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Getting Smarter through Language

The Writing Process | Enrichment Course

Stage 2. Writing Paragraphs (Part 1)

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Ready to Start Writing

So far in the writing process, you have spent some time thinking about your topics, generating ideas, choosing and narrowing your idea, and creating a thesis statement, which determines what you can include in your writing.

You have planned your work well, so you are ready to start writing your paragraphs.


Creating Topic Statements

In a multi-paragraph written product, the information in each paragraph must support the thesis statement. In turn, each paragraph must have a topic statement that clarifies its main point or main idea.

Essentially, each paragraph supports the thesis and the details in the paragraph support the main idea of the paragraph. This may be easier to understand by examining the structure of the written product. Figure 3 below shows the first three paragraphs of a multi-paragraph essay on the topic of “online friendships.” The thesis is that online friendships cannot provide adequate support because they are impersonal.


[Paragraph 1 - Introduction.]

More and more people use apps 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 . . . .

(The paragraph-writing process continues as needed)…

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

Note the following elements in Figure 3.

  • After presenting some background on the issue, the thesis statement was introduced at the end of the first paragraph. The thesis statement tells your readers that, in the rest of the text, you will elaborate on the issue and explain why online friendships are inadequate.
  • In the second paragraph, the topic statement started the paragraph. The topic statement tells your readers that you will explain how online friendships are inadequate specifically due to the nature of online communication.
  • In the third paragraph, the topic statement was the second sentence after a short introductory statement; it signals to your readers that you will argue that the lack of face-to-face contact makes online friendships inadequate.

You continue creating paragraphs this way. Each paragraph is self-contained in that it has its own topic statement and details that support it. In turn, each paragraph also supports “the big story” you are telling, that is, that online friendships are inadequate.

Important to Keep in Mind

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 and thesis statements have very similar functions though at different scales. The thesis statement tells the reader what the whole text 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). Each paragraph supports the thesis (or the central idea of the whole text).

At this point, your writing is well underway. All prewriting activities in the preceding stages of the writing process will pay off because you will move through the paragraph writing smoothly.

Writing tips

Let the thesis guide you as you write paragraphs. Examine the topic statement in the paragraph. Does it support the thesis? If not, it does not directly support the thesis.

You likely got side tracked, so you should leave the paragraph out of your work. Alternatively, you can also rewrite the thesis statement to accommodate the new information.

Just be cautious about constantly modifying your thesis statement. If you find yourself changing your thesis statement frequently, it is quite possible that you started writing before your ideas were solid, so you may need to revisit the prewriting stages in the writing process.

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. If the idea does support the thesis statement but it does not support the topic statement, you may need to put it in a new paragraph with its own topic statement.

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

Continue the lesson to learn about types of paragraphs.