Art of Craftsmanship

Academic writing tips and guidelines

Academic Writing Tips : Developing Coherent Paragraphs

Imagine guiding a driver from point A to point B, there are many side roads and the driver loses their way, gets frustrated, goes home. If the route takes the traveller on a road that twists and turns going nowhere, the traveller gets confused. If the route takes the traveller on a slightly scenic route, that builds up information along the journey, making it interesting and informative, following a logical progression it allows the traveller to arrive at the destination knowledgeable and informed.

Developing Coherent Paragraphs in academic writing is like being a GPS for your reader, guiding them through a logical progression of ideas.

There are rules for Developing Coherent Paragraphs.

  • Always start with a Topic sentence, which is the central idea of the paragraph and gives the reader a rough idea of what to expect. (Look at newspaper articles, they give the topic sentence and then reader will decide whether to read the rest of the paragraph or just skip it).
  • Expand the topic sentence, to show the connections between the logical sequence of ideas and patterns such as cause and effect or comparison and contrast. Give definitions of terms, examples and quotes from sources used. Use pronouns so as you don’t keep repeating what was said in previous paragraphs. Its Ok to repeat Keywords -its is a way of emphasising them.

More Rules for Paragraphs

  • Paragraphs should be of reasonable length. If a paragraph is more than one page, it is too long.
  • Start a new paragraph where there is a shift of focus in the topic.
  • Each paragraph should only have one main idea.
  • Long paragraphs or no paragraphs are not pleasing to the eye no matter how interesting the topic.
  • Paragraphs that are only two or three sentences make academic writing skimpy. If there is a single topic that is stretched over several short paragraphs can they be merged?

Common mistakes

Lack of clarity will show in poor paragraphing. This can be apparent by:

  • Not using paragraphs - that just mixes all the ideas up into an untidy heap and its difficult to see a logical progression of ideas.
  • Make every sentence a paragraph by bullet pointing everything. Very difficult to produce a coherent argument using this method.
  • Linking words are strong tools that enable the writer to pull together their logical progression of ideas. (a few examples below).
  • To reinforce ideas:
  • Also, Additionally, In other words, For example, Further more, Similarly,

  • To signal a change in ideas:
  • But, However, on the other hand, in contrast, yet, never the less.

  • To signal a conclusion:
  • Therefore, in conclusion, finally, to conclude, in conclusion

  • To introduce a list of ideas
  • Firstly, … (or 'The first point to note is …')