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Paragraph Organization

Paragraph Organization

Author: Martina Shabram

Given the purpose of a paragraph, identify the appropriate organizational structure.

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Source: [image of dairy allergy sign, public domain,]

Video Transcription

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Hello, students. My name is Dr. Martina Shabram. And I will be your instructor for today's lesson. I'm genuinely excited to teach you these concepts. So let's get started.

Today, we're going to think more about paragraphs. We'll discuss how they're constructed. And then we'll explore what kinds of organizational structures we might use for our paragraphs.

So let's start by reviewing. A paragraph is a collection of sentences within a piece of writing connected by a single focusing idea. Most paragraphs have a topic sentence, which announces the main idea, some supporting sentences which build support for that main idea, and a concluding sentence which summarizes and recaps what we just read.

But you can put those three elements together in all kinds of ways. And you can emphasize different things depending on what the purpose of that paragraph is. So now that we know about the various parts of a paragraph, let's think about how we can organize these parts into an effective whole.

We're going to explore four different organization structures-- spatial, chronological, emphatic, and TEE. Each of these is like a model for how you can build a paragraph. Each model can be deployed in a variety of situations. So once you master these four, you'll have plenty of options for any writing challenge.

Our first model is the spatial organization method. Spatial paragraphs will examine the details in a particular setting or of a particular person or object. And that can include physical spaces or locations that may need description. So this is a really useful paragraph structure when your goal is to describe something like, say, if you were writing a paragraph describing the best sandwich shop in your home town.

Let's see what a short paragraph using the spatial model would look like. Notice how we have the topic sentence and concluding sentences on either end, with the supporting sentences on the inside. And notice also that this paragraph is highly descriptive, full of adjectives and sensory details. And it develops in a spatial manner, as if the author were walking the reader through this deli. So this is how a spatial paragraph might look.

The second kind of paragraph we're going to practice is the chronological paragraph. Just as a spatial paragraph moves physically, chronological paragraphs move in time. They tell what happened in the order in which the events occurred.

So this is a great tool for narrating a story, whether that's a story you've made up or a retelling of something that really happened. Let's look at another short paragraph example. So what do you notice? Again, this retains the core paragraph structure-- topic, supporting, and then concluding sentences.

But here, we move through time with this author as she grows up. Thus, the chronological method can tell the story of a short period of time, i.e., what happens in one day, or a longer period of time, over one's whole life, for example, or even one event such as if you were, say, telling someone the plot of a movie from when it starts to how it ends.

Our third organizational model is the emphatic paragraph. In this structure, you'll organize your sentences based on how important each piece of information is. So you might start by giving the least important facts and move to the most important ones. Or you could switch that around and write from most to least important.

This is a great tool when you're writing an argument and trying to convince your readers of something. For example, if you are providing a number of supporting reasons for one claim, you might start with the most convincing argument and then move through to the least convincing one.

So that might look like this. You can probably already spot that topic sentence and concluding sentence and even find the supporting sentences, right. And you'll notice that in this argumentative paragraph, the author moves from the most essential reason to the least. So this is how you'd write an emphatic paragraph.

Our last paragraph structure is called the TEE paragraph. These paragraphs relate a set of facts, explanations, and analysis, and contain a topic sentence, explanation, and examples. That last bit-- topic sentence, explanation, and examples-- is where this gets its name, T-E-E.

A TEE paragraph is a great choice when you're writing an informative paragraph because it will provide a lot of details. So just like all our other paragraphs, a TEE paragraph will have a topic sentence that is then supported by other sentences that provide examples and explanations to help prove the main point.

Each of these examples will be a specific piece of information designed to support the topic sentence. And the explanations will be further details about that support that go beyond what is presented in the topic sentence. And this kind of paragraph will generally start with more general information and move to more specific ideas. So you'll generally have multiple examples and explanations, but only ever one main point announced in one topic sentence.

So when might you use a TEE paragraph? What if you're trying to inform someone with a dairy allergy about what they can order at Saul's deli? A topic sentence for that paragraph might be-- and then an example might be given in a sentence like this. See how the example provides support for the main point and then offer some explanation for how the example justifies the topic sentence?

Let's put this all into a paragraph. Do you see the topic sentence, the examples and explanations, and the concluding sentence? This kind of writing is particularly applicable in professional and academic settings, such as when you're writing a business proposal and need to provide clear examples and explanations for each point in your plan.

So OK, let's practice a TEE together. Here's a paragraph for us to assess. Notice that the topic sentence opens the paragraph and gives a summary of what the main point of the whole discussion is. And the topic sentence is followed by supporting sentences, which provide evidence for the main point.

This example gives some detail that would help a reader trust that the statement made in the topic sentence is believable. And the explanation clarifies the example, which all goes to prove to the reader that the example is true. And then of course, we have the concluding sentence, which offers a summary and synthesis of the whole paragraph.

So now it's your turn. Here is a paragraph with the topic sentence, concluding sentence, and three supporting sentences. But these sentences are not in the right order. Can you spot the ingredients?

So which one of these is the topic sentence? It's the only sentence here that doesn't offer an example or sum up examples we've already seen. And it introduces the whole point of this paragraph. So we can pretty clearly say that this is the topic sentence.

OK, let's put that first. What sentence should have come next? To figure this out, look to the transitions in each sentence. Transitions are the words, phrases, or sentences that clarify connections between ideas. So do you see words like first or finally? These kinds of words indicate connection and movement. They are key transition terms.

So I'd say that the next sentence should be-- see how this sentence starts with first? That indicates that this is the first supporting example. So what's next? Right. This sentence uses the transitional phrase, in addition, which tells us that this is another piece that's being added to the support.

And our last supporting example sentence? Of course, this one. And finally, we conclude. So how do we know this is the concluding sentence? Well first, look at the transition word, overall. That says that this is going to cover what happened over all of the rest of the sentences. And also look at how it compares to the topic sentence. This summarizes what we've already been through in this paragraph, whereas the topic sentence introduces what we're going to go through.

So what did we cover today? Well, we practiced the four big paragraph structures-- spatial, chronological, emphatic, and TEE. We ended by playing around with the TEE model a little, learning how to put together the examples and explanations and how to organize this kind of paragraph using transition words.

Well, students, I hope you had as much fun as I did. Thank you.

Terms to Know
Chronological Paragraphs

Paragraphs that tell what happened in the order in which the events occurred.

Emphatic Paragraphs

Paragraphs that organize concepts based upon importance.


A collection of sentences within a piece of writing, connected by a single focusing idea.

Spatial Paragraphs

Paragraphs that examine the details in a particular setting or of a particular person or object.

TEE Paragraphs

Paragraphs that relay a set of facts, explanations, and analysis; they contain a topic sentence, explanation, and examples.


Words, phrases, or sentences that clarify connections between ideas.