Research Paper Writing Workshop: Writing the Body of Your Paper
The point of having body paragraphs in your paper is to explain and develop the points that you made in your introductory paragraph and your thesis statement. Each paragraph must have a clear and focused point, set forth by a topic sentence, and must be continuous with the paragraphs before and after as well as support your thesis.
1. An essential aspect of your body paragraphs is the presence of a topic sentence.
* Your topic sentence is the sentence that focuses the paragraph and outlines exactly what that paragraph is going to be about – think of them as thesis statements for each paragraph!
* The topic sentence is usually the very first sentence of the paragraph, but may be the second sentence or somewhere in the middle of the paragraph.
* By placing the topic sentence first in your paragraph, however, you can go ahead and state what you are going to talk about in that paragraph and then devote the rest of the paragraph to supporting and developing that point.
2. The Structure of Your Body Paragraphs
* Begin each body paragraph with a general statement, or topic sentence, about a point that you wanted to make in that paragraph and then devote that entire paragraph to developing more specifically that statement, using examples and specific facts from your research to back up the points you make.
* Remember that each statement you make in your body paragraph should relate back to your thesis statement somehow whether in support, defense, or explanation of the statement.
* Conclude each body paragraph by making a reference back to the topic sentence you started the paragraph with and then back to your thesis statement to tie it all together.
3. Things to Remember When Writing Your Body Paragraphs
* Use the same language in your body paragraphs that you did in your introduction. For instance, if you have phrased one of the points you wish to make a certain way in your introduction, phrase it the same way in your body paragraph – that way a reader will know it is the same point you set up in your intro – like a landmark you spot on a trip!
* Devote each body paragraph to only one point. DO NOT try to include too much information into each paragraph.
* Make sure that you phrase everything clearly so that your specific audience can understand what you are trying to say.
* Paragraphs are used as a way to introduce a new idea, and break your paper down into a series of related points that you wish to make in support of your thesis statement.
4. Each of Your Paragraphs Should Contain These Elements: UNITY, DEVELOPMENT, and COHERENCE
* Paragraph Unity: Paragraph Unity means that your paragraph develops one main point, that is set forth by your topic sentence, and that all of the sentences in the paragraph relate to and support that main point.
* Paragraph Development: Paragraph Development means that you have included all of the necessary information, explanation and support for your main point or topic sentence so that your reader fully understands the point you are trying to make.
* Paragraph Coherence: Paragraph Coherence means that you have developed your point in an organized and logical way, which shows the connections between your sentences and ideas.
5. Use TRANSITIONS to connect one paragraph to the next to make the whole paper cohesive – in other words, the individual points are all bonded together making one BIG point!
Transitions are one of the most important aspects of the body of your paper. Transitions between paragraphs as well as between sentences are essential in order for a paper to be readable, for the reader to fully understand the connections between the points you are trying to make and for the overall coherence of your essay. The use of transitions creates one unified paper instead of several smaller papers all thrown together under a similar larger topic.
Where Do We Need Transitions?
1. Between Sections -- This divides the major ideas or topics of your paper
2. Between Paragraphs -- This divides the minor ideas of your writing because you must show a logical connection between your paragraphs.
3. Between Sentences -- This shows the relationship between your sentences. These transitions are generally only a word or two, and can be done through the use of conjunctions which are words used to combine two sentences and show the relationship between them.
4. Between Parts of a Sentence -- This shows how phrases connect within your sentences.
* Remember to use a variety of transitional expressions
* Remember to be consistent with your transitional expressions that separate the sequential ordering of your points. For example, use first, second and third if you are ordering your points, but not first, secondly, and last
* A mark of punctuation such as a dash, colon or semicolon, is a transition because it connects or shows a relationship between two things
* Remember that if something connects or shows a relationship then it is a transition
I. General Structure
Most paragraphs in an essay parallel the general three-part structure of each section of a research paper and, by extension, the overall research paper, with an introduction, a body that includes facts and analysis, and a conclusion. You can see this structure in paragraphs whether they are narrating, describing, comparing, contrasting, or analyzing information. Each part of the paragraph plays an important role in communicating the meaning you intend to covey to the reader.
