Part One Academic Writing Essentials

Unit 3 Parts and Characteristics of a Good Paragraph

Learning Objectives

  1. To identify the parts of a paragraph: title, topic sentence, supporting sentences with details, concluding sentence, and transitions
  2. To understand how each part relates to one another within a paragraph through multiple examples
  3. To learn the key characteristics of a paragraph: format, unity, cohesion, and completion through multiple examples
  4. To practice writing each part of a paragraph with key characteristics through a variety of exercises

 

I. Warm-Up

a group of children laughing and running outdoors
a group of children laughing and running outdoors

Read the paragraph “Missing My Childhood Days” below and do the activities that follow.

 

Missing My Childhood Days

          Thanks to two people and one place, my childhood was filled with fun. The first special person was my cousin Hector. I was the only child to my mom, and he was the only child to his mom. We were not lonely because we played and enjoyed family trips together. I loved playing hide and seek with him the most. The running, anticipating[1], shouting, and laughing will always be in my memories. Secondly, I really miss my best friend Lisandra from my elementary school. Our moms were best friends, so it was easier for us to do many things together. For example, we used to explore the resorts and hotels near our homes. We imagined how we could decorate our own houses as elegantly as the hotels. Additionally, Lisandra had a little sister called Lolanda, and we loved to play with her and care for her as if she were our own baby. We fed her and sang songs to her. Even though I lost contact with Lisandra after she switched to a different school, our time together was very precious to me. Lastly, I really miss my childhood home. It was a big house with a patio decorated with pots of beautiful flowers. The house was large enough for me to ride my bike inside. There was also a pool. We had many family parties there. Playing riddles[2] by the poolside was one of the most popular games among us. Nowadays I do not have Hector and Lisandra in my life, and my childhood house has long been sold. However, I am grateful for having them all in my past because they have left me with priceless[3] memories.

By K. P. Checo (student), ESL Writing III, Harper College. Used with permission.

Discuss in groups:

  1. What are your most unforgettable childhood memories? Why are they unforgettable?
  2. What three areas of childhood does the author miss the most?
  3. What is the main idea of the above paragraph? Where do you find it in the paragraph?
  4. Where is the title?
  5. How does the author begin the paragraph?
  6. What is the spacing between one line to the next?
  7. Does each new sentence start a new line?
  8. What do you think a paragraph is?
  9. What do you like about this paragraph?
  10. How would you improve the paragraph?
  11. If you could ask the writer a question, what would you ask?

 

II. Definition of a Paragraph

A paragraph is a group of sentences about one main idea. The goal of a paragraph is to communicate to the readers what you think of a topic (your main idea) and why you believe this way (your supporting ideas). A paragraph also follows a certain format. Paragraph writing is the foundation[4] for all types of academic writing assignments such as essays and research papers.

 

II. Paragraph Format

You can see the format of a paragraph from “Missing My Childhood Days”:

  1. Center the title in the middle of the top line.
  2. Start the paragraph with indentation (a few open spaces in the beginning).
  3. Type or write double spaced.
  4. Each sentence follows the one before it without starting a new line.
  5. Use font size 12 if you type. (The font size may be hard for you to determine in this web-book.)

 

III. Parts of a Paragraph

Understanding each part of a paragraph is an important step to good writing. One way to do this is to identify and color code each part.

Title – pink          Topic sentence – red              Supporting sentences – green

Supporting details – blue         Concluding sentence – red        Transitions – yellow

When you color code the parts, you know that

  1. you understand the paragraph organization.
  2. you are not missing any important components.
  3. all the parts are in the right order.
  4. the supporting details (blue) should be the longest and the most detailed.

 

Missing My Childhood Days

          Thanks to two people and one place, my childhood was filled with fun. The first special person was my cousin Hector. I was the only child to my mom, and he was the only child to his mom. We were not lonely because we played and enjoyed family trips together. I loved playing hide and seek with him the most. The running, anticipating, shouting, and laughing will always be in my memories. Secondly, I really miss my best friend Lisandra from the elementary school. Our moms were best friends, so it was easier for us to do many things together. For example, we used to explore the resorts and hotels near our homes. We imagined how we could decorate our own houses as elegantly as the hotels. Additionally, Lisandra had a little sister called Lolanda, and we loved to play with her and care for her as if she were our own baby. We fed her and sang songs to her. Even though I lost contact with Lisandra after she switched to a different school, our time together was very precious to me. Lastly, I really miss my childhood home. It was a big house with a patio decorated with pots of beautiful flowers. The house was large enough for me to ride my bike inside. There was also a pool. We had many family parties there. Playing riddles by the poolside was one of the most popular games among us. Nowadays I do not have Hector and Lisandra in my life, and my childhood house has long been sold. However, I am grateful for having them all in my past because they have left me with priceless memories.

 

By K. P. Checo (student), ESL Writing III, Harper College. Used with permission.

