How to write good paragraphs 3: The Argument

Posted on Posted in News

In Part 1 of this blog series on how to write good paragraphs, I talked about the idea of a “claim”.

In Part 2, we looked at the idea of “evidence.”

In this instalment, we go on to look at “the greater whole”.

Link your paragraphs to the overarching argument to write a successful essay.

Let’s look at your argument.

What is an “overarching argument”?

If claims are like the cards that you use to build a house, and evidence is what makes the cards stick together, then the overarching argument is the shape that the house will have.

Are you building a five-story house? Are you building a house of only red cards?

The “overarching argument” also, always, comes in the form of a claim (make the [In my opinion,] test if you aren’t sure), but it is general.

Look at this example:

Question: “Can architecture be beautiful?”

Argument: [In my opinion,] “Architecture might be a functional craft, but beauty is an important property of it.”

You can recognise a “overarching argument” when it can be rephrased as an answer to the essay question:

The argument that “architecture might be a functional craft, but beauty is an important property of it”, essentially means: “Yes. Architecture can be beautiful.”

What does this have to do with a paragraph?

It really is your job to clarify to the reader that your claims is relevant to your argument, and that your evidence supports your claim.

Argument -> Claim <- Evidence.

A good paragraph will always return to the “overarching argument”, often in the form of a concluding remark or a suggestion about its significance.

Quick recap

We started this post by asking how we can write evidence-based paragraphs.

Let’s hope that three aspects have emerged:

  1. A paragraph consists of a “claim” and the evidence that “substantiates” it.
  2. A claim is different from “fact” because you can place [In my opinion,] in front of it.
  3. Evidence needs to be carefully selected and sequenced to lend “plausibility” to the claim.
  4. All paragraphs need to relate to the “overarching argument”.

Some of this post will have a little technical, maybe, but that’s not all bad.

If anything, you might be taking away a little more understanding about why you need to be able to write paragraphs and, more importantly, that paragraph-writing is more like a craft than an art: it doesn’t require talent, but can be accomplished through practice.

The next post in the series about paragraphing will give a little more “meat” to the “bones” of theory: I will discuss one specific format of paragraph-writing and will show you how you can use that format to practise.

Stay tuned.