Everyone knows the feeling of staring down the barrel of a blank page. It’s terrifying to finish an introduction and realize that you have to fill the rest with your thoughts. Whether it’s making a paragraph flow or filling the empty space with meaning, we’ve all been there. Paragraphs are the meat of any writing, whether it be academic, economic, or for pleasure. When contemplating the weight that paragraphs hold in a scholarly paper, for example, you have to realize that the only way your ideas will get across is if they are clear and to the point. This paragraph has gone on far too long, already. You’ve probably already lost your sense of focus, and your mind is wandering on to the next line.

Paragraphs – especially those in scholarly writing – require four things. I use the acronym TEAM to remember them.

T – Topic Sentence
E – Evidence
A – Analysis
M – Move On

T – Topic Sentence

The topic sentence is where you’ll make your claims. This is the point where you tell people the main point of your argument. If you have evidence that smoking leads to cancer, you don’t bury that deep within the paragraph. You proclaim it from the mountain tops.

Keep your topic sentence to one or two sentences at the very most, otherwise you are rambling.

E – Evidence

Evidence is where you smack the reader in the head with a choice quote or paraphrase. You cite your source, and you show them you’ve found some authority on your topic. People like authority, but not an avalanche’s worth. One quote will do the trick. If you really have two quotes that you love, you can use them if they aren’t huge. Nobody wants to read two, enormous block quotes in one paragraph. It makes the flow of reading disjointed, so don’t do it.

A – Analysis

Evidence tends to be the point at which many young students feel they’ve reached their end. They say, “Hey, I’ve told you my topic, and I showed you someone talked about it! What more do you want from me?” But the most vital part of the paragraph is drawing your topic together with your evidence, and answering the questions that are crucial to making your argument.

Analysis answers “Why?” Why is this evidence important to your topic? Why should it persuade the reader to entertain your way of thinking? The analysis is where your paper becomes truly yours. Your insights, the conclusions you draw between topic and evidence, will do far more to compel your reader than just evidence alone.

M – Move On

At this point, some writers have made their topic, given it authority with evidence, and even connected the dots with expert analysis.

But then they just skip to the next paragraph! They forget a very integral part of their paragraph: how to move people from this finished topic to the next topic!

You have to transition the reader. You need to compel them to move on. The way you do that is to tie your finished paragraph to your thematic topic – that which you’ve been guiding your reader through from the very beginning of your introduction – and connect it with your next topic. This helps the reader make the connections in their mind and see the grander work taking shape on the page.

These four components make up the basics of paragraph writing, and it will help you make great material. There are so many more aspects to scholarly writing, but these four things will give you a strong foundation for creating paragraphs as quickly as you can.


 

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Rob keeps a blog at robfike.com. Follow him on Twitter @robfike.

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