Introduction: the first section of a paragraph; should include the topic sentence and any other sentences at the beginning of the paragraph that give background information or provide a transition.
Body: follows the introduction; discusses the controlling idea, using facts, arguments, analysis, examples, and other information.
Conclusion: the final section; summarizes the connections between the information discussed in the body of the paragraph and the paragraph’s controlling idea. For long paragraphs, you may also want to include a bridge sentence that introduces the next paragraph or section of the paper. In some instances, the bridge sentence can be written in the form of a question. However, use this rhetorical device sparingly, otherwise, ending a lot of paragraphs with a question to lead into the next paragraph sounds cumbersome.
NOTE: This general structure does not imply that you should not be creative in your writing. Arranging where each element goes in a paragraph can make a paper more engaging for the reader. However, do not be too creative in experimenting with the narrative flow of paragraphs. To do so may distract from the main arguments of your research and weaken the quality of your academic writing.
II. Development and Organization
Before you can begin to determine what the composition of a particular paragraph will be, you must consider what is the most important idea that you are trying to convey to your reader. This is the "controlling idea," or the thesis statement from which you compose the remainder of the paragraph. In other words, your paragraphs should remind your reader that there is a recurrent relationship between your controlling idea and the information in each paragraph. The research problem functions like a seed from which your paper, and your ideas, will grow. The whole process of paragraph development is an organic one—a natural progression from a seed idea to a full-blown research study where there are direct, familial relationships in the paper between all of your controlling ideas and the paragraphs which derive from them.
The decision about what to put into your paragraphs begins with brainstorming about how you want to pursue the research problem. There are many techniques for brainstorming but, whichever one you choose, this stage of paragraph development cannot be skipped because it lays a foundation for developing a set of paragraphs [representing a section of your paper] that describes a specific element of your overall analysis. Each section is described further in this writing guide.
Given these factors, every paragraph in a paper should be:
- Unified—All of the sentences in a single paragraph should be related to a single controlling idea [often expressed in the topic sentence of the paragraph].
- Clearly related to the research problem—The sentences should all refer to the central idea, or the thesis, of the paper.
- Coherent—The sentences should be arranged in a logical manner and should follow a definite plan for development.
- Well-developed—Every idea discussed in the paragraph should be adequately explained and supported through evidence and details that work together to explain the paragraph's controlling idea.
There are many different ways you can organize a paragraph. However, the organization you choose will depend on the controlling idea of the paragraph. Ways to organize a paragraph in academic writing include:
- Narrative: Tell a story. Go chronologically, from start to finish.
- Descriptive: Provide specific details about what something looks or feels like. Organize spatially, in order of appearance, or by topic.
- Process: Explain step by step how something works. Perhaps follow a sequence—first, second, third.
- Classification: Separate into groups or explain the various parts of a topic.
- Illustrative: Give examples and explain how those examples prove your point.
Arnaudet, Martin L. and Mary Ellen Barrett. Paragraph Development: A Guide for Students of English. 2nd edition. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall Regents, 1990; On Paragraphs. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Organization: General Guidelines for Paragraphing. The Reading/Writing Center. Hunter College; The Paragraph. The Writing Center. Pasadena City College; Paragraph Structure. Effective Writing Center. University of Maryland; Paragraphs. Institute for Writing Rhetoric. Dartmouth College; Paragraphs. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Paragraphs. University Writing Center. Texas A&M University; Paragraphs and Topic Sentences. Writing Tutorial Services, Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. Indiana University; Weissberg, Robert C. “Given and New: Paragraph Development Models from Scientific English.” TESOL Quarterly 18 (September 1984): 485-500.