Structuring a paragraph

1. CTL online resources
2. How many paragraphs? How long?
3. Principles of effective paragraphs

...
1. CTL ONLINE
RESOURCES

http://owll.massey.ac.nz online writing and
learning link

http://tinyurl.com/albanyctl Centre fo...
2. HOW MANY
PARAGRAPHS

Typical essays will consist of 6 – 16
paragraphs (1000 – 2500 words)
ONE introductory paragraph
Be...
2. PARAGRAPH
PLANNING GUIDE

500 words: 3 – 5 paragraphs
800 words: 5 – 6 paragraphs
1000 words: 6 – 8 paragraphs
1500 wor...
2. SAMPLE PARAGRAPH
PLAN
Discuss how Auckland is planning for growth. (1200 words)

1: intro
2 & 3: future housing needs &...
2. PARAGRAPH LENGTH

No fixed length, but at undergraduate level
between 100 and 200 words (4 – 8 sentences) is
typical.
S...
3. EXAMPLE PARAGRAPH
- GOOD OR BAD?
The political challenge of becoming a republic needs to be considered.
Firstly, Austra...
3. PRINCIPLES OF
EFFECTIVE PARAGRAPHS

By the end of this presentation, you should
have a clear understanding of the probl...
3. PRINCIPLES OF
EFFECTIVE
PARAGRAPHS

Unity
The paragraph should focus on ONE claim
about ONE topic

Coherence
Each sente...
3. TOPIC SENTENCE
Paragraph UNITY is made stronger by
including a TOPIC SENTENCE:

usually the first or second sentence
ma...
3. TOPIC SENTENCE
EXAMPLE

Can you identify the topic
sentence in this paragraph?
Hurricanes, also known as cyclones or ty...
3. COMPONENTS OF A
TOPIC SENTENCE

TOPIC

+

CLAIM

Hurricanes, also known as cyclones or typhoons, exert
tremendous power...
3. TYPES OF TOPIC
SENTENCE

A claim is basically an answer to a question:

WHO?

Hurricanes … mainly affect people of a ce...
3. EVALUATION OF TOPIC
SENTENCES

Topic sentence in the Original ‘Republic’ Paragraph

The political challenge of becoming...
3. PROBLEMS OF VAGUE
TOPIC SENTENCE

Because the original topic sentence was so vague,
the paragraph includes too much irr...
3. PRINCIPLES OF
EFFECTIVE PARAGRAPHS

Unity
The paragraph should focus on a single claim

Coherence
Each sentence in the ...
3. TECHNIQUES FOR
GREATER COHERENCE

Coherence can be achieved by creating language

bridges from one sentence to another....
3. EXAMPLE OF
PARAGRAPH COHERENCE

What makes this paragraph

coherent?

Hurricanes, also known as cyclones or typhoons, e...
3. EXAMPLE OF
PARAGRAPH COHERENCE

Repetition and Variation of vocabulary about
the topic (hurricanes) and the claim (exer...
3. EXAMPLE OF
PARAGRAPH COHERENCE

Back-reference … means that each sentence
builds on the one before

Hurricanes, also kn...
3. EVALUATION OF
PARAGRAPH COHERENCE

Original ‘Republic’ Paragraph
The political challenge of becoming a republic needs t...
3. EXAMPLE OF
PARAGRAPH COHERENCE

Sentence adverbials … highlight key ‘moves’ in the

argument (eg important links, contr...
3. EVALUATION OF
PARAGRAPH COHERENCE

Original ‘Republic’ Paragraph
…. uses sentence adverbials – in a desperate
attempt t...
3. PRINCIPLES OF
EFFECTIVE PARAGRAPHS

Unity
The paragraph should focus on a single claim

Coherence
Each sentence in the ...
3. CLAIM DEVELOPED
THROUGH EVIDENCE
Hurricanes, also known as cyclones or typhoons, exert tremendous
power. These storms a...
3. INEFFECTIVE PARAGRAPH
DEVELOPMENT

Original ‘Republic’ Paragraph
… lacks DEVELOPMENT. Its loosely-connected
ideas creat...
3. INEFFECTIVE PARAGRAPH
DEVELOPMENT

Political challenge must
be considered

Topic
Sentence
Supporting
argument 1
Austral...
3. EFFECTIVE PARAGRAPH
DEVELOPMENT

Improved version
... Uses the same ideas, but ...
• they’ve been more carefully select...
3. EXAMPLE OF EFFECTIVE
PARAGRAPH
Another barrier to elimination of the Monarchy is the lack of an
alternative concept of ...
3. EFFECTIVE PARAGRAPH
DEVELOPMENT

Supporting
argument 1
This barrier led to
Australians voting to
keep the Monarchy, eve...
THANKS – AND SEE YOU
NEXT TIME!