Exercise 1.  Use Paragraph “Missing My Childhood Days” as an example. Read Paragraph “Difficulties in English Writing” and identify the parts with the following colors:

Title – pink          Topic sentence – red          Supporting sentences – green

Supporting details – blue       Concluding sentence – red        Transitions – yellow

Difficulties in English Writing

          For me, writing is one of the most difficult skills to learn in English. First, with writing comes spelling. Many words are pronounced the same but spelt completely differently, like flower and flour, blue and blew. I need extra efforts to learn and remember how to spell and write them correctly. Another challenge I face in English is sentence structure. There are many types of sentences in English such as simple, compound, and complex. Each type has its own punctuation rules. It takes a lot of hard work to understand how to build sentences effectively. Finally, grammar is challenging. My professors emphasize the importance of grammar because it plays a significant role in writing. Unfortunately, it is also one of the difficulties for me because it has many, many rules and exceptions. For example, in count and noncount nouns unit, there are many confusing words like police and family. At first, I thought the word “police” was singular, but in fact it is plural. In contrast, I thought the word “family” was plural, but it is singular in many situations! Mistakes in singular and plural nouns lead to errors in verbs. Despite all these difficulties in spelling, sentence structure, and grammar, writing remains to be one of my favorite aspects of learning.

By A. Alsalman (student), ESL Writing III, Harper College. Used with permission.

 

Read the above two paragraphs again, and you can see that a good paragraph consists of:

  1. A title – to show the topic and catch the readers’ interest pink
  2. A beginning called the topic sentence – to show the main idea  red
  3. A middle called the supporting sentences and details – supporting sentences to explain the main idea   green ; details to explain the supporting sentences  blue
  4. Transitions or connecting words – to connect the ideas and guide the readers  yellow
  5. An ending called the concluding sentence(s) – to finish the paragraph  red

 

a hamburger
a hamburger

 

Paragraph Organization – the Hamburger Way

To make a tasty hamburger, you need to take time to get the ingredients ready and stack[5] them up carefully. Planning and organizing your ideas for a good paragraph can be very similar to making a hamburger.

 

 

 

parts of a hamburger between two hands
parts of a hamburger between two hands
  1. The sesame seeds on the top piece of bread is what you see as you unwrap a hamburger. It is like the title of a paragraph.
  2. The top piece of the bread is the first part of the hamburger. It is like the topic sentence.
  3. The middle part is what makes the hamburger delicious. The more ingredients you add, the tastier the hamburger is. This part is like the supporting sentences with details. More details for the paragraph will make it more interesting to read.
  4. You also add condiments like mustard, ketchup, and mayonnaise to not only make the hamburger juicier but also help the other ingredients like tomato slices and beef patties stick together. Those condiments are like transitions.
  5. The last piece of the bread makes the hamburger complete. The bread is made with the same ingredients as the top piece but with a different shape. This is like the concluding sentence. It restates the topic sentence but in a different way.

 

Below, you are going to learn how to write each part.

 

IV. Title of a Paragraph

A title gives the readers information about what you write in the paragraph. It usually states or implies[6] the topic of your writing.

 

1. A good title is often very short. Sometimes it is only one word or one phrase. It is usually not a complete sentence.

The Best Invention

The Reasons for My Mediterranean Diet

The Characteristics of a Good Boss

 

2. A good title catches the readers’ interest. It tells the readers about the main topic, but it does not tell everything.

 Why Not Studying Hard?

 A Long-Kept Secret

To Mask or Not to Mask

 

3. A good title follows capitalization and punctuation rules.

  • The first letter of the first word is always capitalized.
  • Do not capitalize a short preposition, an article, or a coordinating conjunction unless it is the first word.
  • Never capitalize the entire title.
  • Do not put a period at the end.
  • Do not put quotation marks around the title.
  • Do not underline the title.

 

Discuss each pair of the titles below and notice how the errors are corrected.

the day I arrived in Chicago 

lots of books showing titles on shelves
lots of books showing titles on shelves

The Day I Arrived in Chicago 

THE MAKING OF A DOCTOR  X

The Making of a Doctor 

A Very Frustrating Experience.  X

A Very Frustrating Experience 

“Advice from My Mother”  X

Advice from My Mother 

The Mysterious Noise  X

The Mysterious Noise 

 

For more explanations and examples in capitalization, please refer to Appendix B Capitalization. (Open Appendix B here.)

 

Exercise 2.  Here are the titles of some paragraphs. Do they follow the rules? Write the correct title in the box. After you finish all the titles,  you can check your answers by clicking the “Check” button.  You may retry the exercise or see all the answers.

Example

From my home to school                                             

Correction: From My Home to School

 

V. Topic Sentence

A topic sentence is a sentence that contains the main idea of a paragraph. It is usually put in the beginning of a paragraph. A good topic sentence has two essential parts and one optional part:

  1. the topic of your paragraph
  2. the controlling idea – your attitude/opinion about the topic
  3. (optional but preferred) predictors – the points you are going to explain in the body of the paragraph

In each pair of topic sentences below, one contains the topic and controlling idea. The other has the topic, controlling idea, and predictors. Identify each part and discuss which topic sentence you like better. Explain your reasons.

