Paragraph Development

Writing a Structured Paragraph

A typical paragraph starts with a main idea or claim, which it then explains, develops, or supports with evidence. A concluding statement then summarizes the paragraph and/or transitions the reader to the next idea or paragraph. A paragraph should focus on one, central idea. Paragraph sprawl occurs when digressions are introduced into an otherwise focused and unified discussion. You do not need to include a transitional phrase in every paragraph, as it would make your paper too mechanical, but adding transitional phrases here and there allows the text to flow better. Here is an example of a carefully written paragraph:

In addition to suffering from several illnesses (transitional phrase), marine mammals kept in captivity can be a threat to the people who interact with them (main idea). According to a report by the Humane Society of the United States, 23 percent of people who have been in contact with marine mammals in captivity suffered from one or several rashes, and a fifth of the marine mammal workers suffered from a respiratory disease, including tuberculosis (Rose, N. A., 2006, p.31). Also, contrary to what the public believes, marine mammals are not always happy and friendly, and in fact, can be aggressive and violent. Injuries among trainers who work in close proximity to the marine mammals are common, “ranging from lacerations to broken bones and shock. One man suffered a cracked sternum when butted by a dolphin, and a woman received a broken arm when similarly rammed” (Rose, N. A., 2006, p.31). Not only do marine mammals injure workers, they sometimes kill them, too:

The aggression and violence of which orcas are capable were clearly witnessed at Sea World San Diego in August 1989, when an Icelandic female (Kandu V) rammed a northeastern Pacific female (Corky II) during a show. Although trainers tried to keep the show going, blood began to spurt from a severed artery near Kandu’s jaw. Sea World staff then quickly ushered away the watching crowd. Forty-five minutes after the blow, Kandu V died. (Rose, N. A., 2006, p.32)

Marine animal workers are exposed to illnesses, injuries and death every time they are in contact with a marine mammal (concluding statement that summarizes the paragraph).

—“The Case Against Marine Mammals in Captivity” by Naomi A. Rose, PhD, and Richard Farinato
for The Humane Society of the United States, 2006.