References and arguments are provided for illustration
of writing principles only – not f...
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2014 paragraph structuring

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This presentation was designed for students at Massey University, New Zealand. It covers general features of effective paragraph writing, including issues of length, structure and flow of language.

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2014 paragraph structuring

  1. 1. Structuring a paragraph 1. CTL online resources 2. How many paragraphs? How long? 3. Principles of effective paragraphs CENTRE FOR TEACHING AND LEARNING 09 441-8143 LIBRARY 3RD FLOOR slc-alb@massey.ac.nz
  2. 2. 1. CTL ONLINE RESOURCES http://owll.massey.ac.nz online writing and learning link http://tinyurl.com/albanyctl Centre for Teaching and Learning, Albany http://tinyurl.com/6xy9hy podcast (can also be accessed through OWLL) http://tinyurl.com/albanyworkshops2014 Presentation: http://tinyurl.com/paragraphs2014 Handouts: http://tinyurl.com/albanyhandouts
  3. 3. 2. HOW MANY PARAGRAPHS Typical essays will consist of 6 – 16 paragraphs (1000 – 2500 words) ONE introductory paragraph Between FOUR and FOURTEEN body paragraphs ONE concluding paragraph Presentation: http://tinyurl.com/paragraphs2014 Handouts: http://tinyurl.com/albanyhandouts
  4. 4. 2. PARAGRAPH PLANNING GUIDE 500 words: 3 – 5 paragraphs 800 words: 5 – 6 paragraphs 1000 words: 6 – 8 paragraphs 1500 words: 8 – 10 paragraphs 1800 words: 9 – 12 paragraphs 2000 words: 10 – 14 paragraphs 2500 words: 12 – 16 paragraphs
  5. 5. 2. SAMPLE PARAGRAPH PLAN Discuss how Auckland is planning for growth. (1200 words) 1: intro 2 & 3: future housing needs & plans 4 & 5: future economic needs & plans 6 & 7: future transport needs & plans 8: conclusion
  6. 6. 2. PARAGRAPH LENGTH No fixed length, but at undergraduate level between 100 and 200 words (4 – 8 sentences) is typical. Shorter than four sentences? It could be ok, but have another look in case you haven’t fully supported your claim. Over 8 sentences? It could be ok, but have another look in case some of the details are unnecessary or it would be better split: two well-focused paragraphs are better than one fuzzy one.
  7. 7. 3. EXAMPLE PARAGRAPH - GOOD OR BAD? The political challenge of becoming a republic needs to be considered. Firstly, Australians voted by 55% to 45% against becoming a republic in the national referendum held on November 6th 1999, with only the State of Victoria giving a narrow majority in favour of the change (Campbell, 1999) and New Zealanders are more attached to the Monarchy than Australians (Singh, 2010). Secondly, like New Zealand, Canada etc, Australia continues to be governed according to the authority of the ‘Crown’ as the executive branch of Government, an authority inherited from the colonial power, Britain (Radley & Foreman, 2003). In New Zealand, the current Governor General is Sir Jerry Mataparae (New Zealand Government, n.d.). Thirdly, Brown (2003) points out that Republicanism has traditionally replaced ‘top-down’ authority with a concept of a generalised power of the people and that diversity and biculturalism are ignored. However, in New Zealand, the Treaty Principles uphold partnership, protection and participation (Massey University, 2009). Therefore, it is even harder for New Zealand to abolish the Monarchy than it was for Australia, where indigenous rights and biculturalism have been less prominent. According to the last Australian Premier, Julia Gillard, the issue was no longer even on the agenda (Behan, 2011).
  8. 8. 3. PRINCIPLES OF EFFECTIVE PARAGRAPHS By the end of this presentation, you should have a clear understanding of the problems which make this original ‘Republic’ paragraph confusing and hard to read … … and of the principles which make the improved ‘Republic’ paragraph (which you will read in full later) more readable and convincing.
  9. 9. 3. PRINCIPLES OF EFFECTIVE PARAGRAPHS Unity The paragraph should focus on ONE claim about ONE topic Coherence Each sentence in the paragraph should build logically on the one before Development The paragraph’s claim must be supported with relevant evidence Presentation: http://tinyurl.com/paragraphs2014 Handouts: http://tinyurl.com/albanyhandouts
