Academic paragraphs

Key words: body paragraph, topic sentence, supporting argument, evidence, authority, citation, examples, anecdotal evidence

Now that you’ve thought through the qualities of paragraphs, it’s time to address the big issue. At university, you are mainly meant to draw the knowledge items of your paragraphs from credible sources and state who those sources are (referencing).This is particularly important in your assignment essays.

Please note that the APA referencing style is used in this workshop.

About academic paragraphs

Academic paragraphs are the body paragraphs of your essay and account for about 90% of your word count and marks. They may also be the structure of short answer questions in other types of writing (e.g. exams).

Academic paragraphs contain the points you want to make with supporting arguments and evidence. These paragraphs use a basic pattern (recipe) you can follow. The sentences in your body paragraphs may include citations from information sources, examples and anecdotal evidence. 

Analysis of the structure of an academic paragraph

Exercise 1: Understanding the academic paragraph

Read the following academic paragraph from a research essay and answer the questions that follow. Use the scratch pads below the questions to make notes and record your ideas.

Assignment essay tasks are set to assist students to develop mastery of their study subject. Firstly, assignment tasks enhance understandings about subject matter. Yang and Baker (2005, p. 1) reason that “to master your learning materials and extend your understandings, you need to write about the meanings you gain from your research”. Secondly, research (Jinx, 2004; Zapper, 2006) clearly demonstrates that students learn the writing conventions of a subject area while they are researching, reading and writing in their discipline. This activity helps them to “crack the code” of the discipline (Bloggs, 2003, p. 44). Thus, students are learning subject matter and how to write in that disciplinary area by researching and writing assignment essays. (111 words/6 sentences)

1. What is the topic sentence?
2.What will the whole paragraph be about?
3.There are two main points used in the paragraph to develop the position taken in the topic sentence (the success of assignment essays as a learning device). What are they?
4.Who were the authorities cited to support the information put forward in argument 1?
5.Who were the authorities cited to support the information put forward in argument 2?
6.What is the concluding sentence?
7.Name three transitional (connecting) words.
8.How many sentences and words are there in the paragraph?
Exercise 2: Analysing the academic paragraph

Click ‘Start analysis’ below to see how these strategies are working in an academic paragraph.