people than people are eaten by piranhas. (f the fish are #ell6fed, they #on%t bite humans. • Pro4le$! transitions are needed within the paragraph& Aou are pro"a"ly familiar with the idea that transitions may "e needed "etween paragraphs or sections in a paper. Sometimes they are also helpful within the "ody of a single paragraph. ithin a paragraph, transitions are often single words or short phrases that help to esta"lish relationships "etween ideas and to create a logical progression of those ideas in a paragraph. This is especially li#ely to "e true within paragraphs that discuss multiple examples. *et8s ta#e a loo# at a version of our piranha paragraph that uses transitions to orient the reader% ,lthough most people consider piranhas to be 5uite dangerous, they are, except in t#o main situations, entirely harmless. Piranhas rarely feed on large animals; they eat smaller fish and a5uatic plants. /hen confronted

Trou"le5 Shooting Paragraphs

Adapted from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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#ith humans, piranhas% instinct is to flee, not attack. 2ut there are t#o situations in #hich a piranha bite is likely. 1he first is #hen a frightened piranha is lifted out of the #ater9for example, if it has been caught in a fishing net. 1he second is #hen the #ater level in pools #here piranhas are living falls too lo#. , large number of fish may be trapped in a single pool, and if they are hungry, they may attack anything that enters the #ater. &n this example, you can see how the phrases 'the first( and 'the second( help the reader follow the organi<ation of the ideas in the paragraph. 5esources *unsford, Andrea and Ro"ert +ollins. 1he St. *artin%s :andbook, ,nnotated (nstructor%s ;dition. Cth 9d. =ew Aor#% St. $artin8s, @??B. Resources Rosen, *eonard and *aurence 3ehrens. 1he ,llyn and 2acon :andbook, ,nnotated (nstructor%s ;dition. Eth 9d. 3oston% Allyn and 3acon, @???.

Adapted from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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