How to Write a Paragraph

1. Write a Topic Sentence:

A topic sentence should introduce the main purpose of the paragraph.  

If the paragraph is part is an essay, your topic sentence should have something to do with your thesis.  

Also, a good writer will use some transition word or phrase in the topic sentence to explain how the new paragraph relates to the last one. (see transition words)

Ex. The second reason for the American revolution was the increasing tax burden placed on the colonists, which caused them to protest against the British government.


2. Provide the Evidence: (Follow the steps below for each piece of evidence you use.)

In the sentence where you provide evidence, be sure to identify its source.

Ex. In the political cartoon by Nick Rose one can see…

Ex. Jared Diamond explains, …

Your text evidence should be placed in quotes.

Ex. According to Richard Nixon, “Mistakes were made.”  

If the evidence is a visual source, your evidence needs to be a detailed description of the graph, chart, movie scene, painting, photo, etc.

Ex. The political cartoon by Nick Rose shows that European men cut up Africa into pieces, which led to…

Ex. Map 12 shows that Seattle’s population density of greater than 5,000 people per square miles was more likely to be politically influential than Enumclaw’s density of…

Note: Depending on the assignment, you may have to cite your source.

3. Explain why you chose the evidence and/or analyze what the evidence proves: (Do this for each piece of evidence in the paragraph.)

Summarize the evidence, showing what you think it means.

Ex. Samuel Adams feels that there will be no end to British taxation, especially if the colonists have no voice in government.

Explain why the evidence matters for the point you are making.

Ex. This demonstrates that the colonists feel the tax system is unfair because they have no say in what is taxed or how much it is taxed.  This decision is made solely by the British government.  

Note: It is acceptable if you are a good writer to put the analysis before the actual evidence, but make sure the two pieces of evidence and analysis are sensibly tied together.


4. Provide a concluding sentence:

Summarize how the ideas in this paragraph tie together. Explain what you just proved in this paragraph.

If this is an essay, you will also want to explain how the ideas in this paragraph tie to the claim.

Ex.  These examples all demonstrate how the taxes on various items such as tea, paper, and general trade oppressed the colonists, who became increasingly frustrated with the British government’s policies.  This growing frustration among the colonist inspired the American Revolution.


Additional resources on the topic:

On Paragraphs – Purdue Owl

Paragraphs – The Writing Center – The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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