Academic Writing Paragraph To Essay

Key words: body paragraph, topic sentence, supporting argument, evidence, authority, citation, examples, anecdotal evidence

Now that you’ve thought through the qualities of paragraphs, it’s time to address the big issue. At university, you are mainly meant to draw the knowledge items of your paragraphs from credible sources and state who those sources are (referencing).This is particularly important in your assignment essays.

Please note that the APA referencing style is used in this workshop.

About academic paragraphs

Academic paragraphs are the body paragraphs of your essay and account for about 90% of your word count and marks. They may also be the structure of short answer questions in other types of writing (e.g. exams).

Academic paragraphs contain the points you want to make with supporting arguments and evidence. These paragraphs use a basic pattern (recipe) you can follow. The sentences in your body paragraphs may include citations from information sources, examples and anecdotal evidence. 

Analysis of the structure of an academic paragraph

Exercise 1: Understanding the academic paragraph

Read the following academic paragraph from a research essay and answer the questions that follow. Use the scratch pads below the questions to make notes and record your ideas.

Assignment essay tasks are set to assist students to develop mastery of their study subject. Firstly, assignment tasks enhance understandings about subject matter. Yang and Baker (2005, p. 1) reason that “to master your learning materials and extend your understandings, you need to write about the meanings you gain from your research”. Secondly, research (Jinx, 2004; Zapper, 2006) clearly demonstrates that students learn the writing conventions of a subject area while they are researching, reading and writing in their discipline. This activity helps them to “crack the code” of the discipline (Bloggs, 2003, p. 44). Thus, students are learning subject matter and how to write in that disciplinary area by researching and writing assignment essays. (111 words/6 sentences)

Exercise 2: Analysing the academic paragraph

Click ‘Start analysis’ below to see how these strategies are working in an academic paragraph.

More information
ASO Factsheets: 

Paragraphs, Flow and Connectivity

The skill of structuring paragraphs and building effective connections between them is one that will allow you to develop and sustain a compelling argument in your written work. By setting out your ideas and evidence with a natural flow, you will make your work much more readable. This important technique will help you work towards higher levels of attainment in assignments and help to improve the quality of your everyday writing.

Flow and connectivity allow the reader to follow the thread of the argument from one sentence to the next and from one paragraph to the next.

Try the 301 Paragraphs, Flow and Connectivity Prezi to find out more.

Linking and Connections

  • Tip for linking - Using 'This' Or 'It'
  • There's a simple principle here - when you use 'this' or 'it' to sum up what was in the last paragraph, don't leave the reader to work out what 'this' or 'it' was. Spell it out briefly. This makes the link much clearer.

For example: 'Many right wing parties represented in the European Parliament raise objections and vote against any proposed legislation on principle, regardless of the individual merits of the legislation.'

  • Don't Put: This is a major part of Conservative thinking.
  • Do Put: This hostility to Europe is a major part of Conservative thinking. (REF: University of Teeside Learning HUB:

Moving from one section to the next

  • Before proceeding to examine X, it will be necessary to …
  • Before employing these theories to examine X, it is necessary to …
  • Turning now to the experimental evidence on …
  • So far this paper/chapter has focussed on X. The following section will discuss …
  • Having defined what is meant by X, I will now move on to discuss …
  • This chapter follows on from the previous chapter, which (examined/laid out/outlined) X.

Moving from one section to the next whilst indicating addition, contrast or opposition

  • This chapter has demonstrated that … It is now necessary to explain the course of …
  • Having discussed how to construct X, the final section of this paper addresses ways of …
  • This section has analysed the causes of X and has argued that … The next part of this paper … In addition, it is important to ask …
  • On the other hand, in spite of much new knowledge about the role of …
  • However, this system also has a number of serious drawbacks.
  • Despite this, little progress has been made in the …

University of Manchester, Academic Phrasebook:


A paragraph should discuss only one idea.
i.e. do not discuss advantages and disadvantages of a theory – split these parts of the argument into two separate paragraphs.

  • The opening sentence of paragraph should outline the main idea (topic sentence).
  • Every supporting sentence should directly explain, refer back to, or build on the main idea.
  • Use the final sentence to refer back to the topic sentence and/or lead into the following paragraph.

The WEED Model

One of the easiest models for writing paragraphs is the WEED model (Godwin, 2009).

  • W is for What. The first sentence of your paragraph should make it clear what subject you are covering - the topic sentence.
  • E is for Evidence. You need to support your views with quality research, and then reference it.
  • E is for Example. You should consider whether you need to provide examples to illustrate your subject.
  • D is for Do. This may be a summing up, or stating the implications of your evidence, e.g. why the subject supports your argument. This is especially important if you've been asked to critically analyse. Students often miss this last part out, but this shows your lecturer that you understand what you've been reading and gains you extra marks!

(University of Teeside Learning HUB:

Top Tips
  • Remember: ONE paragraph, ONE idea!
  • State the purpose of the paragraph clearly in the topic sentence.
  • Make sure every subsequent sentence refers back to or reinforces the topic sentence.
  • Avoid short, clipped sentences; use connecting words to build effective links.
  • Use topic sentences and concluding sentences to build effective links between paragraphs.
  • Remember: Every paragraph should refer back to the main topic of the essay.
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