  10. 10. 3. TOPIC SENTENCE Paragraph UNITY is made stronger by including a TOPIC SENTENCE: usually the first or second sentence makes a clear and concise claim this claim ‘controls’ the rest of the paragraph – nothing should be included in the paragraph which doesn’t support or develop the claim made in the topic sentence
  11. 11. 3. TOPIC SENTENCE EXAMPLE Can you identify the topic sentence in this paragraph? Hurricanes, also known as cyclones or typhoons, exert tremendous power. These storms are often a hundred kilometres in diameter, and their winds can reach velocities well in excess of 120 kph (Snowdon, 2006). With such wind velocities, typically accompanied by heavy rain, hurricanes have the potential to completely destroy a small town in a matter of hours (Jameson, 1987). So great, in fact, is the energy released by a single hurricane that it has been estimated to exceed the total energy consumed by mankind throughout the world in one year (Fowles, 2001).
  12. 12. 3. COMPONENTS OF A TOPIC SENTENCE TOPIC + CLAIM Hurricanes, also known as cyclones or typhoons, exert tremendous power. These storms are often a hundred kilometres in diameter, and their winds can reach velocities well in excess of 120 kph (Snowdon, 2006). With such wind velocities, typically accompanied by heavy rain, hurricanes have the potential to completely destroy a small town in a matter of hours (Jameson, 1987). So great, in fact, is the energy released by a single hurricane that it has been estimated to exceed the total energy consumed by mankind throughout the world in one year (Fowles, 2001).
  13. 13. 3. TYPES OF TOPIC SENTENCE A claim is basically an answer to a question: WHO? Hurricanes … mainly affect people of a certain socio-economic class. WHAT? Hurricanes … are powerful weather phenomena. WHERE? Hurricanes … only occur in certain areas. WHEN? Hurricanes … only occur at specific times of the year. WHY? Hurricanes … are caused by certain atmospheric conditions. A sentence is a claim if it’s possible to say, “No, that’s not true”
  14. 14. 3. EVALUATION OF TOPIC SENTENCES Topic sentence in the Original ‘Republic’ Paragraph The political challenge of becoming a republic needs to be considered. … is weak: it introduces the topic (vaguely) but makes no claim about it. Topic sentence in the Improved ‘Republic’ Paragraph TOPIC Another barrier to the elimination of the Monarchy is the lack of an alternative concept of State power. CLAIM
  15. 15. 3. PROBLEMS OF VAGUE TOPIC SENTENCE Because the original topic sentence was so vague, the paragraph includes too much irrelevant detail Australians voted by 55% to 45% against becoming a republic in the national referendum held on November 6th 1999, with only the State of Victoria giving a narrow majority in favour of the change ... ... the current Governor General is Sir Jerry Mataparae Facts are only worth including if they make any difference to the claim made in the topic sentence
  16. 16. 3. PRINCIPLES OF EFFECTIVE PARAGRAPHS Unity The paragraph should focus on a single claim Coherence Each sentence in the paragraph should build logically on the one before Development The paragraph’s claim must be supported with relevant evidence Presentation: http://tinyurl.com/paragraphs2014 Handouts: http://tinyurl.com/albanyhandouts
  17. 17. 3. TECHNIQUES FOR GREATER COHERENCE Coherence can be achieved by creating language bridges from one sentence to another. This allows the claim to be supported and developed as the paragraph goes on. This can be done by: Repetition and Variation of topic vocabulary: keeps the focus on the same topic Back-reference devices: Using ‘this’ / ‘these’ / ‘such’ etc means that each sentence builds on the one before, helping your argument move forward Sentence adverbials: Words or phrases like ‘Moreover’ or ‘On the other hand’ highlight important steps in the argument – but should not be used too much or too loosely.
  18. 18. 3. EXAMPLE OF PARAGRAPH COHERENCE What makes this paragraph coherent? Hurricanes, also known as cyclones or typhoons, exert tremendous power. These storms are often a hundred kilometres in diameter, and their winds can reach velocities well in excess of 120 kph (Snowdon, 2006). With such wind velocities, typically accompanied by heavy rain, hurricanes have the potential to completely destroy a small town in a matter of hours (Jameson, 1987). So great, in fact, is the energy released by a single hurricane that it has been estimated to exceed the total energy consumed by mankind throughout the world in one year (Fowles, 2001).