  • My writing class is important in helping me prepare for college study.
  • My writing class is important in helping me prepare for college study because I learn how to plan, write, and edit my own writing.

 

  • I enjoy three aspects of my writing class.
  • I enjoy three aspects of my writing class: my professor, my classmates, and the course materials.

 

  • Many students feel stressed out in the writing class for three reasons.
  • Because of long class periods, daily homework assignments, and lots of tests, many students feel stressed out in the writing class.,

 

  • Writing in English is very different from writing in my native language.
  • Writing in English differs from writing in my nature language in style, sentence structure, and punctuation.

 

Rules for a good topic sentence:

1. It must be a complete sentence that contains a subject and a verb.

a light bulb surrounded by six circles
a light bulb surrounded by six circles
  •  My interesting writing class (not a complete sentence)  X
  •   How to improve writing skills (not a complete sentence)  X
  •  My writing class is interesting for three reasons. (a complete sentence) 
  •  In my writing class, I am learning how to improve writing skills in three ways.  (a complete sentence) 

 

2. It can be a positive or negative statement, not a question. If you ask a question in the beginning of the paragraph, you should answer it in the next sentence. That second sentence is the topic sentence.

  • Why is learning English important? (a question)  X
  •  What is the best way to improve writing skills? (a question)  X
  •  Why is learning English important? It is so because good English skills benefit people in their study, work, and daily life. (The second part is the topic sentence.) 
  • What is the best way to improve writing skills? I have three suggestions for ESL students to improve writing skills. (The second part is the topic sentence.) 

 

3. Narrow down your topic. General topics are difficult to focus on and write.

  • Year 2020 was a difficult year for me. (too broad)  X
  • The COVID pandemic in Year 2020 made it difficult for me to study. (more specific) 
  • The COVID pandemic in Year 2020 made it difficult for me to study for three reasons: my classes went totally online in March, I could no longer use the college library and the Language Lab, and the poor Internet connection at home often interrupted my study on the course Blackboard site. (more specific) 

 

4. Do not make an announcement.

  •  In this paragraph, I am going to talk about the disadvantages to online learning.  (an announcement)  X
  •  Let me explain the disadvantages to online learning. (an announcement)  X
  •  This paragraph is about the disadvantages to online learning. (an announcement)  X
  • There are three disadvantages to online learning. (not an announcement) 
  • There are three disadvantages to online learning: no immediate feedback from the professors, no interactions with the classmates, and unstable Internet connection at home. (not an announcement)  √

 

5. Do not write a fact because your opinion (the controlling idea) is missing.

  • Harper College is a community college. (a fact)  X
  • My classmates come from twelve different countries. (a fact)  X
  • Harper College offers the best ESL programs in Illinois in three aspects: experienced professors, free tutoring, and the Language Lab. (Controlling idea “best” is added.) 
  •  Representing twelve countries, my classmates are great resources for learning different cultures. (Controlling idea “great resources for learning different cultures” is added.) 

 

Exercise 3.  Read the following topic sentences. Identify the topic, controlling idea, and predictors.  Type your answers in the boxes. When you complete the entire exercise, you can click “Check” for feedback. You may retry or see all the answers.

Example:

I miss my high school life for three reasons: friends, sports, and time for myself.

topic:   my high school life

controlling idea:   miss for three reasons               

predictors:   friends, sports, time for myself

 

 

Exercise 4. Are the following good topic sentences? If not, why not? How do you improve them?  Click “True” for good topic sentences and “False” for the wrong ones.  You will receive instant feedback after each sentence. If a topic sentence is wrong, you will see the correction and explanation in blue.

Example

Electric cars

This is not a good topic sentence because it is not a complete sentence and the controlling idea is missing.                  

Correction:  I like electric cars  more than gas-powered cars.

 

 

VI. Supporting Ideas and Paragraph Unity

a man sitting on a bridge over a river
a man sitting on a bridge over a river

Supporting means “holding up”, just as the bridge is “holding up” the man in the image on the left. Supporting sentences are crucial in “holding up” the main idea while making your paragraphs interesting and convincing[7]. They must support or explain the main idea in the topic sentence.

A good strategy for logical supporting sentences is to predict the question the readers may ask about your topic sentence. The result of this planning is actually the paragraph outline you learned in Unit 2 The Writing Process. (Open Unit 2 here.)

 

Parts in a Paragraph Outline Ideas
Topic sentence Young people should not live in their parents’ house after graduating from college.
Question: Why not?
Supporting Sentence 1 practice independence in daily life
Details 1 cooking, cleaning, money, my struggles to be mature
Supporting Sentence 2 experience real meaning of life
Details 2 make decisions, take risks, manage time, my involvement in community service
Supporting Sentence 3 learn to appreciate parents
Details 3 their teaching, their love, give them time to rest, joy in visiting my parents

 

Paragraph Unity

Unity comes from the verb “unite” and means “hold tight, together”. In a paragraph, it means that all the supporting sentences work together to serve the same purpose: explaining the main idea.

