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Getting Smarter through Language

The Writing Process | Advanced (C-Level)

Stage 2. Writing Paragraphs (Part 1)

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Enrichment (non-ESL)

Note. This lesson is part of an advanced English-as-a-second-language course. To start from the beginning, go to the table of contents.

Ready to Start Writing

So far, you have spent some time thinking about your topics, generating ideas, choosing and narrowing your idea, and creating a thesis statement. You have planned your work well, so you are ready to start writing your paragraphs.


Creating a Topic Statement

In a product with multiple paragraphs, the information included in each paragraph must support the thesis statement. Each paragraph must have a topic statement that clarifies its main point or main idea.

Essentially, the details in the paragraph support a main idea. In turn, each paragraph supports the thesis.

This is easier to understand by looking at the structure of a passage. Figure 3 below shows the first three paragraphs of a multiple-paragraph essay on the topic of “online friendships.”


[Paragraph 1 - Introduction.]

More and more people use personal computers to socialize online. Social websites make it possible to have relationships with people anywhere on Earth. These “friendships” feel real, but are we fooling ourselves? Online friendships are impersonal and, therefore, cannot provide adequate social support.


[Paragraph 2 - body paragraph.]

Online friendships are impersonal because online communication lacks important emotional and language cues. It is impossible to know someone fully unless you can actually have meaningful interactions. In personal social interactions, you can read a person’s expressions and . . . .

[Paragraph 3 - body paragraph.]

Human beings are essentially social animals, and part of socializing includes personal contact. Online “friends” cannot truly provide adequate social support because face-to-face contact is impossible. For example, how would an online friend be able to be there for someone who has just . . . .

Figure 3: Portions of a passage showing the introduction and two body paragraphs and their topic statements.

As you can see in the figure,

  • the thesis statement was introduced at the end of the first paragraph after a short introduction.
  • In the second paragraph, the topic statement started the paragraph.
  • In the third paragraph, the topic statement was the second sentence after a short introductory statement.

Important Things to Keep in Mind

These ideas are complex, so they may be easier to understand in a video. Do not skip the video activity on this page.

The videos under “Related Materials” can also give you a great deal of insight on how paragraphs are built around main idea sentences.


For now, make sure you understand the following:

  • The thesis statement is a sentence that states the topic and what you will say about it.
  • The thesis statement guides you as the writer; all the paragraphs in the passage must support your thesis.
  • Topic statements are much like thesis statements. However, the thesis statement tells the reader what the passage is about, but the topic statement tells the reader what the paragraph is about.
  • The details in the paragraph support the topic statement (or the main idea of the paragraph). In turn, each paragraph supports the thesis (or the central idea of the whole essay).

Video Activity

Important note. In addition to discussing topic statements, this video goes into actually writing paragraphs. For now, focus on thesis statements and topic statements. You will review the information on writing paragraphs in the next portion of this course.

Related Materials

The focus of the videos below is on reading paragraphs; however, you will learn a great deal about how paragraphs are written, too.

  1. Watch main ideas as patterns of information to learn more about main ideas in paragraphs.
  2. Watch supporting details in a paragraph to learn more about details in paragraphs.

Writing tips

Let the thesis guide you as you write paragraphs. If the paragraph does not directly support the thesis, you probably got side tracked. Leave the paragraph out of your work or rewrite the thesis statement to accommodate the new information.

Let the topic statement guide you as you write each paragraph. All the information in the paragraph must support the topic statement. If you write a sentence that does not support the topic statement, the sentence does not belong in the paragraph. Leave it out or put it in a new paragraph.

Up Next: Stage 2. Writing Paragraphs (Part 2)

Continue the lesson to learn about types of paragrpahs.