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Writing an Effective TEE Paragraph

Writing an Effective TEE Paragraph

Author: Martina Shabram

In this lesson, students will learn how to construct a well-written TEE paragraph.

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Source: [image of fork in the road, public domain, http://bit.ly/1KH1c3P]

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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.

So what's on the schedule today? Well, we're going to talk in-depth about TEE paragraphs. We'll learn more about the supporting sentences in those paragraphs, practice writing really effective ones, and become experts at moving from the general to the specific.

So let's go. We'll start by reviewing what a TEE paragraph is. The TEE structure is just one organizational structure you might deploy. Its name refers to the topic sentence, examples, and explanation. These kinds of paragraphs are mostly used in professional and academic settings because they're so good for offering specific, detailed, arguments.

And what are they made up of? Well, like all paragraphs, they start with a topic sentence, which introduces the reader to the main point of the paragraph. And then they have supporting sentences and concluding sentences.

So what makes a TEE paragraph unique? You'll recall that in any paragraph, the supporting sentences are sentences that are neither topic nor conclusion, but that offer additional facts and details to support the main point. These often provide supporting details or smaller parts of the whole, tangible facts that help the reader to better understand and believe that the main idea presented in the topic sentence is true and valid.

But in a TEE paragraph, the sentences present, specifically, examples and explanations. That means that they can put limits up around the main idea, define or clarify a term or concept from the main idea, provide an example of what the main idea asserts, or offer an explanation of what the main idea claims.

Let's see how those will look. Here is a topic sentence. A supporting sentence that limits will look like this. See how it restricts the scope of the main idea?

A defining supporting sentence will look like this. See how it clarifies the terms that are presented in the topic sentence? An example supporting sentence will look like this. See how this sentence gives an example of what the topic sentence claims? And a supporting sentence with an explanation will look like this. See how this explains further what the previous example asserts?

So now you know what supporting sentences can do. But how do you select and craft the best and most effective sentence possible? Some sentences will be more effective in certain circumstances than others. So it's up to you to think carefully about what kind of support your topic sentence demands.

But all effective supporting sentences will follow certain rules. They will each provide specific supporting information that is not repeated elsewhere in the paragraph. They will each conform to a logical order and progression of ideas. And they will each relate clearly to the topic sentence, building support for the main idea.

An ineffective supporting sentence, on the other hand, will likely include some or all of these errors. It won't clearly develop the paragraph's main idea and may even support a new topic that might not even be relevant to this paragraph.

It will offer information that's already been given elsewhere in the paragraph, thereby redundantly repeating what's already been shown. Or, it'll be so broad or vague that the reader can't quite tell how it's even related to the main idea of this paragraph.

So let's compare and contrast. Here, again, is our topic sentence. And here are two sentences in support. Which sentence works for you and which doesn't?

The one on the right, this one is pretty vague and doesn't really seem to follow the direction of this particular main point. It might be a better support for a different paragraph, one that specifically covers food. But it doesn't really seem to connect here.

Now the one on the left, this one is clear and direct. It offers direct support to the main point and does not repeat what we've already seen in the previous draft of this paragraph. I would keep the one on the left and cut the one on the right.

Now one way to make sure that your sentences are effective is to think about how general or specific each piece of support needs to be at each point in the paragraph. When we talk about general and specific, we're really talking about how broad or narrow the focus is. It can be useful to include both broader and more narrow points to support your main idea. But it's also important to use each of these points well.

For example, most paragraphs will move from more general statements and into more specific ones. That might look like this. See how we start broader in the topic sentence, then move to support that gets a little more specific, and finally have a sentence that narrowly focuses on just one small element of the picture.

So this is an example of how general and specific ideas can all help support your main point. So in order to write your own paragraphs that balance the general and specific, you might want to use some targeted turns of phrase. Here are some general phrases and words.

See how these refer more broadly to bigger groups and more common occurrences? You'd use these kinds of words in a general sentence, perhaps like this. Note that this is talking about most travelers and doesn't get into any specifics on what these cultural events are or why travelers might be interested in them. But this isn't a bad sentence. It's just general.

Now in contrast, here are some specific words and phrases. Note that these refer to more particular targeted times or groups of people or examples. You might use them to write a specific sentence, like this. See how this refers to a particular instance of a particular event that might entice particular travelers if they are the kind of particular people who enjoy this kind of tourism? This is a specific sentence.

Now regardless of whether you're writing general or specific sentences, you want to be sure to only include relevant details. That is, information or ideas that are not only directly related to the main point, but directly serve the main purpose.

How do you know if a detail is relevant? You'll check to see if it closely aligns with the main idea or main topic as presented in the topic sentence. For example, here's another topic sentence. And now here are two supporting sentences. Which is relevant and which irrelevant?

The first is clearly relevant. It describes the feelings that travelers might have as they return from travel and re-enter their home life. That is directly related to and supporting our topic sentence.

Now in contrast, that second is not quite clearly connected, yet. The sentence begins promisingly. But the author here does not make the connection between the challenges of a nine to five job and the main point about returning from travel. And by the second half of the sentence, these details about inflexible work hours are wholly unconnected to the main point. So this isn't relevant in that it's not closely related to nor directly serving the thesis statement.

So let's practice together. Here is a paragraph with a topic sentence and four supporting sentences. Take a moment to read it carefully. And feel free to pause and press play when you're ready.

So let's break this thing down. Where is the topic sentence? Good. So are all of these supporting sentences effective? Well, this first supporting sentence is pretty broad and vague. I'm not sure it helps us clearly and specifically understand what kind of planning is required for international travel. So it may not be as effective as it could be.

What about this second sentence? It's definitely general, referring to broader groups of people. But it effectively shows that different locations require different plans. So OK, I'd say this is effective.

Now this sentence gets more specific-- what you can see in its list of things that travelers need to consider. Very effective.

And the last sentence, well, that is the most specific. See how it starts with for example. Examples are going to have to be specific, as they're just one item of support. I think this sentence is also effective, particularly because it's the last sentence. And we've worked from a more general idea into this more focused one and are prepared for this kind of example.

So let's take out that ineffective sentence. So what did we cover today? Well, this lesson reviewed paragraph structure, specifically focusing on TEE structures. We got really specific about how TEE supporting sentences might look, what functions they conserve, and how to differentiate between general and specific sentences. Finally, we practiced assessing whether a sentence is relevant or irrelevant, thus generating effective supporting sentences.

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

Notes on "Writing an Effective TEE Paragraph"


(00:00 – 00:09) Introduction

(00:10 – 00:28) What are we going to learn today?

(00:29 – 01:10) TEE Review

(01:11 – 02:44) Supporting Sentences

(02:45 – 04:43) Writing Effective Supporting Sentences

(04:44 – 06:42) General versus Specific

(06:43 – 08:00) Relevant Details

(08:01 – 09:25) Identifying Supporting Sentences

(09:26 – 09:56) Recap and Goodbye

  • Supporting Sentence

    A sentence in a paragraph that supports the topic sentence by offering more facts or details.