Imagine two bouquets of flowers. Both look beautiful and in perfect harmony within themselves. However, if one sunflower is inserted in the middle of the roses, it will look out of place because it breaks the unity of the rose bouquet.

 

a rose bouquet
a rose bouquet
a sunflower bouquet
a sunflower bouquet

 

 

 

 

 

Then how do you tell if your paragraph has unity? There are two easy ways:

  1. Ask yourself, “Does each supporting sentence explain the controlling idea in the topic sentence?” If yes, your paragraph has unity. If not, you need to delete or change the supporting sentence. It is helpful to circle or underline your controlling idea in the topic sentence for easier checking.
  2. Always make an outline of the paragraph before you write. If you come up with a new idea while drafting the paragraph, put it in your outline first and ask yourself the first question.

Does the following paragraph outline show unity?

 

Parts of a Paragraph Outline Ideas
Topic sentence Taking online classes helps college students in three significant ways.
Question: What are these three ways?
Supporting Sentence 1 provide convenience
Details 1 no driving, flexible study time, no transportation issue, hard to focus because of noisy children in the same house
Supporting Sentence 2 practice time management skills
Details 2 set study time and follow it, learn to deal with distractions
Supporting Sentence 3 not get professor’s in-person help
Details 3 difficult materials, questions not answered right away

 

No, it does not show unity.  It contains irrelevant[8] ideas because they do not support the main idea “help college students”.  Here are ways to improve the outline:

  • Cross out the irrelevant ideas.
  • Add relevant information to support the main idea.
  • In the second support, a personal example is also added to make the paragraph more interesting.
  • In the third support, the new idea “manage time better” is a repetition of the second support “practice time management skills”. Therefore, it should be deleted. It is important not to repeat the same information that is already explained in other parts of the support.

 

Parts of a Paragraph Outline Ideas
Topic sentence Taking online classes helps college students in three significant ways.
Question: What are these three ways?
Supporting Sentence 1 provide convenience
Details 1 no driving, flexible study time, no transportation issue, hard to focus because of noisy children in the same house, childcare easier, enjoy time together
Supporting Sentence 2 practice time management skills
Details 2 set study time and follow it, learn to deal with distractions, my example of learning from procrastination mistakes
Supporting Sentence 3 not get professor’s in-person help learn to study independently
Details 3 difficult materials, questions not answered right away  solve problems, rely on oneself, YouTube, Khan Academy, other resources, manage time better

 

 

Exercise 5. Use the above as an example. Read the outlines below. Cross out the supporting ideas/details that are irrelevant. Revise each outline so that all the supporting ideas explain the main idea in the topic sentence

#1

Parts of a Paragraph Outline Ideas
Topic sentence Social distancing is important in preventing the spread of coronavirus.
Question: Why is social distancing important in prevention?
Supporting Sentence 1 lower chance of passing the virus
Details 1 talking, sneezing, coughing, passing one person to the next
Supporting Sentence 2 the virus highly contagious
Details 2 through physical contact, Delta variant 60% more transmissible than the one before
Supporting Sentence 3 hospitals with good medical equipment
Details 3 ICU, respirators, oxygen tanks, N95 masks
Supporting Sentence 3 some people catch virus easily
Details 4 sick people, older people, children

 

#2

Parts of a Paragraph Outline Ideas
Topic sentence I suffered from severe mental stress during the Covid 19 lockdown in April 2020.
Question: Why did you suffer from stress?
Supporting Sentence 1 worry about my health the health of my family
Details 1 brother essential worker, baby at home
Supporting Sentence 2 worry about money
Details 2 lost restaurant job, pay bills, good unemployment benefits
Supporting Sentence 3 online classes very hard
Details 3 convenient time, hard to learn Blackboard, no face-to-face practice, missed deadline of first assignment

 

#3

Parts of a Paragraph Outline Ideas
Topic sentence My cousin did not want to get the Covid-19 vaccine for three reasons.
Question: What were the reasons?
Supporting Sentence 1 vaccine safety not sure
Details 1 Vaccine developed in a short time, worry about reactions and long-term side effects, reports about blood clots after vaccine
Supporting Sentence 2 He’s healthy
Details 2        strong, seldom sick, good immunity
Supporting Sentence 3 stayed home all the time
Details 3 not contact other people, study online,  get bored, want to have parties with friends

 

 

Exercise 6.  Use the topic sentences below to build relevant supporting ideas. Check to make sure that all the ideas support the main idea in the topic sentence. Share your outline with your partner and discuss each other’s ideas.

Example:  

Parts of a Paragraph Outline Ideas
Topic sentence Owning a car is a necessity for community college students.
Question: Why is a car necessary?
Supporting Sentence 1 need it for study
Details 1 on time to class, stay late in lab and library, not relying on friends or family, in control of time, my example of schedule
Supporting Sentence 2 need it for extra curricula activities and community service
Details 2 student clubs, volunteer work, my example of community service in the homeless shelter
Supporting Sentence 3 need it for fun
Details 3 party and movie with friends, regardless of time

 

  1. Topic sentence: Men can often be better care givers than women.
  2. Topic sentence: People 18 years and older should serve two years in the military.
  3. Topic sentence: Chicago is the most romantic city in the U.S.
  4. Topic sentence: Chicago is the best place for children to visit on the weekend.

