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Organising Sentences and Paragraphs

Learn how to earn the maximum points in essay writing by demonstrating good development of ideas and a logical structure.
© Griffith University

To receive the maximum points in the Essay task, you will need to demonstrate good development of ideas and a logical structure.

A strong test response will have a clear introduction, multiple body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Transitions between paragraphs need to be smooth and logical. Within paragraphs, ideas need to be clearly presented and supported with details, examples, and explanations.

Make sure the start of each body paragraph includes a clear topic sentence to make your essay more cohesive. Topic sentences provide a summary of the main idea in the paragraph. Avoid including examples, explanations or supporting evidence in the topic sentence.

Topic Sentences

Topic sentences introduce the topic and controlling idea of the paragraph. The rest of the sentences in the paragraph must link back to this topic and controlling idea. If you find that your ideas no longer relate to the topic sentence, this is an indication that you need to begin a new paragraph.

The controlling idea is the main point of the paragraph. It gives the direction for which supporting ideas you should include in the paragraph. The controlling idea of each paragraph also links back to the thesis statement in your introduction. Controlling ideas link to thesis statements by repeating keywords (or synonyms) from the thesis statement or by using linking words or phrases (such as another aspect of, a second feature of, in addition to, furthermore), or by continuing a particular line of thought.

The controlling idea is the main point or topic of the paragraph. It guides the ideas expressed in the paragraph and helps you keep to the point.

The controlling idea of each paragraph also links back to the thesis statement. A thesis statement usually appears at the end of the introductory paragraph and offers a concise summary of your main claim or point of view. Controlling ideas link to thesis statements:

  • by repeating keywords (or synonyms) from the thesis statement, or
  • by using linking words or phrases (such as another aspect of, a second feature of, in addition to, furthermore), or
  • by continuing a particular line of thought.

Let’s look at the topic sentences for our essay question in Step 2.8. Notice how even though you are unable to read the whole essay, you can still easily understand the overall organisation. The controlling idea is highlighted in the 2 paragraphs.

Thesis statement Governments should have strong legislation for buying and consuming alcohol to minimise and prevent harm for society as a whole.
Paragraph 1 Firstly, governments have a responsibility to enforce alcohol legislation as a matter of public safety for families and communities.
Paragraph 2 Furthermore, many citizens may be impacted by alcohol related harm, but are unable to make their own choices about alcohol use and consumption.

Watch the following video to review the main points about topic sentences.

Coherence

Coherence is the ‘logical’ ordering of ideas in a paragraph. For example, one of the most common patterns in academic writing is outlined below.

Topic sentence A topic sentence introduces the main point of the paragraph. It should contain a main idea and a controlling idea which support the thesis statement and unify the content of the paragraph. It may include a word or phrase which links to the previous paragraph.
Supporting statement This sentence (or sentences) explains or elaborates on the main point or idea introduced in the topic sentence. Its purpose is to clarify and expand on the topic sentence.
Details, examples or explanations This sentence (or sentences) provides examples, statistics, and other evidence from primary and secondary sources. Its purpose is to support the claim made in the topic sentence.
Concluding sentence The purpose of the concluding sentence(s) is to link the supporting details provided back to both the main point (topic sentence) of the paragraph and to your thesis statement. It may also provide a link to the next paragraph.

Here is an example of paragraph 1:

Topic sentence Firstly governments have a responsibility to enforce alcohol legislation as a matter of public safety for families and communities.
Supporting statement Harmful use of alcohol is a major contributor to conflict in public places and violence in the family home.
Details, examples or explanations Studies have shown that alcohol related violence can be drastically reduced by governments restrictions on the availability of alcohol through the regulation of operating hours for sales outlets and by improving the management of environments in which alcohol is served.
Concluding sentence As a result it is the role of governments to protect the public from alcohol related harm through important legislation.

Watch this video to review the main points about paragraph coherence.

Punctuation and Spelling

Punctuation refers to marks such as full stops, commas, colons, semi colons, and apostrophes. It also refers to spacing within the text. Although these marks are very small, we have already seen in repeating and reading (Step 2.4) that they can change the meaning of the sentence.

This video has useful information on punctuation and spelling. Watch the video and complete the interactive practice exercises that follow.

Your task

Look at Point 2 from the essay plan in Step 2.8 below and write a paragraph. Make sure your paragraph has a strong topic sentence and you have ordered your ideas logically. Check that punctuation and spelling are accurate.

Point 2:
Argument Protect the health of individuals who can’t make own decisions.
Details/examples/explanations Legal drinking age
Drinking while pregnant

Before you start writing paragraph 2, review the question prompt and other parts of the essay in the Downloads section.

Once you have completed your paragraph, post it on this Padlet Wall for feedback. When prompted, please enter the password: ptesuccess.

Read what other students have written and comment on their paragraphs. Make sure your comments are constructive and your language is polite and respectful.

References

Pearson. (2009). Official Guide to Pearson Test of English Academic (with CD-ROM) (1st ed.). Pearson Education ESL.

© Griffith University
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