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Better Paragraphs: Strengthening Argument and Organization

Paragraph development

Clear, well-developed paragraphs generally have a certain set of characteristics. They

  1. Convey the purpose of the paragraph with a clear topic sentence.
  2. Stay focused and unified by developing the topic outlined by the topic sentence.
  3. Provide evidence/examples that support the topic sentence.
  4. Discuss/explain/connect the evidence, so that readers understand what the evidence means and why it is important for your argument.
  5. Conclude by showing how this paragraph relates to the essay in general (and your thesis statement).

A process for reviewing each paragraph

After you have drafted your paper, try reviewing each paragraph separately by following these steps. Most of the steps involve asking yourself questions about what the paragraph is “doing” for your paper/argument.


Better paragraphs checklist


Content by Robyn Long, SFU Graduate Writing Facilitator, 2015

Process for reviewing paragraphs -- flowchart description:

  1. What point am I trying to make with this paragraph?
  2. Is this point important for supporting my main argument/thesis statement (is it relevant)?
    1. If yes
      1. How does the main point I make in this paragraph support my main argument?
      2. Is this relationship likely to be clear to the reader?
        1. If yes, double check with a friend of move on to your next paragraph.
        2. If no, consider
          1. “Does my topic sentence/concluding sentence logically signal this relationship?”
          2. “Am I using evidence/examples that support BOTH the point of this paragraph AND my main argument?”
          3. “Am I using appropriate transitional words/phrases that help explain this relationship?"
          4. “Am I clearly and sufficiently emphasizing the main point (does it stand out)?”
    2. If no, consider
      1. “Was there a reason I wanted to use this information in the first place?”
      2. “Does this information belong in another paragraph?”
      3. “Is there a similar or related point that would better support my main argument?”
      4. “Should I remove the paragraph completely?”