Monday, 25 April 2022

Writing good paragraphs

In order to write good paragraphs in academic writing, there are some key components that we need to address. Inger Mewburn (2021) put out a blog post in December last year, drawing on the work of Booth et al (2016), highlighting a few hacks for PhD students writing their theses.

Some of the principles hold true for undergraduate writing: we just need simpler examples. So I decided to pull out six of the elements from the Booth et al (2016) book, to create a short post on the components we need to cover when writing strong, self-explanatory and well-evidenced paragraphs. If we can understand the following components (Booth et al., 2016), our writing will improve:

  1. Warrant. Our first sentence is our topic sentence, which "establishes a reason to support the claim and prepares the reader for the content that will appear in the paragraph" (Lumen Learning, 2017). This is "the principle that lets [us] connect [our] reason and claim" (p. 117)
  2. Claim. This is our "assertion" for which we need to show our evidence. Our claim can be one sentence (which is easier for readers to follow), or several. The main thing is that we stay focused on supporting our claim in our paragraph, anchoring our writing around answering this claim. 
  3. Reason. This is our 'because' statement. We connect our claim to a broad-ish principle.
  4. Evidence. This is the specific data or facts that we offer to prove our claim.
  5. Acknowledgement. These are alternatives, opposing views, or questions which we cannot yet answer which we need to explain in the paragraph in order to present a balanced view.
  6. Response. This is how we respond to the variables which either strengthen or weaken our paragraph claim. 

Then we pull these ideas together, and use the model from Booth et al. (2016, p. 117), we get the following:

It is surprisingly difficult to write this way, but it does help to see a simple example. 



  • Booth, W. C., Colomb, G. G., Williams, J. M., Bisup, J., & FitzGerald, W. T. (2016). The Craft of Research (4th ed.). The University of Chicago Press.
  • Lumen Learning (2017). Warrant.
  • Mewburn, I. (1 December 2021). Writing as an imaginary conversation with your reader. Thesis Whisperer.

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