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Basic Methods of Paragraph Development

written by: Trent Lorcher • edited by: Sarah Malburg • updated: 1/27/2012

Understanding methods of paragraph development will improve your organization in writing. Start getting better grades on your papers today!

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    Let's Get Organized!

    When teachers mention organization in writing, they limit themselves to rudimentary concepts, mentioning the obvious--there should be a beginning, middle, and an end, for example. However, there's more to organizing your your thoughts than having an introduction, body, and conclusion. It involves understanding and using different methods of paragraph development.

    Although understanding the components of an essay are important, one must go beyond the introduction, body, and conclusion. The skilled writer thinks in paragraphs. Here are two standard structures:

    1) Tightly structured paragraphs are most common in the work place. They consist of 2-4 sentences. A tightly structured paragraph has three components: a topic, development, and a resolution.

    2) Common structured paragraphs are found often in persuasive writing. They follow three simple steps: a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion. A persuasive paragraph contains more development than a tightly structured paragraph.

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    Methods of Paragraph Development

    Regardless of which of the following methods of paragraph development you use, a well written paragraph has unity, coherence, and development, which means subordinate ideas must be linked to major ideas. The ideas must relate, be logical, and contain sufficient supporting details.

    Following are some examples of types of paragraphs to use in your essay:

    Examples: The more specific your writing, the more impact it will have. Using examples to develop your paragraph allows the writer to include specific details. Anecdotes, analogies, and metaphors are also effective.

    Process: A process paragraph is a step-by-step analysis of how to do something. Although monotonous, process paragraphs are the simplest way to explain how to do something.

    Division and Classification: Most effective for comparing and contrasting, organizing your paragraph using this method will highlight similarities and/or differences.

    Comparison and Analogy: When explaining difficult concepts, use something with which the reader is likely to be familiar and compare it to the concept in question. For example, Marriage works best (difficult concept) when husband and wife are pulling in the same direction, not unlike two horses pulling a wagon over a bumpy field (easily understood comparison).

    Cause and Effect: A cause and effect paragraph can be organized in two ways: (1) Identify the effect in the topic sentence and write about its causes; or (2) write about the cause in the topic sentence and write about its effects.

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    Further Reading: For specific examples on this topic, check out my in-depth guide to paragraph writing.