WRD 104: Composition & Rhetoric II Rotating Header Image

Paragraph development

As a general guideline, paragraphs usually have just one point; think of them as little shifts in focus within the overall structure of your essay:

[P]oint: the purpose or idea of the paragraph 
[I]llustration: a quote, or data, or a narrative, or an image, or research
[E]xplication/Explanation: the so what of the paragraph — your thinking on why this information is important in the context of this paragraph

[P] Every wolf in Yellowstone therefore is more than just a wolf. Imbued with profound symbolic meaning, each wolf embodies the divergent goals of competing social movements involved in the reintroduction debate. Framed by environmentalists and their wise use opponents as another line in the sand in their ongoing battle for the heart and soul of the West, wolf reintroduction is a high-stakes political conflict. [I] Wolf recovery is often portrayed by environmentalists as being symptomatic of a culture in transition–an inevitable change (Askins, 1995). It is an image that plays especially well with the media: “[T]he wolf issue pits the New West against the Old West” (Johnson, 1994, p. 12), a milestone in the “transformation of power” from the Old West (Brandon, 1995, p.8). [E] Wolf restoration clearly represents change, but sound bites that reduce the social struggle over wolves to an “inevitable” transition from the old to the new are inadequate. They do not explain the underlying social issues driving the transformation. They do not capture the essence of social negotiation, the give-and-take of political exchange between social movements struggling to define the western landscape. Nor do they acknowledge that these social issues will remain after the wolf controversy has exited the center stage of public policy discourse.

Wilson, Matthew. “The Wolf in Yellowstone: Science, Symbol, or Politics? Deconstructing the Conflict between Environmentalism and Wise Use.” Society & Natural Resources. 10(1997): 453-468.

[P] This is a triumph of the teen-girl aesthetic approach to the world: that you surround yourself with images that you feel reflect who you are or who you want to be. It used to be derided as narcissistic or derivative, but aesthetic curation is now a widely popular, socially accepted, and venture-backed phenomenon. And while it remains gendered [I] (consider the stereotypes of Pinterest users), the practice of sharing visual influences is gaining popularity so fast that my guess is it won’t be for long. [E] We’re all teen girls now.”

Ann Friedman, “Our Tumblrs, Our Teenage Selves”

[P] Human nature hasn’t changed much. [I] The surveys still reveal generations driven by curiosity, a desire to have a good family, a good community and good values. But people clearly feel besieged. There is the perception that life is harder. Certainly their parents think it is harder. The result is that you get a group hardened for battle, more focused on the hard utilitarian things and less focused on spiritual or philosophic things; feeling emotionally vulnerable, but also filled with résumé assertiveness. [E] The inner world wanes; professional intensity waxes.

David Brooks, “The Streamlined Life”

And in your St. Martin’s Handbook:
Editing the paragraphs in your writing

  • What is the topic sentence of each paragraph? Is it stated or implied? If stated, where in the paragraph does it fall? Should it come at some other point? Would any paragraph be improved by deleting or adding a topic sentence? (5b1)
  • Within each paragraph, how does each sentence relate to the main idea? (5b2)
  • How completely does each paragraph develop its topic? What details and methods of development are used? Are they effective? Do any paragraphs need more detail? What other methods of development might be used? (5c1)
  • Are paragraphs varied in length? Does any paragraph seem too long or too short? (5c2)
  • Is each paragraph organized in a way that is easy for readers to follow? Are sentences within each paragraph clearly linked? Do any of the transitional expressions try to create links between ideas that do not really exist? (5d)
  • Are the paragraphs clearly linked? Do more links need to be added? (5e)
  • How does the introductory paragraph catch readers’ interest—with a quotation? an anecdote? a question? a strong opinion? How else might it open? (5f1)
  • How does the last paragraph draw the essay to a conclusion? What lasting impression will it leave with readers? How else might it conclude? (5f2)

Linking paragraphs with transitions:

Repeated key words

In fact, human offspring remain dependent on their parents longer than the young of any other species.

Children are dependent on their parents or other adults not only for their physical survival but also for their initiation into the uniquely human knowledge that is collectively called culture….

Parallel structures

Kennedy made an effort to assure non-Catholics that he would respect the separation of church and state, and most of them did not seem to hold his religion against him in deciding how to vote. Since his election, the church to which a candidate belongs has become less important in presidential politics.

The region from which a candidate comes remains an important factor….

Transitional expressions

While the Indian, in the character of Tonto, was more positively portrayed in The Lone Ranger, such a portrayal was more the exception than the norm.

Despite this brief glimpse of an Indian as an ever loyal sidekick, Tonto was never accorded the same stature as the man with the white horse and silver bullets….