Academic Skills

Proceed logically through your points

The main way that you lead the reader through your essay is through organising it into paragraphs. Paragraphs are much more important than most student writers realise. In journalistic writing, paragraphs are often extremely short, even one sentence, but an academic paragraph usually follows a ‘PECing’ order: Point Evidence Context. Your topic sentence tells the reader what the paragraph is about and you follow this with evidence. This evidence might be a quote from a text illustrating your point or it might be examples from data or a supportive quote from wider reading. There then needs to be some sort of contextualising, either locally with regard to the last or next point or globally with regard to the essay question.

For example, in an essay on the themes of Bleak House you might say in your introduction that ‘choice’ is a major theme. A paragraph might start with defining a particular type of choice and include a reference to some background reading; it might then go on to give one or two examples from the text to illustrate this type of choice. The final sentence could lead on to another type of choice or it could lead to another related theme. If you want to read more on paragraphs go to: The Owl at Purdue website.

As you progress through your essay, you need to make logical connections and signpost them. Even though you have given an outline in the introduction, the reader needs some guidance through your essay. Your paragraphs need to be linked in a way which makes connections for the reader and gives reminders on how the point fits into your answer and works towards your conclusion. Phrases such as ‘On the other hand; One problem with this approach is; In contrast to this... For more examples of signposting, go to:
https://intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/as/libraryservices/library/skills/asc/documents/public/Short-Guide-Signposting.pdf
Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=moJ5_ZTntYg

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Pat Hill

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