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Paragraph level writing

It helps to think of your assignment in terms of paragraphs in the planning and drafting stages.

A paragraph contains one main point or idea, and consists of a number of sentences – a topic sentence, supporting sentences, and a concluding sentence

Think of a paragraph as a brick wall. A well organised piece of writing is like laying one brick neatly on top of one another; a disorganised one is like a heap of bricks thrown on the ground

You need to be very conscious of how your paragraphs work together to communicate your information and understanding to your audience

The length of a paragraph largely depends on the purpose of the paragraph, and what you have set out to talk about in your topic sentence

A paragraph that is too long is difficult for your audience to follow

A paragraph that is too short may indicate insufficient development of the main idea

Avoid a one-sentence paragraph. A paragraph needs a topic sentence, followed by sentences of elaboration and explanation (i.e. supporting sentences)

Topic sentence

A topic sentence sums up the main idea of the paragraph – it tells your audience what the paragraph is about, it:

  • performs the same function as the introduction, which provides a preview of your assignment
  • is usually found at the beginning of a paragraph – the first or second sentence

The first sentence can also connect the paragraph to the previous paragraph.

Logical flow between paragraphs

The first and last sentences of a paragraph act as links or transitions to connect one paragraph to another. Often, the last sentence (i.e. concluding sentence) of a paragraph links it to the next paragraph. These links ensure that there is a smooth flow throughout the writing.

Logical flow within a paragraph

Logical flow should also occur within a paragraph:

  • each sentence should follow on to the next – the move from one sentence to the next should be logical
  • information included within a paragraph should be presented in a logical, sequential manner

Logically flowing sentences

When one sentence is linked to the following sentence by including common information, this creates a logical flow within a paragraph, and a clear, logical and sequential text.

This is achieved when new information in a sentence is presented as given information in the following sentence.

Adapted from the following sources:
Morley-Warner, T. 2009, Academic writing is… A guide to writing in a university context, Association for Academic Language and Learning, Sydney.
UniLearning 2000, accessed 10 June 2000, <>.


Academic writing: paragraph level (PDF 172kB)

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