Wednesday 26 July 2017

Paragraph Structure: Explaining your Evidence

Paragraph Structure: Explaining your Evidence

 The final section of a good body paragraph is explanation. This is the section where you explain the significance of the evidence and support you’ve provided and closely analyze it. This is also the section where you link your ideas introduced in the paragraph back to your main thesis statement. The explanation section is usually longer than the other sections of your paragraph, ranging from two to four sentences. This is the part where you can use more of your own voice and apply your own critical thinking to the idea that you’ve dealt with in any particular paragraph.

Your job as an academic researcher, even if you are still an undergraduate or new graduate student, is not simply to parrot information from other sources. You also have to assess that information, and use your own mind to increase understanding of that information. This is the part of your paragraph where you have the chance to do that.

Let’s again take the example of the first body paragraph of the essay on sleep duration. Let’s combine the previous two sections and repeat them here just to refresh your memory:

Sleep is a fundamental part of maintaining health and mental functioning. For example, a severe lack of sleep has been linked to weight gain and a reduced immune system (Pietrangelo & Waterson, 2017). Animal research even suggests that a lack of sleep can be fatal (Palmer, 2009). In addition, a lack of sleep can have a negative effect on performance, memory, cognitive functioning, and even injuries due to factors such as occupational or automobile accidents (Breus, 2009).

Now, you’ve provided some interesting food for thought to your reader by introducing this topic and providing evidence to support it, but you still need to tell your reader why this information is significant. You need to show that you’ve thought about the information and that it supports the main contention of your essay. You could add explanation as follows:

These factors clearly demonstrate that sleep improves physical and mental health, and it is clear that good sleeping habits should be part of any healthy lifestyle. The right amount of sleep can ensure that someone performs optimally and that they can potentially live a longer life. However, despite the obvious benefits of sleep, there is still debate about the amount of sleep that leads to the greatest health effects. These studies show that almost none of the scholarly literature focuses on the effects of excess sleep, instead only showing the effects of sleep deprivation. Analyzing the differences in functioning under different sleep durations could provide answers as to how much sleep individuals should get on a nightly basis.

In this section, we’ve looked very closely at the studies and data that we provided in the previous section. We’ve not just parroted the information, but we also applied our minds to it and picked up on themes and ideas that might not have been explicitly stated. For example, you would have to really think about the data to notice that none of them discuss excess sleep and how this can also have negative effects. This is the type of point you can make in the explanation section of your paragraph. You also use the final sentence to link your paragraph back to the overall mission of your essay, which is to compare sleeping times and to say that 7 hours is the best. In the next paragraphs of this mock-essay, you can go on to look at each of the different times, and in the explanation sections, you can explain why that time is a good or a bad amount of sleep to be getting per night.

You might not be able to easily separate the evidence and explanation parts of your paragraph like this in every essay, and they might flow into each other. For example, you might provide explanation for a certain piece of evidence directly after you cite it, and then move on to the next piece of evidence which still falls under the same paragraph. These two sections can be adapted depending on the style of your essay, but you need to make sure that you include both of them in every paragraph that you write. If you include all three of the sections from this guide, the topic sentence, evidence, and explanation, you should have a good, logical and clear paragraph with one main idea that takes your discussion or argument one step forward.

Let’s look at one more example of a full body paragraph. If the topic is the following:

Write an essay in which you discuss the impact of technology on learning styles and classroom habits.

You could have a thesis statement as follows:

This essay will discuss how technology has led to a negative effect on learning styles and classroom habits due to higher distraction levels and the decrease in adolescent self-esteem with the pressures of social media.

Your paragraphs might be structured as follows:

·         Introduction
·         Body 1: Explain young people’s use of technology
·         Body 2: Change in learning styles to visual learning
·         Body 3: Greater distractions
·         Body 4: Effect of Social Media
·         Body 5: Lower self-esteem
·         Conclusion

The body paragraphs in bold are explanatory in nature, giving us more information which helps to inform the paragraphs which directly support our thesis statement, namely body paragraphs 3 and 5. Even though these paragraphs will involve more background information, they still need to have the same structure of topic sentence, evidence and explanation.

Let’s look at how paragraph 2 might be structured. I’ve made it easier for you to identify the individual parts of the paragraph below by changing the font style of the different sections. The topic sentence is highlighted in yellow, the evidence or support is in bold, and the explanation is underlined to make it easy for you to see the differences.

Society has seen a massive shift in the use of technology by young people. Even though the minimum age for services like Gmail and Facebook is 13-years-old, studies have shown that children as young as five-years-old are using social media (Lewis, 2015). This has led to many prepubescent children becoming hyperaware of body-image norms and even news articles which might be inappropriate for their age groups. For teenagers between 13 and 17-years-old, Instagram and Twitter are the main social media sources, with 92% of young people in this age group using one or both of these services (Chopra, 2017). This incredible proliferation of social media has changed the way that young people interact with their worlds, with many spending hours on their cellphones while consuming social media. These changes have impacted every aspect of young people’s lives, including the way they learn and how they see themselves.

The paragraph contains a topic sentence, as well as two citations and two explanations of the information provided. The final sentence ties the paragraph back to our thesis statement, showing how the information links to our overall argument that technology has had negative effects on learning.

Review Your Learning:
      The third section of a body paragraph is explanation. It gives more clarity about the support or evidence you’ve provided for the topic of your paragraph
      Your explanation needs to increase understanding and show why the data or information you’ve provided is significant
      Your explanation ties the points in your paragraph back to your thesis statement, explaining how you’ve advanced your discussion or argument