 

Exercise 7.  The following paragraph about a special place does not have unity.  There are four additional sentences to be deleted (not including the example). Type the numbers of the irrelevant sentences in the boxes below. When you complete the entire exercise, you can click “Check” for answers. You may also retry or see all the answers.  Sentence #4 is an example.

a balcony with a table, two chairs, and some plants
a balcony with a table, two chairs, and some plants

 

Types of Supporting Sentences

 

Good supporting sentences not only explain the main idea but also include interesting details such as

facts – numbers, general truths, scientific truths…

reasons – logical explanations…

experts’ opinions – research findings, quotes by experts in the field…

examples – stories of well-known people, personal experiences, personal quotes…

 

Read Paragraph “Good Roommates” below and discuss how the writer uses the types of details. Color supporting ideas in green and the details in blue.

 

Good Roommates

          Having good roommates makes lives more enjoyable. First, good roommates understand each other’s need for peace and quiet after a day’s study. 1They do not make unnecessary noises. For example, my roommate Abia and I have different class schedules. She spends the day at school, and I attend night classes. When I come back to the apartment very tired at 10 pm, she always turns down her music or speaks very softly on the phone with her friends. Moreover, good roommates share useful information. 2Writer Barbara Dana once said, “A good roommate may be the single most important thing to have when one is away at school.” It is true because Abia’s and my families are far away. I have taken more courses at college, so I give Abia advice about classes, student clubs, and scholarships. She helps me in a different way. While I was looking for a part-time job last year, she told me about the job openings in her workplace. Finally, good roommates respect each other’s differences. 3As the U.S. is a land of immigrants, it becomes the land of opportunities to learn different cultures and religions. I have learned about the significance of Ramadan for Abia, and she has understood the importance of Easter for me. Together, we have developed a good understanding of each other’s beliefs. In brief, good roommates help each other become more caring, supportive, and tolerant[9]. They make living easier in this complicated world.

 

In the first supporting details (first blue block marked with 1): personal examples of Abia and me

In the second supporting details (second blue block marked with 2): a quote by an expert, personal examples of Abia and me

In the third supporting details (third blue block marked with 3): general truth, logic, personal examples of Abia and me

 

 

Exercise 8.  Use Paragraph “Good Roommates” as an example, read Paragraph “No Capital Punishment” and discuss what types of interesting details the writer uses. Color the supporting ideas in green and the details in blue.

No Capital Punishment[10]

          Capital punishment should be banned[11] because the result cannot be changed, it is killing a life, and it does not stop the crime. First of all, the result of capital punishment is irreversible[12]; therefore, it is important to be absolutely certain of a person’s guilt. Nevertheless, in some cases, this is simply impossible to prove a person’s guilt with 100% certainty. What if a person is wrongly charged? The death penalty will affect that person and his or her family forever. Next, capital punishment is killing. Killing people for any reason is wrong. Life is sacred, and humans do not have the right to decide the lives of others. Some people believe that capital punishment will stop criminals from committing crimes as they will be afraid to die. However, this is not the reality. Violent cases still occur daily. For instance, on the weekend of July 4th, 2021, Chicago Sun times reported that over 100 people were shot in Chicago and 19 of them died. That weekend was considered the deadliest and most violent in the city that year. This shows that putting criminals to death will not reduce the crime. For these reasons, death penalty should not be supported. The people and the government must find a better solution[13] to punishing the law breakers.

data from

https://chicago.suntimes.com/crime/2021/7/3/22561910/chicago-weekend-shootings-july-2-5-homicide-gun-violence. Last accessed on July 10, 2021.

 

VII. Transitions and Paragraph Cohesion

Cohesion focuses on the link between ideas so that they flow naturally from one to the next. When a paragraph has cohesion, ideas progress smoothly to create a connected whole.

 

waterfall in Yellowstone National Park
waterfall in Yellowstone National Park

 

Imagine cohesion as a waterfall cascading[14] smoothly and continuously.

 

There are different ways to achieve cohesion. One of them is by using transitions.

 

 

 

Transitions are also called connecting words. They help the writer organize thoughts and guide the readers in understanding the order of ideas clearly. Transitions are often needed not only between supporting sentences but also within them.

Compare the two paragraphs “Applying for the John & Melanie Frieburg ESL Student Scholarship” below. Which one is better? Why is it better? Underline the transitions in Paragraph 2 that you do not see in Paragraph 1.

