Each paragraph in the main part of your assignment should state and/or develop a key idea. This applies to essays, reports and critical reflections. You will need to determine what you want to achieve with each paragraph. You should then structure the paragraph to introduce or develop an idea, and make links between different parts of the assignment.
The example below displays a common type of paragraph structure used to make a point, present evidence and evaluate that evidence. Compare the structure of this example paragraph to the structure of paragraphs in examples from your course. Is the type of writing expected of you similar or different to this?
 One of the key reasons that supermarkets should ban single-use plastic bags is because they tend to degrade into micro-plastics faster than more durable plastic products, especially in water.Newman and Cross (2014, pp. 13-14) found that plastic bags degrade twice as fast as most single-use plastic bottles whilst in a landfill; however, this escalates to four times the rate of bottles if the two plastics are left to degrade in ocean water.  This means that the plastic bag will degrade into microplastics much faster than the bottle, and the particles will become more difficult to extract from the water. Additionally, while both types of product could be harmful to animals, the micro plastics can be consumed by a wider variety of species because of their tiny size (Marine Conservation Association, 2016). Banning the sale of single-use plastic bags would mean that only more durable plastics could be sold in supermarkets.  This could help eliminate the number of bags that might degrade in the oceans, thus harming marine wildlife.
 Introduce idea
 State evidence
 Evaluate evidence
 State further supporting evidence
 Relate to main idea
 Draw a relevant conclusion which relates clearly to the assignment task set.
Judge the quality of a paragraph
To become aware of the quality and structure of your own paragraphs, first examine the quality of other people's writing.
Student example 1
The extract below is from an essay with the assignment brief: Evaluate the potential impact of the daily consumption of chocolate in the health of adults.
Judge the quality of this paragraph by selecting thebest option from the pairs of statements below. Refer back to the paragraph structure described above to explore how clear and well developed this paragraph is.
Researchers have found a number of health benefits that could be attributed to the regular consumption of chocolate. For example, researchers from the University of Helsinki found that eating dark chocolate on a regular basis was found to reduce the risk of stroke among adult males (Juhani and Twain, 2015). Chocolate has also been found to lower cholesterol and may contribute to a lower risk of diabetes (Jones and Davies, 2012; Carroll, 2017). These studies show that eating chocolate on a regular basis can be positive for some aspects of adult health, provided it is consumed in moderation as part of a healthy diet.
Student example 2
Different paragraphs in an assignment serve different purposes. Looking at the assignment title and the paragraph below, select the statement which best describe how this paragraph contributes to the assignment.
Assignment Brief: Evaluate the effectiveness of using cats as therapy animals.
Even though some studies have found that cats are effective therapy animals, others might argue that dogs are more suitable for a greater variety of therapy needs. In a study on the use of therapy animals to alleviate anxiety, cats were found to actually cause patients increased anxiety because many of them would ignore patients during the therapy sessions. Dogs, on the other hand, were shown to be more consistent at helping to alleviate stress among the patients (Casher and Paulson, 2011). The authors also argue that dogs can be trained to a greater extent than cats, meaning that they can adjust to a variety of contexts where therapy might be needed. Cats typically need to be confined to small spaces to provide comfort to patients (Casher and Paulson, 2011). This study therefore suggests that cats might not be suitable to provide therapy in certain situations.
Click on the image to see a full-screen version of this infographic on constructing a paragraph.
Language to link ideas
When you link information within a paragraph and between paragraphs choose your language carefully to guide the reader through your ideas. If you find yourself unable to bring information together with the words you want, look at the examples and advice in the PDF below.
Have you clearly stated the purpose of the paragraph? Does the evidence you use relate clearly to the point you're making? Do you evaluate the evidence in sufficient detail? Have you explained how your evidence relates back to the assignment title?