Essay Writing

Unit 1

From Paragraph to Essay: Review of Paragraph Writing

1. Meaning of a paragraph

A paragraph is a group of related sentences that are organized to explain a single main idea. The paragraph has three functions:

  • introduces a new topic (or aspect of a topic) and develops it visually and logically.
  • distinguishes the present (new) topic from the previous one and from the following one.
  • it shows a logical relation between the sentences within the paragraph.

2. Components of a Paragraph

Most paragraphs have a topic sentence that expresses the main idea or explains what will be discussed in a paragraph. The topic sentence can be at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of the paragraph. However, it is normally at the beginning.

The supporting sentences describe or prove the main idea in the topic sentence by giving more information.

The last sentence or concluding sentence explains the main idea again or summarizes the main point of the paragraph. It can express a suggestion, an opinion, or a prediction. It isn’t necessary to have a conclusion in every paragraph, especially, if it is short.

Example paragraph 1

In the above paragraph, the first sentence is the topic sentence. Sentences 2-7 are the discussion or supporting sentences and sentence 8 is the conclusion sentence.

(1) There are three reasons why Canada is one of the best countries in the world. (2) First, Canada has an excellent health care system. (3) All Canadians have access to medical services at a reasonable price. (4) Second, Canada has a high standard of education. (5) Students are taught by well-trained teachers and are encouraged to continue studying at university. (6) Finally, Canada's cities are clean and efficiently managed. (7) Canadian cities have many parks and lots of space for people to live. (8) It is clear that Canada is a desirable place to live.

In the above paragraph, the first sentence is the topic sentence. Sentences 2-7 are the discussion or supporting sentences and sentence 8 is the conclusion sentence.

3. Topic sentence and characteristics of a good topic sentence

Topic sentence gives the main or controlling idea of the paragraph, introducing what the paragraph is about and what it will explain or discuss. It is the most important sentence of a paragraph because it expresses the main idea of the paragraph and helps the reader to know immediately what the paragraph is about and what details of the next sentences will come. The topic sentence should be placed at the first sentence even though it may be placed anywhere in a paragraph such as at the beginning, in the middle or at the end of a paragraph

3.1 Characteristics of a good topic sentence

A good topic sentence must be:

3.1.1 complete,

3.1.2 limited,

3.1.3 specific.

3.1.1 Being complete means that the topic sentence must contains a subject and a predicate. It must have one and only one controlling idea which will be expanded into a complete paragraph. It must be a complete sentence not a sentence fragment or part of a sentence.


1. Fragment: Most new students

Complete: Most new students are satisfied at the TSU academic search procedure.

2. Fragment: If you learn a third language

Complete: If you learn a third language, you will have more career choices.

3. Fragment: Way to spend my birthday

Complete: My favourite way to spend my birthday is to have dinner with my family.

3.1.2 Being limited means that the complete topic sentence must consist only one controlling idea that is not too broad or too narrow.


Sentence 1: A successful businessman must at least three working habits.

One controlling idea

Sentence 2: A successful businessman must have at least three working habits and he

needs to have strong confident.

Sentence 1 consists of only one idea that is “at least three working habits” but

sentence 2 has 2 ideas that are “at least three working habits” and “have strong confident”.

Thus, sentence 1 is the better topic sentence because sentence 2 has more than one idea and it is not a good sentence.

3.1.3 Being specific means the topic sentence must be direct, precise and related to the topic. A predicate such as serious troubles, bad, boring, etc. are too vague to be included in a topic sentence. Moreover, the good topic sentence must give a student’s opinion, attitude, or impression about the topic. It is impossible to express several aspects of a topic in one paragraph.


Sentence 1: The business regulation causes troubles. (vague) Sentence 2: The business regulation causes a more serious trouble for a big business owner than for

the small one

Key opinion, attitude words help specify

Sentence 1 expresses all aspects of the troubles which doesn’t introduce how or whom the trouble effects. Thus, it is too broad and no specific point to be discussed. However, in sentence 2, it expresses only one aspect of the trouble of business regulation that is for “the big business owner” when compared to “the small business owner”.

4. Supporting sentences

The supporting sentence explains the topic sentence by providing more information in a logical manner. They answer questions: who? what? when? where? why? and how?. There are two types of supporting sentences: major supporting sentences and minor supporting sentences.

A major supporting sentence is a sentence that has a direct relationship with the topic sentence. It gives more information about the topic sentence.

A minor supporting sentence is a sentence that supports details about a major supporting sentence.

Each paragraph must have only one topic sentence and at least one major supporting sentence. It is not necessary to have minor supporting sentences.

The paragraph below shows the relation between the topic sentence, the major supporting sentences and the minor supporting sentences.

In the paragraph above, the first sentence is the topic sentence which states the main idea “Superstitions affect several aspects of my life.” of the paragraph. The other sentences are supporting sentences. Major supporting sentences are 2, 5 and 8 which giving more details about the topic sentence “Superstitions affect several aspects of my life.” Sentences 3, 4, 6, 7, 9 and 10 are minor supporting sentences. Sentences 3 and 4 give more details about sentence 2. Sentences 6 and 7 give more details about sentence 5. Finally, sentences 9 and 10 give more information about sentence 8.

5. Concluding sentences

A concluding sentence signals the end of a paragraph and reminds the reader of the main idea of the paragraph. Look at the following paragraph:

In the above paragraph, sentence 11 is the concluding sentence of the paragraph. The followings are some of the tips for writing a good concluding sentence:

1. Begin with a conclusion signal. Most conclusion signals have commas after them; others do not.


1. To summarize, Japanese food is both beautiful to look at and delicious to eat.

Indeed, Marry U.S. cities and regions have a special food for everyone to enjoy.

2. It is clear that fad diets don’t work and may even damage a dieter’s health.

3. All in all, I am superstitions about many aspects of my life.

2. Remind your reader of main idea by one of the following methods.

2.1 Repeat the idea in the topic sentence in different words. Do not just copy the topic sentence.

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Essay writing

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Public - 9/21/16, 2:01 PM