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Methods of Paragraph Development

There are several ways in which you can build good, clear paragraphs. This section will discuss three of the most common types of paragraph structure: development by detail, comparison and contrast, and process. Finally, it will suggest that most paragraphs are built of a combination of development strategies. 1. Paragraph Development by Detail This is the most common and easiest form of paragraph development: you simply expand on a general topic sentence using specific examples or illustrations. Look at the following paragraph (you may have encountered it before): Work tends to be associated with non-work-specific environments, activities, and schedules. If asked what space is reserved for learning, many students would suggest the classroom, the lab or the library. What about the kitchen? The bedroom? In fact, any room in which a student habitually studies becomes a learning space, or a place associated with thinking. Some people need to engage in sports or other physical activity before they can work successfully. Being sedentary seems to inspire others. Although most classes are scheduled between 8:30 and 22:00, some students do their best work before the sun rises, some after it sets. Some need a less flexible schedule than others, while a very few can sit and not rise until their task is completed. Some students work quickly and efficiently, while others cannot produce anything without much dust and heat. The topic sentence makes a general claim: that school work tends not to be associated only with school. The rest of the sentences provide various illustrations of this argument. They are organized around the three categories, "environment, activities, and schedules," enumerated in the topic sentence. The details provide the concrete examples which your reader will use to evaluate the credibility of your topic sentence. 2. Paragraph Development by Comparison and Contrast You should consider developing your paragraph by comparison and contrast when you are describing two or more things which have something, but not everything, in common. You may choose to compare either point by point (X is big, Y is little; X and Y are both purple.) or subject by subject (X is big and purple; Y is small and purple.). Consider, for example, the following paragraph: Although the interpretation of traffic signals may seem highly standardized, close observation reveals regional variations across this country, distinguishing the East Coast from Central Canada and the West as surely as dominant dialects or political inclinations. In Montreal, a flashing red traffic light instructs drivers to careen even more wildly through intersections heavily populated with pedestrians and oncoming vehicles. In startling contrast, an amber light in Calgary warns drivers to scream to a halt on the off chance that there might be a pedestrian within 500 meters who might consider crossing at some unspecified time within the current day.

In my home town in New Brunswick, finally, traffic lights (along with painted lines and posted speed limits) do not apply to tractors, all terrain vehicles, or pickup trucks, which together account for most vehicles on the road. In fact, were any observant Canadian dropped from an alien space vessel at an unspecified intersection anywhere in this vast land, he or she could almost certainly orient him-or-herself according to the surrounding traffic patterns. This paragraph compares traffic patterns in three areas of Canada. It contrasts the behavior of drivers in the Maritimes, in Montreal, and in Calgary, in order to make a point about how attitudes in various places inform behavior. People in these areas have in common the fact that they all drive; in contrast, they drive differently according to the area in which they live. It is important to note that the paragraph above considers only one aspect of driving (behavior at traffic lights). If you wanted to consider two or more aspects, you would probably need more than one paragraph. 3. Paragraph Development by Process Paragraph development by process involves a straightforward step-by-step description. Those of you in the sciences will recognize it as the formula followed in the "method" section of a lab experiment. Process description often follows a chronological sequence: The first point to establish is the grip of the hand on the rod. This should be about half-way up the cork handle, absolutely firm and solid, but not tense or rigid. All four fingers are curved around the handle, the little finger, third finger and middle finger contributing most of the firmness by pressing the cork solidly into the fleshy part of the palm, near the heel of the hand. The forefinger supports and steadies the grip but supplies its own firmness against the thumb, which should be along the upper side of the handle and somewhere near the top of the grip. (from Roderick Haig-Brown, "Fly Casting") The topic sentence establishes that the author will use this paragraph to describe the process of establishing the "grip of the hand on the rod," and this is exactly what he does, point by point, with little abstraction. 4. Paragraph Development by Combination Very often, a single paragraph will contain development by a combination of methods. It may begin with a brief comparison, for example, and move on to provide detailed descriptions of the subjects being compared. A process analysis might include a brief history of the process in question. Many paragraphs include lists of examples: The broad range of positive characteristics used to define males could be used to define females too, but they are not. At its entry for woman Webster's Third provides a list of "qualities considered distinctive of womanhood": "Gentleness, affection, and domesticity or on the other hand fickleness, superficiality, and folly." Among the "qualities considered distinctive of manhood" listed in the entry for man, no negative attributes detract from the "courage, strength,

and vigor" the definers associate with males. According to this dictionary, womanish means "unsuitable to a man or to a strong character of either sex." This paragraph is a good example of one which combines a comparison and contrast of contemporary notions of "manliness" and "womanliness" with an extended list of examples. 5. Paragraph Development by Explanation In an explanation paragraph, you need to explain how or why something happens. Very often in social studies class, you will be asked to explore causes and effects of certain events. Example: Write a paragraph explaining why so many Europeans moved to Canada during the nineteenth century. The following words can help you to write a good explanation paragraph: Helper Words: Cause because since as a result of is due to Effect therefore thus consequently hence it follows that if . . . then Cause because Example: People moved to Canada from Europe during the nineteenth century because they had poor living conditions in Europe. since Example: Since living conditions in Europe were terrible, many people moved to Canada.

