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3 Easy Steps to Constructing a Paragraph

paragraph construction       
  • Begin with a clear topic sentence.
  • Each subsequent sentence should support your topic statement.
  • End your paragraph with a conclusion/transition statement.
     

Letters make words, words make sentences, and sentences make paragraphs. Like one building block after another, words come together to convey ideas and support arguments –sometimes better than others. Proper paragraph construction sets good writing apart from bad.

First, start with your main idea. What is the main point you wish to convey? Give your readers an idea of where you are going with one sentence that says it all - your topic sentence. Without going into much detail, explain what your paragraph is about. Here is an example of how to write a paragraph about why studying brain physiology is important for understanding psychology. Let’s begin with the topic sentence.

Understanding the physiologic mechanisms that underlie our responses to the environment around us will help to elucidate how these responses can be modified.

Do you see how simple the topic sentence is? This topic sentence tells the reader why studying the brain is important for the field of psychology. The next step is to explain why. Adding details is the second step to constructing a strong paragraph. Every sentence added after the topic sentence should support the main topic. The more details you can add, the stronger the argument will be. Now, let’s see why studying the brain will help people understand psychology.

Understanding the physiologic mechanisms that underlie our responses to the environment around us will help to elucidate how these responses can be modified. The human experience can be explained by the physiologic underpinnings of the brain – the structures, the connectivity of the structures, and the modes of communication between structures (Ho et al, 2011). Proper functioning of these structures and their communication pathways allows for consistency of our responses to the world around us. Understanding variations in these responses allows us to modify our behaviors, or responses (Petersen et al, 2015). Every behavior, thought, or emotion is a direct result of brain activity (Sadaghiani & Kleinschmidt, 2013). In 2014, the World Health Organization reported that mental illness affects 1 in 4 people worldwide (WHO, 2014). Clarifying the normal physiology of the brain will allow us to identify abnormalities that lead to aberrant behaviors. As Francis Crick (1994) stated in his book The Astonishing Hypothesis, “You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior or a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.”

Do you see why studying the physiologic mechanisms of the brain can help to understand our responses to the world around us? Each additional sentence supports the main topic. The more details included (within reason!), the more persuasive the paragraph. Typically, a good paragraph needs at least three to five supporting sentences, but you are not limited by that number as long as you keep the sentences on topic.

Finally, when you’ve added all the details needed to support your topic sentence, close your paragraph with a strong conclusion. The conclusion sentence of the paragraph should summarize the central idea of the paragraph and provide a transition to the following paragraph. For example:

Understanding the physiologic mechanisms that underlie our responses to the environment around us will help to elucidate how these responses can be modified. The human experience can be explained by the physiologic underpinnings of the brain – the structures, the connectivity of the structures, and the modes of communication between structures (Ho et al, 2011). Proper functioning of these structures and their communication pathways allows for consistency of our responses to the world around us. Understanding variations in these responses allows us to modify our behaviors, or responses (Petersen et al, 2015). Every behavior, thought, or emotion is a direct result of brain activity (Sadaghiani & Kleinschmidt, 2013). In 2014, the World Health Organization reported that mental illness affects 1 in 4 people worldwide (WHO, 2014). Clarifying the normal physiology of the brain will allow us to identify abnormalities that lead to aberrant behaviors. As Francis Crick (1994) stated in his book The Astonishing Hypothesis, “You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior or a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.” The information we gain from studying the physiologic mechanisms of the brain can thus be applied to enhance our understanding of human behavior.

The conclusion sentence is not simply the topic sentence restated, but rather pulls everything in the paragraph together. The conclusion sentence of each paragraph should link with the topic sentence of the next paragraph, thus providing a word map that allows readers to follow the logic of your argument.

 

References:

Ho VM et al. The cell biology of synaptic plasticity. Science. 2011; 334(6056):623-8.
Petersen RB et al. From neurodegeneration to brain health: an integrated approach. J Alzheimers Dis. 2015;46(1):271-83.
Sadaghiani S, Kleinschmidt A. 2013. Functional interactions between intrinsic brain activity and behavior. Neuroimage. 2013;15:80:379-86.
http://www.who.int/whr/2001/media_centre/press_release/en/
Crick, F. 1994. The astonishing hypothesis. The scientific search for the soul. NY. Scribner.
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