 

Paragraph 1

Applying for the John & Melanie Frieburg ESL Student Scholarship

          Applying for the John & Melanie Frieburg ESL Student Scholarship online is not hard if you follow these steps. Go to the scholarship page on the Harper College website and search for this specific scholarship. Read all the information related to it: the requirements, the deadline, and the amount of the award. Fill out the application form online completely and accurately. There are twelve supplemental[15] questions including your grades and financial situation. Do you have an average grade of C? A paragraph about your educational aspiration is required. Get two recommendation letters from two people who know you well. Be sure to ask them first and give them enough time to write the letters. Proofread your application and submit before the deadline. You can always ask help from the Scholarship Office, the ESL Department, or the One Stop Center. The process is easy to follow and well worth your efforts for this special honor.

Frieburg ESL Student Scholarship winners 2015/2016
Frieburg ESL Student Scholarship winners 2015/2016

Paragraph 2

Applying for the John & Melanie Frieburg ESL Student Scholarship

          Applying for the John & Melanie Frieburg ESL Student Scholarship online is not hard if you follow these steps. First, go to the scholarship page on the Harper College website and search for this specific scholarship. Read all the information related to it, such as the requirements, the deadline, and the amount of the award. When you are ready, fill out the application form online completely and accurately. There are twelve supplemental questions including your grades and financial situation. For example, do you have an average grade of C? A paragraph about your educational aspiration is also required. Another step is to get two recommendation letters from two people who know you well. Be sure to ask them and give them enough time to write the letters. Finally, proofread your application and submit before the deadline. At any stage of your application, you can always ask for help in the Scholarship Office, the ESL Department, or the One Stop Center. As you can see, the process is easy to follow and well worth your efforts for this special honor.

 

With connecting expressions like “First”, “such as”, “When you are ready”, and other underlined transitions, Paragraph 2 explains the steps much more clearly.

 

How are the transitions used?

  1.  The transition for the first supporting idea is often optional.
  2. “Finally” is usually used to show the last supporting idea in the body of the paragraph. It is not used right before the conclusion.
  3. The transition before the concluding sentence is optional.  It is actually more common without it.
  4. After most transitions, there is usually a comma, but this is not always true.  There are different types of transitions with different punctuation rules.  You will learn them step by step throughout the course.
  5. Do not overuse transitions; otherwise, the paragraph will read very unnatural. As you read and write more, you will gradually develop a sense of when a transition is or is not necessary.

 

Here are some common transitions:

Meaning Transitions
Addition first, second, then, next, in addition, also, furthermore, moreover, last, finally …
Contrast but, yet, on the other hand, on the contrary, however, nevertheless, though, even though, although …
Time first, second, then, next, at ____ (clock time), in the morning (afternoon, etc.), after that, soon, in the beginning, at the same time, meanwhile, at first, at last, before, after, later, when, while, as soon as, until …
Reason for, due to, because of, because, since, as …
Result so, therefore, thus, consequently, as a result …
Location near, beside, next to, in front, behind, around, on the top, on the bottom, on the right/left, to the right/left, under, opposite, above, below …
Conclusion in conclusion, in summary, to sum up, in brief, for those reasons …
Example like, such as, including, for example, for instance …

 

Study Paragraph “Good Roommates” again. Notice how the three transitions (first, moreover, finally) connect the supporting ideas and the transition (in brief) is used before the concluding sentences.

Study Paragraph “No Capital Punishment” again. Notice how the transitions (first of all, therefore, nevertheless, next, however, for instance) are used to connect ideas between supporting ideas and within them. The transition (for these reasons) is placed before the concluding sentence.

 

Exercise 9.  Choose the appropriate transitions below and type them in the boxes to finish the paragraph about a daughter. There may be more than one correct answer, but type just one. Not all listed transitions are needed. When you complete the entire exercise, you can click “Check” for feedback. You may retry or see all the answers. The first one is an example.

first, second, next, in addition, also, furthermore, moreover, last, finally, for example, to sum up

 

Exercise 10.  Choose the appropriate transitions below and type them in the boxes to finish the paragraph about a life lesson. There may be more than one correct answer, but type just one. Not all listed transitions are needed. When you complete the entire exercise, you can click “Check” for feedback. You may retry or see all the answers. The first one is an example.

however, on the first Saturday, then, after crying for an hour,  while I was eating breakfast, now, at night, finally, after that, after I arrived

 

VIII. Concluding Sentence(s)

A concluding sentence signals the end of a paragraph.

You can also write two or three sentences in this part with one or

words "THE END" on wooden pieces
words “THE END” on wooden pieces

more of the following methods:

  1. Restates[16] the main idea but in different words or sentence structure.
  2. Summarize the main points in the body of the paragraph.
  3. Express an opinion, make a prediction, put forth a recommendation, or ask a question related to the topic.

A conclusion must not bring up a new topic.

×     For those three reasons, I enjoy swimming the most. I will also start playing basketball next week.

 

Topic sentence Different ways to write a concluding sentence or concluding sentences
Swimming is my favorite hobby.

Restate the main idea:

  • For those three reasons, I enjoy swimming the most.

Restate the main idea + summarize the supporting points in the body:

  • For the benefits of physical health, mental wellbeing, and social life, I enjoy swimming the most.

