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  2. Assignments
  3. Writing for university
  4. Dividing your work into paragraphs

Dividing your work into paragraphs

  • Good paragraphs divide up your assignment according to topics or major points.
  • Each paragraph should discuss just one main idea and your reader should be able to identify what the paragraph is about. Each new paragraph should indicate a change of focus.
  • Paragraphs often start with a topic sentence or part of a sentence – a statement which is expanded on in the rest of the paragraph. (Try reading only the first sentence of each paragraph of a newspaper article. You can get a flavour of the key points for the whole text.)
  • The topic sentence acts as a 'signpost' directing your reader through the essay and should also relate back to the assignment question.

Common mistakes

Students tend to demonstrate poor paragraphing when they are unclear about what they are trying to say. If you feel like this, revisit your assignment plan and try to clarify your thinking about the progression of your argument.

A common mistake that students make when writing paragraphs is to put in no paragraphs – all of the ideas are jumbled in together and, once again, this leads to a lack of logical progression in the argument (see image below).

Some make every sentence into a paragraph, making it a 'bullet point' essay. This can indicate that the ideas have not been linked together in a coherent argument (see below).

A well structured assignment with good paragraphs in will be obvious to the eye. The image below shows the visual effect that good paragraphs have.