Paragraph structure

A paragraph has a topic sentence and supporting sentences.

Topic sentence

This is the main idea in the paragraph. It tells the reader what the paragraph is going to be about. It is usually the first sentence.

Supporting sentences

The supporting sentences are the other sentences in the paragraph. These sentences either:

  • expand on the main point
  • define key terms
  • offer explanations
  • give examples
  • give additional detail.

Look at the following example and see if you can pick the topic sentence and the function of the other sentences. When you have decided, click on the ‘Check’ to compare.

Topic sentences

A topic sentence is a sentence that tells the reader what the paragraph is going to be about. All other sentences in the paragraph should support that idea. A topic sentence is usually the first sentence of the paragraph, although it can appear in the middle or at the end of a paragraph. Every paragraph should have a topic sentence.

Find the topic sentences in the following activity.

The writing process

Although essays have a set structure, writing an essay is not just a matter of following the ‘formula’, it takes time. It is best to allow about three weeks so you have time to draft, redraft, edit and refine your work. Many students hand in essays that are more like early drafts, that is they have a lot of ideas on the topic, but these have often not been sorted or connected to the question.

This section will take you through the essay writing process.

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