Restate the main idea + express an opinion

  • For those three reasons, I enjoy swimming the most. It is the activity that has kept me healthy in the last ten years.

Restate the main idea + make a prediction:

  • For those three reasons, I enjoy swimming the most. If everyone can do this activity regularly, this will be a very healthy country.

Restate the main idea + put forth a recommendation

  • For those three reasons, I enjoy swimming the most and recommend this healthy activity to everyone.

Restate the main idea + ask a question

  • For those three reasons, I enjoy swimming the most. Shouldn’t everyone start this hobby, too?

 

Exercise 11.  Compare the pairs of topic sentences and concluding sentences from the paragraphs you have studied in this unit. Then discuss in groups what method the concluding sentences use and how they relate to the topic sentences.

Example

Paragraph “Missing My Childhood Days”

Topic sentence: Thanks to two people and one place, my childhood was filled with fun.

Concluding sentences: Nowadays I do not have Hector and Lisandra in my life, and my childhood house has long been sold. However, I am grateful for having them all in my past because they have left me with priceless memories.

The conclusion restates the main idea (they have left me with priceless memories), summarizes the three supporting points in the body (I do not have Hector and Lisandra in my life, and my childhood house has long been sold), and expresses an opinion (I am grateful for having them all in my past).   The conclusion relates to the topic sentence and explains the controlling idea very well.  

 

  1. Paragraph “Difficulties in English Writing”
  2. Paragraph “My Special Place”
  3. Paragraph “Good Roommates”
  4. Paragraph “No Capital Punishment”
  5. Paragraph “Applying for the John & Melanie Frieburg ESL Student Scholarship”
  6. Paragraph “My Daughter”
  7. Paragraph “My Valuable Life Lesson”

 

 

IX. Paragraph Completion

Each paragraph explains a complete idea and needs to have a clear ending. There are several ways to check if the paragraph is complete:

a checklist and a yellow pencil
a checklist and a yellow pencil
  1. Does the paragraph have a title?
  2. Is the topic sentence there?
  3. If you have predictors in the topic sentence, are all of them explained in the body of the paragraph?
  4. If the supporting sentences are present, are there details to further explain the ideas in them?
  5. Do you have a concluding sentence at the end?
  6. Are there proper transitions to connect ideas?

 

If any one part is missing, the paragraph is incomplete.

 

Read the following paragraph. Is it complete? If not, discuss what is missing and how you can improve the paragraph.

 

          Jogging is beneficial physically, mentally, and socially. First, jogging makes people physically fit. It not only strengthens the muscles and immune system but also helps to reduce weight. Thirty minutes of jogging will burn about 250 calories. Extra weight causes all kinds of health problems, and a daily run will help shed[17] the extra pounds. Besides, jogging keeps people mentally healthy by reducing their stress. Modern life is full of anxieties. Workers have project deadlines, students take tests, parents deal with family financial challenges, and all people run into relationship issues from time to time. According to many doctors, jogging can act as a stress reliever[18], boost[19] the feel-good hormone, and distract people from daily worries. Jogging is a simple act of activity that helps people become healthier in many ways.

 

What is missing?

  1. There is no title.  Add a title, such as “The Best Exercise” or “The Benefits of Jogging”.
  2. The third support is missing. From the topic sentence, the readers expect to see support in three areas: physical, mental, and social. However, the writer did not discuss the “social” aspect of jogging. Therefore, the paragraph is incomplete. The writer should add some information about the social benefits of jogging. Ideas could include joining a jogging club and meeting new friends.

 

Exercise 12.   Use the above paragraph as an example. Is the following new one complete? If not, discuss what is missing and how you can improve the paragraph.

unleashed dogs on beach
unleashed dogs on beach

       Unleashed dogs are dangerous to the environment, other living beings, and even to themselves. First of all, dogs do not have minds like humans; therefore, they often do not know what proper behavior is in public. When they are not restricted by a leash, they can run and step on flowers and plants in the parks.  They may also leave their waste there if their owners are unaware of it. What’s more, dogs can frighten the pedestrians on the street. Some of them are afraid of dogs and may experience intense fear when a dog jumps at them. Dogs may also scare drivers. What if they lose control of their vehicles? Other animals like ducks and geese will also find the running and barking “strangers” threatening. Lastly, unleashed dogs are a danger to themselves. There are many hidden holes on the roads and in the parks, and dogs can easily fall into them and hurt themselves. Because dogs can also cause traffic accidents, they may be injured as well. If there is construction nearby with heavy machinery and harmful chemicals, the consequences will be deadly to the dogs.

