Hello, my name’s Tom and welcome back to my blog where I talk a little bit about theatre, a little bit about being a PhD student and a little bit about those two things crushed together. So, today, I wanted to add another episode to my series of Essay Tips where I pull together some ideas and lessons that I’ve learned from my short time trying to understand this world in the hope of trying to help you avoid some of the many mistakes that I’ve made along the way. Today, particularly, I wanted to focus on paragraph structure. It’s definitely something I’ve been thinking a lot about when I’ve been writing recently and also something I’ve really been looking out for when I’ve been looking over the essays of others and doing some marking. So, today, I’m gonna give you five tips for trying to work your paragraph structure so that it’s really working for you. Tip number one is something which might seem quite basic and yet I think is something that is worth noting, and that is to decide what your paragraph is going to be about. We divide essays and bits of text up into paragraphs for a reason, and that’s not just to make the essay a little bit easier on the eye. when we’re looking at it, but really hone our essay down into different sections that are looking at different ideas.
And that’s exactly what paragraphs should be. You should be looking at a very specific idea so, when you’re thinking about your essay structure as a whole, it’s a really good idea to break down what each paragraph is going to be about because it just allows you to communicate your ideas with that real precision. The other outcome is that you end up with lots of different paragraphs which seem quite vague and, actually, using your paragraphs as very specific tools to communicate a particular part of the idea that you’re trying to express throughout the whole essay really allows you to be able to communicate in a much clearer way and to be able to communicate much bigger ideas in a really concise fashion. Tip number two is to really think about your paragraph length. Now, there’s no hard and fast rule about how long or short a paragraph should be and, usually, we say it should be over three sentences so as to not be an incredibly short amount of text or a very short idea being explained, however it is really good to think about whether your paragraphs are either huge and long and unwieldly and therefore aren’t being used in their best capacity as those very simple units but also to make sure that they’re not too short which might be a sign that you’re not digging deep enough on the particular idea that you’re excavating within that particular paragraph. As I’ve said, there’s no hard and fast rule and it can be that for some purposes you might have a really short or a particularly long paragraph.
However, I’d aim to have a paragraph between about three and six sentences. Tip number three is to really think about those basics of paragraph structure. So, we quite often say that a paragraph should begin with a topic sentence then have some explanatory sentences and end with a concluding sentence that really wraps it up. Essentially, what we’re saying you should do is say what you’re going to say, then say it, then say what you’ve said. This structure allows you to begin with a very simple statement, to then expand upon that statement and to bring in some ideas from elsewhere, and then also just to wrap up that statement. The internal structure of paragraphs is really, really useful and can just really help you make sure again that you’ve got a really succinct paragraph which is doing a particular function within your broader essay.
Tip number four is to think about how your paragraph relates to that one which came before it and the one that comes after it. So, we might think that this is part of our broader essay planning, whether it’s gonna be an introductory paragraph or a concluding paragraph or somewhere in the middle. But I also think that, when you’re writing a particular paragraph, it’s really good to think about how it picks up the baton of knowledge from the previous paragraph and passes it on to the next one. Particularly, I like to think about paragraphs within an essay as being kind of steps on a stairwell. So, for example, we can start with the reader potentially having a little bit of knowledge about the thing we’re talking about but not as complex and detailed one as you, the author. And, therefore, by using paragraphs as steps we can build up to be able to express those slightly more complex ideas which, at the very beginning of the essay, we wouldn’t be able to do.
One of our paragraphs as a step builds on the knowledge of the previous paragraph and leads on to the knowledge that will be introduced in the next paragraph. Finally, tip number five is to always end with you. And this is a bit of advice that I’ve been given from multiple different people over the past few years. Particularly, when we’re writing at university level or above we’re often bringing in quotes or bits of evidence from data sets perhaps to back up the things that we’re saying. And, sometimes, I can often find myself wanting to end a paragraph with a quote from someone else. But what this does is it gives that scholar or academic that you’re quoting the power within that paragraph because it’s them that’s putting the full-stop on it.
So, I find a really good rule of thumb is to always try and end with a statement that is written by yourself because that means that you will be unpacking that quote a little bit more and therefore utilizing that quote or piece of evidence to say the thing that you want to say rather than just repeating it there as reportage. So, that’s been a few short tips on how to improve paragraph structure and, if you have any tips yourself, please do put them down below in the comments so that anyone else who turns up here to read this article can can utilize those as well. If you’ve enjoyed this article then please do give it a thumbs up or consider subscribing to my blog. More broadly, I try to put out articles fairly regularly either on theory or on essay tips and practically using knowledge in our work. But, thank you very much for reading again, and have a great week.