Skills Earth Sciences

Paragraph structure

Paragraphs are the smaller units of a text. For clarity, it is essential that each paragraph treats only one topic. As a rule of thumb, paragraphs should not be longer than approximately half a page as this makes the text more difficult to read. On the other hand, paragraphs consisting of only one or two sentences are too short and make your text look messy8. Structuring your paragraphs and connecting them in a ‘natural flow’ will increase the readability of your work1. Structuring your paragraphs may be difficult when you are working with complex ideas, which often is the case when you are writing a scientific article/paper/report. You can follow the model below to build your paragraphs and to incorporate evidence in your writing.

  • In the first sentence of the paragraph you state the topic or main idea of the paragraph, which is the topic sentence
  • In the ‘body of the paragraph’ you can insert evidence or examples to your topic sentence. Note that every sentence needs to be connected to the topic sentence by explaining it, referring to it, or building upon it1. To establish coherence within a paragraph, make sure that each sentence is related to the topic sentence. This can be achieved by repeating key words or phrases or using parallel structures or linking words. You can find more information on this in Syntax.
  • In the last sentence(s) of a longer paragraph you can refer back to the topic sentence1. You can also use the last sentence to connect this paragraph to the next by leading into the next paragraph.
  • If you want to check whether your paragraphs are well built, read only the opening and closing sentences of the paragraph: they should connect and be logical.