Wednesday, 25 November 2020

More on the paragraph

Writing a paragraph is a topic I have tackled before (here), but recently, Dean of Graduate Research at Adelaide University, Tara Brabazon, has done a video on this very topic (12 March 2020). As Professor Brabazon is such a superb researcher and vlogger, I thought I would simply run through her five key points, then include her video. 

After making the points that a paragraph must be longer than three sentences (topic sentence, at least one descriptor sentence, and a concluding/bridging sentence), yet should not bang on for several pages, Professor Brabazon (2020) highlighted the following points: 

  1. Topic sentence. Outlining what is to come.
  2. The first half. Regardless of our discipline, after the topic sentence, the first job that a paragraph does is to "present some evidence", and reference it so that we flag where that comes from, so our readers can navigate back to the source. Our presentation of evidence takes a neutral tone (8:52). 
  3. The second half. This is where we put the evidence to work, we use that evidence to continue the development of our argument. We "lift into interpretation, so from the topic sentence this is the argument I am now offering and building in this paragraph" (09:39)
  4. The concluding/bridging sentence. This ends the current paragraph, and leads "the way into the next topic sentence". As a result, "this final sentence in a paragraph is the most difficult one to write because it has a lot of purposes. And most importantly it's creating that smooth, beautiful transition" (10:29). This sentence "closes one argument and it opens the reader to the next' (10:48)

As I was watching Prof Brabazon's vlog, I visualised a string of pearls. On thinking about this further, I felt that this was a good metaphor for writing paragraphs: we have to string them together, like pearls: 

  1. The waxed cotton thread is the narrative that holds the chapter together 
  2. The topic sentence is the almost invisible gap holder which starts the paragraph
  3. The first half of the argument is the top half of the pearl, where we introduce our data, or our evidence, and 
  4. The second half, the downward curve, is where we bend that data or evidence to align with our narrative
  5. To complete the paragraph comes the almost invisible gap holder which takes us back out to the thread, ready - with the briefest, most infinitesimally small pico second - for the next paragraph to spring from. 

Professor Brabazon's video can be viewed here:


I will be following up with another post on why paragraphs are important.


Sam

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