Skip to Main Content

Paragraph Structure: A Short Guide

A Short Guide to Paragraph Structure

Essay problems: could it be a paragraph issue?

Some of the problems you may be having with your academic writing could be linked to your use of paragraphs. Do you ever struggle with any of the things below?

  • Your tutor has commented that you do not develop your point enough.

    • Perhaps you are trying to make too many points within one paragraph. Make sure each paragraph deals with just one point, and that you have taken that point through the stages detailed on the previous page. 

  • Your tutor has said that your arguments are not coherent.

    • Perhaps you need to think about the order in which you position your paragraphs. Try jotting down the key point that you want to explore in each paragraph. Then move these points around to find an order that will allow your argument to unfold logically. Make use of signposting words and phrases to guide the reader through your argument. See our Short Guide to Signposting in Essays for help with this.
  • You are unsure about when and how often you should be providing evidence or referencing other scholars.
    • If each paragraph explores one main point, then it follows that there should be at least one reference or piece of evidence within each paragraph. Otherwise you are in danger of making a key point without backing it up.

  • You often feel as if you are not answering the question you have been set.

    • Try looking at each paragraph and considering how it helps you to answer the question. If there are any paragraphs that seem irrelevant, consider cutting them, or making their relevance clearer to the reader. Look at the first and last sentences of your paragraphs. These should indicate a clear link to the original essay question.

Conclusion

Consider the internal structure of paragraphs and how they link to one another. This is a key part of achieving an effective essay structure to convey your line of reasoning. Check each paragraph for structure, clarity, relevance and connection to its neighbours.

Further reading on paragraphs and linking phrases

University of Newcastle (2021) Writing Strong Paragraphs: Paragraph Structure. Available at: https://libguides.newcastle.edu.au/writing-paragraphs/structure (Accessed: 13 August 2021).

University of Sheffield (2021) Paragraphs, Flow and Connectivity. Available at: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/ssid/301/study-skills/writing/academic-writing/paragraph-flow-connectivity (Accessed: 13 August 2021).

Accessibility statement