 

Now you can understand better all the parts of a paragraph and how they relate to each other. The following template is not the only way to write a paragraph, but it is a good way to start.

a paragraph structure
a paragraph structure

X. Unit Review Practice

 

Exercise 13. Read the following paragraph about online learning. It is based on an outline example you studied earlier in this unit. As you read, do the following:

Color code the paragraph:

Title – pink         Topic sentence – red           Supporting sentences – green 

Supporting details – blue    transitions – yellow     Concluding sentence(s) – red

 Discuss:

  • Have you taken an online class? If so, have you had similar experiences as described in this paragraph?
  • What types of supporting ideas and details are used to explain the main idea?
  • Does the paragraph have unity?
  • What types of conclusion are used?
  • Is the paragraph complete?
  • Is the title centered on the top line? Is the first sentence indented?
  • What do you like about this paragraph?
  • How do you improve the paragraph?
a MacBook, a notebook, etc. on a desk
a MacBook, a notebook, etc. on a desk

Three Benefits of Online Classes
for College Students

 

          Taking online classes helps college students in three significant ways. First of all, online classes provide many conveniences. Many college students have a job, and some also need to take care of their family.  When the courses are online, the students often do not have a fixed class time. As a result, they can pick any shift available at work, and they can also schedule activities with their loved ones like going to the park or even going on a vacation. For those with small children, childcare is no longer a huge issue. In addition, some college students do not own a car, but their education will not be affected because they can take classes remotely. Secondly, college students improve their time management skills. I have learned to use my time more wisely. For example, during my first semester of online class, I spent a lot of time video chatting with my friends in the beginning. My professor set all the test deadlines by midnight each Sunday, so I postponed my study till Saturday.  However, there was too much reading and practicing then, and I simply could not complete the required study to get a good grade.  In the second half of the semester, I forced myself to make a schedule for daily study time and to be more disciplined[20] in following it. I was able to finish all the materials before the test, and my grade improved. The most important skill through online learning is independent learning. Even though professors are available through office hours, emails, and live sessions, students must learn to solve problems on their own most of the times. They can do so by reading, checking dictionaries, and finding additional online learning resources from YouTube videos or the Khan Academy website. The type of “self help” foster skills in independent learning, which is essential in college study and future profession. Taking online classes is challenging, but these benefits make their experiences worthwhile.

 

 NSNT Practice

a pen writing in a notebook
a pen writing in a notebook

Go to The NSNT Free Writing Approach and Additional Weekly Prompts for Writing in Appendix A. (Open Appendix A here.) Choose two topics to practice the steps in the writing process, including writing a paragraph for each. You may start with the NSNT approach and then rewrite the paragraphs. Check to see that the paragraphs have all the necessary parts and that they follow the rules for format, unity, cohesion, and completion.

 

 

Vocabulary Review

a page in a dictionary
a page in a dictionary

The words here have appeared in this unit.  The best way to learn them is to guess the meaning of each word from the context.  Then hover your computer mouse over the number beside each word to check its meaning and part of speech. These words are also listed in the footnote area at the end of each unit.

Here, you can use the flashcards below to review these words.

 

 

 

Summary

  1. A paragraph is a group of sentences with one main idea.
  2. A paragraph must follow a proper format, with the title in the center of the top line and an indent in the beginning of the paragraph. All the sentences should be written/typed double spaced and follow one another without starting a new line.
  3. A paragraph consists of a title, a topic sentence, several supporting ideas with details, 1-2  concluding sentences, and transitions.
  4. Each paragraph should have all the above necessary components. If one of them is missing, the paragraph is not complete.
  5. A title explain the topic of the paragraph or gets the readers interested in the topic. It is centered on the first line and should follow the capitalization rules.
  6. A topic sentence contains the main idea of a paragraph and is usually put in the beginning. It must have a topic and a controlling idea.  It must be a complete sentence and should not be a fact or an announcement.
  7. Supporting sentences should be detailed and should help explain the topic sentence. If anything is irrelevant to the main idea, the paragraph will not have unity.
  8. A concluding sentence restates the main idea and signals the end of the paragraph. It can include an opinion, a suggestion, a recommendation, or a question that is related to the topic.
  9. Transitions are important in guiding the readers in understanding the information in the paragraph and providing a smooth connection between ideas.  Transitions help maintain the cohesion of a paragraph.

 

Media Attributions


  1. anticipate: verb, wait for something to happen
  2. riddle: noun, a game of guessing the answers
  3. priceless: adjective, very valuable, cannot be measured by a price
  4. foundation: noun, basis, groundwork of something more complicated
  5. stack: verb, to pile or put one on top of another
  6. imply: verb, say indirectly
  7. convincing: adjective, make people believe
  8. irrelevant: adjective, not related, having nothing to do with the main idea
  9. tolerant: adjective, accepting differences
  10. capital punishment, noun phrase, a type of punishment to kill a criminal
  11. ban: verb, stop, not allowed to happen
  12. irreversible: adjective, cannot go back to the original situation
  13. solution: noun, the answer to a problem
  14. cascade: verb, flow from high to low smoothly
  15. supplemental: adjective, extra, additional
  16. restate: verb, write again, repeat
  17. shed: verb, get rid of
  18. stress reliever: noun phrase, something to reduce or take away stress
  19. boost: verb, raise, improve
  20. disciplined: adjective, self-controlled, strict with oneself

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