as a result of Example: People moved to Canada from Europe as a result of poor living conditions in Europe. is due to / was due to Example: The large influx of people to Canada was due to economic pressures in Europe. Effect therefore Example: Living conditions in Europe were terrible. Therefore, many people moved to Canada for a better life. thus Example: Living conditions in Europe were terrible. Thus, many people moved to Canada for a better life. consequently Example: Living conditions were terrible in Europe. Consequently, many people moved to Canada. hence Example: Living conditions were terrible in Europe. Hence, many people moved to Canada. it follows that Example: Living conditions were terrible in Europe. It follows that many people moved to Canada. if ... then Example: If living conditions were better in Europe, then fewer people would have moved to Canada. 6. Paragraph Development by Sequence In a sequencing paragraph, you are writing to describe a series of events or a process in some sort of order. Usually, this order is based on time. Example: Write a paragraph outlining how a person becomes the prime minister. The following words can help you to write a good sequence paragraph. Helper Words: Order first, second, third, etc. in the beginning

before then after finally at last subsequently Time recently previously afterwards when after Order first, second, third, etc. Example: First, you need to become a leader of a political party. Second, you need to win a seat in the House of Commons. Third, your party must have a majority of seats. in the beginningExample: In the beginning, you need to become a leader of a political party. before Example: Before becoming the prime minister, you need to become the leader of a political party. then Example: Then, you must win a seat in the House of Commons. after Example: After winning a seat in the House of Commons, you must make sure you have a majority of seats. finally Example: Finally, after all these steps, you can call yourself the prime minister. at last Example: At last, you can call yourself the prime minister. subsequently Example: Subsequently, you must make sure you have a majority of seats in the House of Commons.

Time recently Example: She was recently elected prime minister. previously Example: She is the new prime minister. Previously, she worked as a lawyer in Toronto. afterwards Example: She won the party leadership last year. Afterwards, she won the election. when Example: When she won the party leadership, she was still working as a lawyer. after Example: After winning a seat in the House of Commons, you must make sure you have a majority of seats. 7. Paragraph Development by Sequence In a description paragraph, you are writing about what a person, place, or thing is like. Sometimes, you may describe where a place is located. Examples:Write a paragraph describing what a polar bear looks like. Describe where Canada's industry is located. The following words can help you to write a good description paragraph: Helper Words: Properties size colour shape purpose Measurement length width mass/weight speed

Analogy is like resembles Location in above below beside near north/east/south/west Properties size Example: Polar bears are big in size. color Example: Polar bears are usually white in color. shape Example: Polar bears have a special shape. purpose Example: The purpose of the polar bear's fur is to keep it warm. Measurement length Example: The length of a polar bear's claws is 20 cm. width Example: The width of a polar bear's head is about 50 cm. mass / weight

Example: Poar bears weigh up to 650 kg. speed Example: Polar bears can swim at a speed of 40 km per hour. Analogy is like Example: A polar bear is like other bears in shape. resembles Example: A polar bear resembles other bears in shape. Location in Example: Most of Canada's manufacturing is located in Ontario and Quebec. above Example: The ceiling is above us. below Example: Most of Ontario is below Hudson Bay. beside Example: Quebec is located beside Ontario. near Example: Many companies are located near Toronto. north / east / south / west Example: Ontario is west of Quebec.

8. Paragraph Development by Evaluation In an evaluation paragraph, you make judgments about people, ideas, and possible actions. You need to make your evaluation based on certain criteria that you develop. In the paragraph, you will state your evaluation or recommendation and then support it by referring to your criteria. Example: Write a paragraph evaluating whether pesticides should be used on farms. The following words can help you to write a good evaluation paragraph: Helper Words Criteria for Evaluation good / bad correct / incorrect moral / immoral right / wrong important / trivial Recommendation suggest recommend advise argue Criteria good / badExample: The use of pesticides such as DDT is bad for the environment. correct / incorrectExample: The belief that pesticides must be used is incorrect. moral / immoralExample: The use of pesticides to control pests is immoral because it harms the environment. right / wrongExample: It is wrong to use pesticides because they harm the environment. important / trivialExample: The issue of pesticides is an important one because it affects the environment. Recommendation suggest Example: I suggest that pesticides should not be used to control pests.

recommend Example: I recommend that pesticides should not be used because they are harmful to the environment. advise Example: I would advise farmers not to use pesticides if possible. argue Example: I would argue that pesticides should not be used because they harm the environment. Criteria good / bad Example: The use of pesticides such as DDT is bad for the environment. correct / incorrect Example: The belief that pesticides must be used is incorrect. moral / immoral Example: The use of pesticides to control pests is immoral because it harms the environment. right / wrong Example: It is wrong to use pesticides because they harm the environment. important / trivial Example: The issue of pesticides is an important one because it affects the environment. Recommendation suggest Example: I suggest that pesticides should not be used to control pests. recommend Example: I recommend that pesticides should not be used because they are harmful to the environment. advise Example: I would advise farmers not to use pesticides if possible. argue Example: I would argue that pesticides should not be used because they harm the environment.