SEVEN TYPES OF PARAGRAPHS
- We will discuss the following eight types of paragraphs:
narrating, describing, explaining a process, explaining with examples, comparing or contrasting, classifying, and defining.
- Understanding these paragraph styles has the following benefits:
o Enables us to write a paper with more focus.
o Adds variety and structure to our writing.
o Assists our thought process by leading us to consider different kinds of questions.
- Before considering these paragraphs, it is helpful to understand basic paragraph structure:
o Elementary paragraph structure consists of a topic sentence, the body of the paragraph, and the conclusion.
o Topic sentence (“Tell them what you are going to tell them”)
- A good topic sentence includes the subject that you will discuss and an attitude toward that topic.
- Topic can be an idea, an event, a policy, a teaching, etc., or a comparison among two or more of these items.
• Examples of topics include the prose and cons of individual leadership, a comparison of individual and group leadership, creatingunity, reaching goals, enjoying work, training workers, etc.
- Attitude is “a statement that expresses an emotion, an opinion, an approach, or a commitment to your subject; attitude is what you want to say about your subject” (Donald et al., 4). An attitude expresses your position on a matter.
• Examples of attitudes include “the pros outweigh the cons of team leadership in our church,” “I enjoy studying,” “I think that we need to improve our training of leaders,” etc.
- Good topic sentences are specific and narrow.
- Example of specific:
• Bad: “The picture on my desk causes me to pause and consider my behavior.”
• Good: “The color photo on my desk of my five-year-old son at the beach last summer causes me to pause and consider what kind of parent I have become.”
Example of narrow:
• Good: The color photo on my desk of my five year old son at the beach last summer causes me to pause and consider how the extra time away I have spent at work has affected my friendship with my son.”
o Middle or Body (“Tell them”)
- Provide the evidence, or explain the content of the topic sentence.
o Conclusion (“Tell them what you have told them”)
- Provides judgment or closure to your topic sentence, summarizing the significance of the material in the body of the paragraph.
- These paragraphs can be briefly described as follows:
- A narrative paragraph tells a story of one specific event.
- The topic sentence will identify the event clearly and signal your value judgment, feeling, thoughts, etc. concerning the event.
Does anything stand out in my memory?
Do I think of something about it frequently? Why was it done?
Why is it important enough to write about?
What did I learn from it?
Answers to these questions can signal your attitude in the topic sentence. For example: “When no one showed up for the meeting to discuss a new ministry to single mothers at our church, I felt as though we had abandoned our community.”
- Keep your story flowing, tell it in chronological order, tell it in an interesting fashion, and make sure that you emphasize the main ideas.
- Re-create the story for readers who were not there. The picture that you create is the only picture they have of what happened.
- Can be used to explain an object, event, person, process, position, express and clarify thoughts and emotions, strengthen your conclusions of narrating and other paragraphs.
- Topic sentence ought to identify and provide your central impression, approval or concern about the event, person, idea, or institution that you are describing. For example, “I am pleased with our pastors’ friendliness and at the same time concerned that their exclusion of the congregation from decisions shows a lack of respect.”
- This type of paragraph causes us to think in more detail about a person, place, event, or situation.
3. Explaining a Process:
- Topic sentence identifies a process and presents an attitude toward the process. The process can be efficient, inefficient, careful, insensitive, kind, a marvel, awkward, streamlined, bulky, etc.
- Causes us to consider what processes a the leaders of a group use to make decisions. This is very helpful to consider before passing judgment on the style and effectiveness of the group’s leadership.
4. Explaining with Examples:
- These paragraphs can clarify or convince, refute or support.
- A topic sentence will present an idea and signal your view of this idea.
- The paragraph will then include at least three examples that support your conclusion, as well as an valid counterexamples that oppose it. If there are several counterexamples, another paragraph out to be used to outline them and then explain why they are insufficient to overrule your judgment.
- This type of paragraph requires you to marshal specific arguments to support your views. This kind of thinking may cause you to change your opinion when the counterexamples are stronger than your examples. Very helpful for clarifying your views.
5. Comparing or Contrasting:
- Choose two individuals, situations, groups, etc. that you want to compare or contrast. Your attitude statement should provide an explicit and clear reason where and why you think these two items are similar or different.
- Provide specific examples to support your comparison. These can be point by point – does this and B does this, or they can be block – A does this, this and this, and B does this, this and this.
- This kind of paragraph causes you to explicitly consider comparisons that you are making in your mind.
- Conclusion ought to summarize what our comparison/contrast revealed.
- Dividing items into classes, groups, or categories.
- Topic sentence ought to identify the subject to be classified, and give the number, name, and significance of the classifications (can be explicit or implied by the classification).
- Categories need to remain consistent, both in name and criteria for classification. For example do not mix team and individual leadership with situational and charismatic leadership in the same paragraph.
- Categories need to be representative of all member of the group. For example, individual leadership and authoritarian leadership are not the same thing. Need to make sure that you are using the best classification for the group that you are discussing.
- This form of paragraph helps us to consider what larger group one person or thing actually belongs with. Allows us to make and test generalizations. Generalizations will allow us to consider further characteristics of the person or thing by comparing them to others in the group.
- A paragraph that precisely explains what something is or how it looks or works, its purpose, etc.
- This type of paragraph answers the question, “What do you mean?” For example, what do you mean by “Biblical authority”? Requires at least a paragraph, and more likely a whole book, to explain your version.
- Topic sentence identifies the subject and the focus of the definition. For example, I will the term “university” differently for an architect than for a student.
- Causes us to consider what we are discussing, who we are discussing it for, and why. Need to define terms, ideas, etc. for readers who do not have the same knowledge or understanding that you have. For example, I would briefly define my use of the term “hermeneutics” in a journal article, but I would carefully define it in a second year Biblical studies class.