  19. 19. 3. EXAMPLE OF PARAGRAPH COHERENCE Repetition and Variation of vocabulary about the topic (hurricanes) and the claim (exert power) means that all the sentences are strongly linked back to the topic sentence Hurricanes, also known as cyclones or typhoons, exert tremendous power. These storms are often a hundred kilometres in diameter, and their winds can reach velocities well in excess of 120 kph (Snowdon, 2006). With such wind velocities, typically accompanied by heavy rain, hurricanes have the potential to completely destroy a small town in a matter of hours (Jameson, 1987). So great, in fact, is the energy released by a single hurricane that it has been estimated to exceed the total energy consumed by mankind throughout the world in one year (Fowles, 2001).
  20. 20. 3. EXAMPLE OF PARAGRAPH COHERENCE Back-reference … means that each sentence builds on the one before Hurricanes, also known as cyclones or typhoons, exert tremendous power. These storms are often a hundred kilometres in diameter, and their winds can reach velocities well in excess of 120 kph (Snowdon, 2006). With such wind velocities, typically accompanied by heavy rain, hurricanes have the potential to completely destroy a small town in a matter of hours (Jameson, 1987). So great, in fact, is the energy released by a single hurricane that it has been estimated to exceed the total energy consumed by mankind throughout the world in one year (Fowles, 2001).
  21. 21. 3. EVALUATION OF PARAGRAPH COHERENCE Original ‘Republic’ Paragraph The political challenge of becoming a republic needs to be considered. Firstly, Australians voted by 55% to 45% against becoming a republic in the national referendum held on November 6th 1999, with only the State of Victoria giving a narrow majority in favour of the change (Campbell, 1999). On the other hand, Australians are less attached to the Monarchy than New Zealanders (Singh, 2010). Each sentence seems to set off in a new direction, so it’s hard to follow the argument Improved ‘Republic’ Paragraph Another barrier to elimination of the Monarchy is the lack of an alternative concept of State power. This difficulty is said to explain why Australians, less attached to the Monarchy than New Zealanders (Singh, 2010), voted against change in a referendum a decade ago (Campbell, 1999). The clear back-reference and the omission of irrelevant details makes it more coherent and easy to follow.
  22. 22. 3. EXAMPLE OF PARAGRAPH COHERENCE Sentence adverbials … highlight key ‘moves’ in the argument (eg important links, contrasts, limitations etc) Hurricanes, also known as cyclones or typhoons, exert tremendous power. These storms are often a hundred kilometres in diameter, and their winds can reach velocities well in excess of 120 kph (Snowdon, 2006). With such wind velocities, typically accompanied by heavy rain, hurricanes have the potential to completely destroy a small town in a matter of hours (Jameson, 1987). So great, in fact, is the energy released by a single hurricane that it has been estimated to exceed the total energy consumed by mankind throughout the world in one year (Fowles, 2001).
  23. 23. 3. EVALUATION OF PARAGRAPH COHERENCE Original ‘Republic’ Paragraph …. uses sentence adverbials – in a desperate attempt to cover up the lack of real coherence Firstly, ........ On the other hand, ....... Secondly, ...... Thirdly, ..... However, ....... Therefore, ...... Improved ‘Republic’ Paragraph …. uses just a couple of sentence adverbials strategically – to highlight important ‘moves’ ... the issue is no longer even on the agenda (Behan, 2011). In the meantime, like New Zealand, Canada etc, Australia continues to be governed according to the authority of the ‘Crown’ .... Republicanism has traditionally replaced this ‘top-down’ authority with a concept of power of the people. However, this ‘people-power’ concept has been criticised ......
  24. 24. 3. PRINCIPLES OF EFFECTIVE PARAGRAPHS Unity The paragraph should focus on a single claim Coherence Each sentence in the paragraph should build logically on the one before Development The paragraph’s claim must be supported with relevant evidence Presentation: http://tinyurl.com/paragraphs2014 Handouts: http://tinyurl.com/albanyhandouts
