How to Write a Paragraph

In Social Studies assignments, you are frequently asked to write paragraphs. At this point in your education, you have likely written many paragraphs. And, hopefully you have some idea of what goes into writing, in general.

A paragraph is a group of sentences on one topic. Generally, a paragraph has one topic sentence and up to 20 sentences to complete the paragraph. Of course, this is just a guideline. Paragraphs can vary in length, but they are usually long enough to have meaning and highlight a central idea.

The following tips may help you refine your writing skills.

  • Unity: Ensure you understand the topic. Feel free to reword the topic, ask a friend or teacher to clarify the topic, or look up unfamiliar words in a dictionary or thesaurus. Once you have an understanding of the topic, ensure you focus on the issue throughout your writing. Don't include any unnecessary or irrelevant points just to make the paragraph longer!

    Part of creating unity in your writing is providing support or evidence for your statements. Especially in Social Studies, the expectation is that you include evidence from your readings, videos, textbook, or current/historical events, and then explain why this evidence supports your ideas.

Example of a generalization: Thousands of people are on waiting lists and even dying because of our poor health care system. In this statement, the student lacks supporting evidence. Evidence is needed to support the statements of "thousands" and "poor health care system". The generalization that thousands are dying because of a poor health system may be difficult or impossible to prove.

Example of an unsupported personal opinion: Most people in the developing world are poor because they are too lazy to work. Avoid stating overgeneralized or personal opinions unless there is evidence to support these statements. In addition, avoid biased, bigoted, or offensive word choices or statements. Keep in mind you are still in an educational setting.

  • Clarity: Be clear in what you are trying to say. Ask yourself questions as you write. Why am I stating this idea? Am I focused on the topic? Can the reader understand my position and my explanation of evidence provided?

  • Word Choice: It is more important for your reader to understand your message fully than it is for you to use fancy (or complicated) language. When writing, try reading your paragraph aloud. Does it sound like something you would say? If not, it may need some revision.

  • Emphasis: Ensure your reader knows your viewpoint or position. The conclusion is the point at which you wrap it up. Leave no reason for the reader to ask, "What's your point?"

  • Correctness: Proofread and edit! Use your spell check and grammar check. Get a friend, relative, or classmate to read it for you. Another pair of eyes can be invaluable.

Watch an approach to writing body paragraphs for Social Studies.