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The Paragraph

A unified paragraph, in academic writing,

includes one main idea that the rest of the piece
of writing (paragraph or essay) explains,
supports, and develops.

Raimes, Ann. Keys for Writers. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2008. p. 28

Structure of the Analytical Paragraph

Topic sentence

introduces the focus idea of your paragraph

is an observation not a fact(For instance, in literary analysis, it is not a plot summary but
an observation.)
Developing sentence(s)

provides further explanation of the focus idea

introduces context to lead into evidence


is integrated into the ideas that come before either through context or through a blended

If evidence is a direct quote, then is properly cited

Explanation of evidence

avoids this quote shows

unpacks the evidence in that it refers to specific words or ideas inside the evidence
that support the focus idea
Wrap-up statement

does not end with a quote but a summarizing statement

refers back to focus idea but doesnt just repeat the topic sentence, rather arrives at a
new complexity
Signals movement to next idea

The Topic Sentence

A topic sentence .should be a point that connects to
the controlling idea (thesis) of the piece.
A topic sentence .should be a point that can lead to
a well-developed paragraph
A controlling idea .should be specific and not too big.
It establishes the focus of the paragraph for the
A topic sentence..should be arguable. That is, it
should offer a proposition that the paragraph will then
prove with evidence and explanation.

Evidence means support or proof for your ideas. In academic writing evidence
can be
Summary of events/details
Direct quotations
A paraphrase of a quotation
With direct quotations use either format:

Set-up quotation: requires a speaker and verb before the quote

In his essay The African Writer and The English Language, Chinua Achebe argues,
I do not see African literature as one unit but as a group of associated unitsin fact
the sum total of all the national and ethnic literatures of Africa (4).

Blended quotation [partial quote]
Achebe argues that one not view African literature as one unit and he further goes
on to argue that it encompasses the sum total of all the national and ethnic
literatures of Africa (4).


Adding an idea

also, in addition, further, furthermore

however, nevertheless, nonetheless, on the other hand, in
contrast, still, on the contrary

Providing an alternative

Showing similarity

Showing order of time or order of idea

subsequently, meanwhile

Showing result


Giving examples


Adding an aside


instead, otherwise

similarly, likewise
first, second, third, then, next, later,

as a result, consequently, therefore, thus, accordingly

of course, in fact, indeed, undoubtedly
for example, for instance
in other words, that is
incidentally, by the way, besides
in short, overall, generally

Literary Analysis Paragraph

Through the multi-dimensional character, Okonkwo, Things Fall Apart articulates the fact
that Africans had complex life stories that imperialists had oversimplified. With writers
like Rudyard Kipling describing Africans as half-devil, half-child, the white man
trivialized the African story, making it seem inferior and insignificant. Upon Okonkwos
death, the Commissioner claims that Okonkwos story would only make up a reasonable
paragraph in the book he plans to write about Africa (208). The Commissioner
compresses the entire life story of one man into a few lines, thus belittling him. However,
Achebe explores Okonkwos character as a revered member of his community and
juxtaposes this with his failures. According to the text, [Okonkwo] had taken two titles
and had shown incredible prowess in two inter-tribal wars (8). Later, he is exiled to
Mbanta for seven years (124). His is a story that echoes the stories of men in general, as
it is one that is full of triumphs and trials. Using Okonkwo, Chinua brings out both the
strengths and weaknesses of an archetypal African man, thus depicting details of the
African story that had, for a long time, been overlooked.

Textual Analysis
I have always thought of misfortune as an aspect of life that everyone
should have to undergo. That is why I thought that I had an unfair
advantage in life because I have suffered very little compared to the
people that surround me. A Widow for One Years epigraph is by William
Makepeace Thackeray and it says, as for this little lady, the best thing I
can wish her is a little misfortune. Irving reinforces his thoughts on the
necessity of misfortune in order gain the strength and the knowledge to
live life through the plot twists and some characters introduced in the
novel. An example of this is introduced by tragic accident that claims the
lives of the two Cole boys. The boys were the pride and joy of their parents
and Phillip Exeter Academy, the school they attend. After the accident, the
parents of the boys both grieve differently but one thing that the grief does
to both the parents is force them to have another child, in order to ease
the grief. Unfortunately, Ruth Cole, the new child is wanted mainly by her
father and not so much by her mother.

Reader response paragraphs

Text to Self
What does the text have to do with you, personally,
and with your life (past, present, or future)?

Text to Self
How much did you learn, and how much were your
views and opinions challenged or changed by this text,
if at all? Did the text communicate with you? Why or
why not? Give examples of how your views might have
been changed or strengthened? Use quotes to
illustrate your points of challenge, or where you were
persuaded, or where it left you cold?

Text to Self
How much does the text agree or clash with your view
of the world, and what you consider right or wrong?

Text to Self
I found myself surrounded with grief as I read the vivid description of
the soldiers themselves, men who have no control over their lives and
whose fate is being decided for them by a soldier of a higher rank. I
could hear their silent prayers and cries the night before an early
morning strike, an attack they knew they werent going to survive,
yet, they had to make. I could hear their begging for pens and papers
just to send a letter to a beloved, a relative or a friend they only met
once. I could feel their despair and relate to their grief. One of the
young officers was playing a piano in the corner, although not all the
men were singing the same song. I found this sentence very
expressive and moving. It clearly shows how scattered the soldiers
minds were even though they were in the same room; how everyone

Text to Society
How well does it address things that you personally
care about and consider important to the world? How
does it address things that are important to your
family, your community, your ethnic group, people of
your economic or social class or background, or your
faith tradition? If not, who did the text serve?

Text to World
I drew many parallels between The Reader and the reconciliatory
period in the aftermath of Apartheid South Africa. Michaels journey
to forgiving Hanna and assuaging himself from guilt highlighted
how taxing the process of forgiveness is and it impressed on me the
magnitude of the South African leadership in choosing reconciliation
over retribution. It also impressed on me the difficult task South
Africa undertook in attempting to move forward. Michaels horror
and morbid fascination at hearing Hannas accounts in court
mirrored my own horror and morbid fascination in reading stories
from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I found it hard to
reconcile the South Africa I live in to the South Africa that was, just
as Michael had difficulty in reconciling the two Hannas he knew.


Paragraph is unified and cohesive
Ideas support controlling idea
Ideas are fully developed; they avoid general statements or surface level ideas
Length is appropriate (between 8 and 10 sentences)
Paragraph follows structure of topic sentence, developing idea, evidence, explanation, concluding statement
Topic sentence introduces the controlling idea
Arrangement of ideas is logical and each idea/sentence builds upon the next
The evidence clearly supports the paragraph's controlling idea
Evidence supports essential ideas, not less relevant ideas
Evidence is accurate and smoothly integrated [quotes are properly set up or blended]
Citation is properly used when necessary
Uses accurate, precise vocabulary
Sentence structure is varied
Voice shows understanding of audience; is appropriate for formal academic writing

Piece shows proper use of punctuation, including quotations and citation
Verb tenses, pronoun agreement are proper
Proper spelling, capitalization, apostrophe etc.