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Improving Paragraphs for Academic Writing. UAB University Writing Center. Basic Features of Strong Paragraphs. Clarity – the focus of the paragraph is clear, not ambiguous; content is unified Concise – each sentence in the paragraph has purpose and power; no unnecessary repetition

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Improving paragraphs for academic writing

Improving Paragraphs for Academic Writing

UAB

University Writing Center


Basic features of strong paragraphs
Basic Features of Strong Paragraphs

  • Clarity – the focus of the paragraph is clear, not ambiguous; content is unified

  • Concise – each sentence in the paragraph has purpose and power; no unnecessary repetition

  • Coherent – the paragraph is clearly connected to the rest of the essay and to the thesis

  • Emphasis – the paragraph is situated within the essay in a way that clearly indicates its degree of importance within the essay

  • Engaging – the paragraph keeps the reader interested in the content


Topic sentences the paragraph mini thesis
Topic Sentences – the paragraph mini-thesis

  • Importance:

    • Establishes unity

    • Key to coherence

    • Must be clear

  • Function –

    • Explicitly states the focus of the paragraph: the specific subpoint extension of the main thesis to be developed in the paragraph

  • Placement –

    • Often the first sentence of the paragraph

    • May follow a transitional sentence

    • Occasionally delayed until end of paragraph


Developing body paragraphs
Developing Body Paragraphs

  • One Basic Format:

    • Topic sentence that states focus/mini-claim or states a synthesized concept

    • Sentence that expands or explains focus/mini-claim/synthesis

    • Sentences that support the explanation/mini-claim/synthesis (cited research)

    • Commentary on the cited research

    • Wrap-up sentence that connects research to overall focus of essay or next paragraph


Strategies to improve overall coherence
Strategies to Improve Overall Coherence

  • Repeat key terms or phrases

  • Reinforce key concepts by using synonyms

  • Use words that express the relationships between paragraphs and among sentences within the paragraphs

    • Ex. Additionally, researchers have found that the production of biofuels may actually improve soil quality, rather than deplete it.

    • Ex. However, opponents of biofuels argue that grain-based biofuels may be detrimental to under-developed countries who rely on grains to offset food supplies.


Improve coherence through parallelism
Improve Coherence through Parallelism

  • Parallelism: Related ideas or ideas joined in a list should be presented in the same grammatical structure (i.e. nouns, phrases, clauses)

  • Not parallel: The study participants were asked about how much weight they had gained recently, exercising habits, current health status and history, and if they had seen a medical doctor recently.

  • Parallel: The study participants were questioned about current weight fluctuations, exercise habits, health status, health history, and recent doctor visits.


Improve engagement through variety
Improve Engagement through Variety

  • Purposefully, vary sentence length within a paragraph. For example, contrasting several long sentences with a short sentence creates emphasis and draws attention to the point made.

  • Underline the sentence openers. Vary occasionally.

  • Vary the sentence patterns used within the paragraph: simple, compound, complex, compound-complex.


Basic sentence patterns
Basic Sentence Patterns

  • Simple – one subject and one verb. Over-used produces choppy and often bland style. Very straightforward; often preferred in medical writing

  • Compound – two simple sentences combined by a conjunction (i.e. and, but, therefore) or a semicolon.

  • Complex – a simple sentence combined with one or more dependent clauses; preferred in humanities

  • Compound-complex – two or more joined simple sentences combined with one or more dependent clauses; frequently used in academic writing


Creating emphasis through paragraph order
Creating Emphasis through Paragraph Order

  • Some paragraph order is constrained by the discipline/genre, i.e. sciences, social sciences

  • In other disciplines, writers are generally expected to create a logical framework that readers can follow:

    • General to specific (deductive reasoning)

    • Specific to general (inductive reasoning)

    • Old information to new information

    • Least important to most important (or vice versa)

    • Chronological sequences

    • Cause/Effect

    • Warrant, Reason, Claim


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