Paragraph development

Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on RedditShare on StumbleUponDigg thisShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookShare on Tumblr

Developing a paragraph is essential in academic writing. The example paragraph shown below comes from an essay discussing capital punishment.  (You can see the complete essay here if you want.) This paragraph discusses the arguments in favour of the death penalty:

The main arguments in favour of restoring the death penalty are those of deterrence and retribution; the theory is that people will be dissuaded from violent crime if they know they will face the ultimate punishment and that people should face the same treatment that they gave out to others. Statistics show that when the death penalty was temporarily withdrawn in Britain between 1965 and 1969 the murder rate increased by 125% (Clark, 2005). However, we need to consider the possibility that other reasons might have lead to this rise. Amnesty International (1996) claims that it is impossible to prove that capital punishment is a greater deterrent than being given a life sentence in prison and that “evidence….gives no support to the evidence hypothesis theory.” It seems at best that the deterrence theory is yet to be proven. The concept of ‘retribution’ is an interesting one: there is a basic appeal in the simple phrase ‘the punishment should fit the crime’. Calder (2003) neatly summarises this argument when he says that killers give up their rights when they kill and that if punishments are too lenient then it shows that we undervalue the right to live. There are other points too in support of the death penalty, one of these being cost. It is obviously far cheaper to execute prisoners promply rather than feed and house them for years on end.

Let’s take the paragraph apart and look it carefully:

Part 1: The main arguments in favour of restoring the death penalty are those of deterrence and retribution; the theory is that people will be dissuaded from violent crime if they know they will face the ultimate punishment and that people should face the same treatment that they gave out to others.

The paragraph starts with a topic sentence. This gives us a strong argument and tells us what the paragraph is about. We know the paragraph is about arguments in favour of the death penalty, and in particular, the ideas of deterrence and retribution.

Part 2: Statistics show that when the death penalty was temporarily withdrawn in Britain between 1965 and 1969 the murder rate increased by 125% (Clark, 2005).

Here an outside source is used to support the ideas in the topic sentence.

Part 3: However, we need to consider the possibility that other reasons might have lead to this rise. Amnesty International (1996) claims that it is impossible to prove that capital punishment is a greater deterrent than being given a life sentence in prison and that “evidence….gives no support to the evidence hypothesis theory.” It seems at best that the deterrence theory is yet to be proven.

Here, the argument about deterrence is discussed. This part is difficult – and this is where you get the high marks in your essays! You have presented an argument in part 1, supported it in part 2, now analyse and discuss it! Does all the evidence support the argument? What are its strong and weak points?

You will notice that the paragraph continues with another argument:

The concept of ‘retribution’ is an interesting one: there is a basic appeal in the simple phrase ‘the punishment should fit the crime’

which is followed by a supporting outside source:

Calder (2003) neatly summarises this argument when he says that killers give up their rights when they kill and that if punishments are too lenient then it shows that we undervalue the right to live.

To sum up our thoughts about paragraph development the important things are:

1. A topic sentence

2. Evidence from an outside source supporting the ideas in the topic sentence.

3. Discussion of the above when these ideas are analysed, evaluated or discussed.

For more about paragraphs, take a look at the page What is a paragraph?

Leave a Reply