  25. 25. 3. CLAIM DEVELOPED THROUGH EVIDENCE Hurricanes, also known as cyclones or typhoons, exert tremendous power. These storms are often a hundred kilometres in diameter, and their winds can reach velocities well in excess of 120 kph (Snowdon, 2006). With such wind velocities, typically accompanied by heavy rain, hurricanes have the potential to completely destroy a small town in a matter of hours (Jameson, 1987). So great, in fact, is the energy released by a single hurricane that it has been estimated to exceed the total energy consumed by mankind throughout the world in one year (Fowles, 2001). 1. Its size 2. Its speed 3. Its capacity for destruction 4. Its energy
  26. 26. 3. INEFFECTIVE PARAGRAPH DEVELOPMENT Original ‘Republic’ Paragraph … lacks DEVELOPMENT. Its loosely-connected ideas create a ‘shopping-list’ effect through: • • • • • Lack of focus on the topic and claim Overuse of vague adverbials like ‘Firstly’, ‘Secondly’ Inclusion of irrelevant details Random shifts between NZ and Australia Adding one fact after another without explaining how they support the argument A shopping-list paragraph takes the reader on a confusing journey that leads nowhere
  27. 27. 3. INEFFECTIVE PARAGRAPH DEVELOPMENT Political challenge must be considered Topic Sentence Supporting argument 1 Australians voted against - Victoria voted in favour – Australia not as keen on monarchy as NZ Supporting argument 4 Republics have people power – but not diverse or bicultural Supporting argument 2 Australia etc governed by authority of Crown Supporting argument 3 Sir Jerry Mataparae is NZ Governor General Supporting argument 5 NZ’s treaty principles mean it’s harder to abolish Monarchy Conclusion Julia Gillard says the issue is not on the agenda in Australia
  28. 28. 3. EFFECTIVE PARAGRAPH DEVELOPMENT Improved version ... Uses the same ideas, but ... • they’ve been more carefully selected (UNITY) • they’ve been clearly built from one sentence to the next (COHERENCE) • the claim made at the beginning is supported, leading up to a strong conclusion (DEVELOPMENT) A well-constructed paragraph tells the reader where they are going, guides them along the way and lets them know they’ve reached the destination
  29. 29. 3. EXAMPLE OF EFFECTIVE PARAGRAPH Another barrier to elimination of the Monarchy is the lack of an alternative concept of State power. This difficulty is said to explain why Australians, less attached to the Monarchy than New Zealanders (Singh, 2010), voted against change in the referendum a decade ago (Campbell, 1999). According to the last Australian Premier, the issue was no longer even on the agenda (Behan, 2011). In the meantime, like New Zealand, Canada etc, Australia continues to be governed according to the authority of the ‘Crown’ as the executive branch of Government; an authority inherited from the colonial power, Britain (Radley & Foreman, 2003). Republicanism has traditionally replaced this ‘top-down’ authority with a concept of power of the people. However, this ‘people-power’ concept has been criticised for suppressing diversity and bi-culturalism in favour of ‘One Nation’ (Brown, 2003) and would clearly be especially problematic for New Zealand, where the Treaty Principles uphold partnership, protection and participation (Massey University, 2009). If Australia, where indigenous rights and biculturalism have been less prominent, has struggled to develop an alternative to the power of the Crown, how much more difficult would such a process be in New Zealand, where national identity is a complex and central political issue?
  30. 30. 3. EFFECTIVE PARAGRAPH DEVELOPMENT Supporting argument 1 This barrier led to Australians voting to keep the Monarchy, even though they’re not really so keen on it Another barrier to elimination of the Monarchy is developing an alternative concept of State power Supporting argument 2 The alternative concept of ‘people power’ has been criticised for being monocultural Conclusion Topic Sentence Supporting argument 3 This criticism is especially valid in the NZ context of biculturalism. If this barrier was strong enough to stop Australia eliminating the monarchy, it’s going to even more difficult for NZ to do so
  31. 31. THANKS – AND SEE YOU NEXT TIME! References and arguments are provided for illustration of writing principles only – not for their content! © 2014 This PowerPoint Presentation and the accompanying handouts are copyrighted by the Centre for Teaching and Learning, Massey University and may not be used, except for personal study, without written permission from the copyright owner. Presentation: http://tinyurl.com/paragraphs2014 Handouts: http://tinyurl.com/albanyhandouts
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