Writing academic paragraphs

Academic paragraph writing - explanations, examples, and exercises

Writing academic paragraphs is a crucial skill for all students at university – undergraduate AND postgraduate.  This is because a well-crafted paragraph can make the difference between communicating your ideas clearly and confusing everyone – yourself and your reader. 

The good news is that writing effective academic paragraphs is not all that hard – once you know how to do it.  And this is something we look at in detail in our Academic Writing courses.  If you want to master academic essay writing, reports, literature reviews and more – hit Start Learning and begin your journey to academic success TODAY!

Master Academic Writing Skills today

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But if you want to read the blog post first, we can’t blame you!   What we’re going to to do today is look at structuring academic paragraphs in your writing structure.  In doing that we’re going to cover a range of things but let’s start off by looking at

What is a paragraph?

A paragraph is a group of sentences that develop a single thought or an idea.

It may be free-standing (as in a short answer questions in an exam) or it might be part of an essay, report, letter, story, etc.

That was easy!  Let’s turn now to …

What are the parts of a paragraph?

So there are three key parts of an effective academic paragraph; topic sentences, supporting sentences, and concluding/linking sentences.

Let’s look at these parts of academic paragraphs in turn – starting with topic sentences.

What is a topic sentence?

The topic sentence of a paragraph is the main idea of the paragraph – normally stated in one sentence.  By introducing/focussing the main idea of the paragraph, it tells the reader what the rest of the paragraph is about.  The topic sentence is usually (but not always) the first sentence.

What are supporting sentences?

As the name suggests, supporting sentences are sentences which support the topic sentence.  They support it by providing explanations, examples, evidence, definitions, data, and more!

What is a concluding/linking sentence?

If you’re writing a standalone paragraph (or even sometimes in longer pieces of writing), you might need to write a concluding sentence.  A concluding sentence is one which summarises or evaluates what you’ve covered in the paragraph.

If you’re writing an essay, a concluding sentence for each paragraph might not be necessary but you might want to link the idea from one paragraph forward to the next idea/paragraph.  This is where you need a linking sentence.

How’s that?  Does that make sense…

Hope so – though at this point students will often be looking for something.  Maybe you are too – are you

Looking for academic paragraph writing examples?

No problem.  Let’s turn to one now

Coffee is often regarded as the world’s most amazing drink for two key reasons; its delicious taste and its wonderful energising effects. Coffee is a delicious beverage that can be enjoyed hot or cold at almost any hour of the day or night. From a hot, fresh flat white on a cold winter’s morning to an ice-cold Vietnamese ca phe sua da (iced coffee with milk) on a hot summer’s day - coffee is a delicious drink. In addition, coffee has excellent energising powers. People who are low on energy (or sleep) can drink coffee and know that they will soon receive a much needed energy boost. While there are many reasons for coffee’s worldwide popularity, its great taste and energising properties are perhaps the two most important explanations.

Okay?  So let’s go through this looking for the three different parts of an effective academic paragraph:

  • The topic sentence
  • Supporting sentences
  • The concluding/linking sentence

Go back to the example paragraph and see if you can identify these three parts of a paragraph and, when you’re ready, scroll down and check your answers.

So what's the topic sentence?

Hopefully you’ll say it’s:

Coffee is often regarded as the world’s most amazing drink for two key reasons; its delicious taste and its wonderful energising effects.

Looking at the topic sentence, we already know that the writer is i) writing about coffee, ii) that they’re very (very) positive about coffee, and iii) that they’re going to write about two main supporting ideas – coffee’s taste and it’s energising effects.  

We think you’d agree that’s a lot of information from one sentence…  but that’s why topic sentences are so important in effective academic writing.

When you’re ready, let’s move on to supporting sentences

What are the supporting sentences?

Hopefully you’ve said:  

Coffee is a delicious beverage that can be enjoyed hot or cold at almost any hour of the day or night.  From a hot, fresh flat white on a cold winter’s morning to an ice-cold Vietnamese ca phe sua da (iced coffee with milk) on a hot summer’s day – coffee is a delicious drink.  In addition, coffee has excellent energising powers. People who are low on energy (or sleep) can drink coffee and know that they will soon receive a much needed energy boost.

And this follows very closely on from the topic sentence – with two key ideas supporting that main idea (i.e., coffee’s taste and it’s energising impact).  Each of these two ideas has examples (e.g., flat whites and ca phe sua da) or explanations (e.g., people who are low on energy or sleep) to help support the topic sentence.  

Okay?  Let’s move on now to the last, concluding sentence.

What is the concluding sentence?

This should be easy for you…  after all, there’s only one sentence left!  This one:

While there are many reasons for coffee’s worldwide popularity, its great taste and energising properties are perhaps the two most important explanations.  

What does it do here?  Ultimately, it recaps the two ideas that have been covered in the paragraph so far – summarising and concluding the paragraph.  Pretty straight-forward.

But then, you might ask, what about a linking sentence?

What would a linking sentence for this paragraph look like?

Great question!  Let’s look at an example…

While there are many reasons for coffee’s worldwide popularity, it still falls short of what is undeniably the world’s most popular drink: tea.  

Looking at that last sentence, what do you as the reader expect that the next paragraph will talk about?  

Well, hopefully you said ‘tea’.  And you’d be right – the author is concluding what they have been talking about with regard to coffee and then linking that forward to the topic of their next paragraph:  tea.

So why would I use a linking sentence instead of a concluding sentence?

Linking sentences are often used in longer pieces of writing to create a sense of ‘flow’ and continuity – linking related ideas into themes.  In this example, it looked like the author was going to just be talking about how great coffee is – and with example paragraph, they definitely were.  

However, with the linking sentence, this focus changed and instead they were building up coffee to then potentially compare it with tea.  

Hopefully that all makes sense.  If you’re interested in getting some practice with academic paragraph writing – even some practice exercises – read on.

Academic paragraph writing exercises

If you want to practice the skills we’ve looked at today, first and foremost we recommend you check out our Academic Writing lessons.  This course ranges from lessons on vocabulary for academic writing and writing effective academic paragraphs to essay writing as a process to more advanced lessons like writing literature reviews and writing full research reports.  Hit Start Learning to begin your journey to academic success TODAY!

Master Academic Writing Skills today

Academic success is just a click away

Otherwise, that’s us for our HeadStart Guide on writing effective academic paragraphs – we hope it’s been useful!  As always, we’d love to hear from you if you have any questions or comments – write us a post below or follow us on Facebook.   Or, if you want to get more of these blog posts straight to your inbox – join our mailing list.  Or if you have a question or a topic that you’d like us to write a blog post (or even better – a full lesson) about – email us!  We read every email.

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